dismantling (section one of three)
Death is eminent.
“We all die, Codjoe.”
Asante understood this but when Mr. Connacht’s dreams became thick with the odor and omen of death, he felt obliged to stay by his side.
Mrs. Connacht died alone in the garden. Little Brian found her. His deep, mournful groans echoed up into the corridors, along the colonnade so that they all knew and shuddered together.
“I’m not afraid of death.” Mr. Connacht said. “I’ve lived a wonderful life. Of course I want more. Who would not want more? But-”
But what was the price of each sunset and sunrise? Each smiling child bouncing through the halls? Asante understood this but he did not understand Mr. Connacht’s dreams.
Asante entered the study each morning with green tea to interrupt Mr. Connacht. The man, each morning, would clutch the chak-pur tightly to his chest and praise him with a bright smile. Every morning he brought him tea and waited long past it was done to watch him continue working on his mandala. He watched patiently as Mr. Connacht drew the metal rod over the metal ridges. He sat, fixed, as a soft trail of colored sediment filled the partial landscape. He watched for hours every morning until the natural light would peek too boldly into the room. He did this every morning for three cold months until Mr. Connacht died.
The morning Mr. Connacht died, Brian woke from his sleep in tears, weeping and surrounded by soiled sheets. The caretaker twisted his hands away from the sheets. She pried each finger off and dragged him from the cold wet fabric, then left him curled in a ball on the wood floor. He wept throughout the day until Asante told him of his father’s passing.
He knelt to the floor despite the stench and brought his wide hand to the top of the boy’s head. Brian continued to weep. He drew in air quickly, snot and the scent of oak and fresh bread. He gazed into Asante’s eyes. They reminded him of his mother’s arms. They reminded him of the country night sky. He was no longer crying when Asante leaned forward and kissed his forehead. Brian grunted, then groaned a long and soulful sound before Asante pulled him into his arms.
After telling the Doctor how Mr. Connacht had died, Asante told no one else. Though Ruairí and Sinéad insisted and pried, he was silent. They had not seen Mr. Connacht’s dreams, nor his look of fear. They would not understand. The only one who would was Brian and all he could do was groan in agreement.
“He left the estate for me to run. Me. Not you.” Ruairí was never certain of his place. He was too young to remember a household without Asante. Ruairí knew only that his father had a deep trust in his adopted brother and he had spent his childhood becoming more aware of it. The rivalry for their father’s affections was a war that never ended. After the funeral, Asante stayed by Ruairí’s side, despite his protests, and guided him with the estate. He endured the reminders and silently waited.
“You should sleep.” Asante insisted.
Ruairí feared sleep.
He feared the darkness as well. As a small child he would climb into Asante’s bed. He would insist on being told stories. He was convinced that each day when Asante went off to school that he was spending his days being told stories. It was Mrs. Connacht who tricked the children into thinking school was a day full of stories. She would tell them old folk stories passed down from her family. They would sit neatly in the garden, all in a semi circle before the rose beds and they would look up at her as if she were a goddess. And she was. A goddess. A fairy. The light she emitted was food to the garden. After she died, so did the plants. No one stepped into garden for years. No one was allowed to, not without Brian crying and moaning in protest.
“I’m fine. I don’t need you hovering.” Ruairí waved. For a moment his fingers were busy pulling at his sun-kissed curls but they soon trailed down to the page before him as he leaned in and hovered over the estate’s portfolio. His fingers trailed down, line after line. “I need a miracle.”
drowned (section two of three)
“Mr. Asante walks with a strange limp that he never explains. He also has a scar on his face that he never explains. In fact, Asante doesn’t ever explain much. He’s not a talker. I don’t mean that he doesn’t talk. He’s no mute. He just rarely speaks. I’ve told him how eeiry it is that he’s so silent and he says very little in response. I like to think that means he has a sense of humor but I’ve never heard him laugh, nor seen him smile. Sinéad told me that he does, that he smiles quite often with her and Brian but that only makes him stranger to me.
Still, I assure you, he can be trusted. There isn’t a man I know who takes his obligations as seriously as Mr. Asante. When he does speak it’s with a heavy sense of certainty. You find yourself not questioning whether something is or is not. You simply know it to be just as he says it is, and I find that to be a great virtue for this type of business.
You should know that he cares for the Connacht estate. He grew up there, as one of them in fact. I asked that Ruairí fellow about it and asked where he met Asante. He nearly blew a fit saying they were brothers. I figure his father adopted him years ago but no one really understood the relationship. I mean, I don’t mean to be uncouth or anything but I’ve heard of folks bringing over immigrant children for work. I suppose it’s nice enough to know that he was their family but the truth is, he acts more like an overseer. So it’s strange. In any case, he’s just as responsible for the estate as Ruairí. In fact if you’ve decided on him, it’s best to set up a lunch there.
I can accompany you of course. I haven’t been there for ages but I do know the family – enough for an introduction at least. I don’t think Ruairí would mind. He’s too busy trying to find ways to save the estate. It’s going under, you know. Bit by bit, it is. I think that’s why Asante does this sort of work. Any money counts, especially now that Sinéad is divorced. Boy, that marriage was a waste. She should have gotten on with my second oldest! Gregory would have been good for her. She’s such a soft soul, really. I wonder how she’s faring, to be honest. Her brothers aren’t exactly the warmest folks I’ve met.
I don’t mean to deter you. It’ll be fine. Asante is very understanding. He’s hard to figure out but he’s not a scary fellow, just quite quiet. Thoughtful maybe. Yes, and well, you’ll understand more when you meet him. If it’s a dreamwalker you need, Asante is the one. He’ll sooth that mind of yours and I’m sure you’ll get back to normal real soon. I’ll make the request for you in fact! It’ll cost you a pretty penny mind you.”