bruce
No longer suburban, Bruce Bentzman offers the latest piece in his new series:

From the Night Factory


7. Shayne 1946-2005

This house looks out on Port Discovery, also known as Discovery Bay, in the State of Washington. On the far side of the bay is the Miller Peninsula, and beyond that are the Olympic Mountains, snow-capped even now, in the last days of July. We were all sitting on the back deck of the house, to watch the sun set behind Protection Island. Ms Keogh, my more significant other; Bette, my older sister; and Bill, Bette's friend of 52 years and now my friend.  Bill and I stayed after the others were too cold, to find the first three stars in the darkening night. This was Shayne's house.

Throughout the house are a hodgepodge of the items Shayne had collected: ceramic fish, paper butterflies, a bronze duck, and many turtles; turtles especially, as sculptures or decorations on mugs. Turtles became her totem when she discovered she was dying of leukemia. She bought this house during a four-day weekend of house-hunting with the help of my sister and another friend. They had arrived to this house last on the realtor's tour, and came in to see the sun setting through the large pair of glass windows in the living room. Shayne bought it. She didn't haggle over the cost. She had only a few years, and wanted them in this beautiful setting.

Here I sit on her couch composing this essay. Everyone has gone to sleep. Some of the closets still hold her clothes.  In the corner is Shayne's nursing chair, a rocker in which she nursed each of her three children in turn. Bill has tied a rope across it so no one can sit there until one of Shayne's kids needs it. When the first grandchild is born, Bill will see to it that the chair is delivered for them to use.

In the hall is a photograph of Shayne's grandparents, not stiffly posed wearing formal dress, but embracing. He is wearing a shirt and no jacket. His head is cocked in profile and he is staring fondly at his wife. He is a handsome Mediterranean while she, the grandmother, is uncommonly beautiful with long hair and large, dark eyes peering askance out the corners. She presents the viewer with a sly smile, the Mona Lisa's smile. It's a cliché, and others have made the claim, but this time it is true; her smile is the same. Her arm is draped around her husband, her hand on his shoulder. A strong hand, one accustomed to work. It wears a wedding band. Bill tells me that the grandfather was a bastard, a womanizer.

Shayne and Bette met in class when they were about ten years old and we were still living in the Bronx. I was four at the time. Shayne and Bette became the best of friends. The two of them met Bill later, when they were all about fourteen-years-old. For Shayne and Bill it was love. They thought it was their destiny to marry, yet it didn't happen. During their college years, uncertainties and youthful indiscretions led to misunderstandings and the relationship came undone. For the next several decades they led lives apart. Bette stayed in regular contact with Shayne, but Bill heard nothing from either of them for thirty-five years.

Bill is soft-spoken and gentle. You would not suspect his adventurous nature. Earlier today I was looking at the map that showed the route he took around the world on motorcycle in 2000, through China and Russia, then into Europe. By comparison, the adventures in my life are lame, yet I write about them, whereas Bill does not write. It seems all wrong.

Bill was still living in Madison, Wisconsin in 2000. He had entered Wisconsin University thirty-five years earlier, when Shayne and Bette were matriculating at the same university, where his relationship with Shayne came undone. He was still living in Madison, Wisconsin thirty-five years later when Shayne was visiting Madison on business. She found Bill in the phone book. She called and they had coffee. Both of them had marriages behind them. What had gone wrong? Weren't they supposed to be together? Now, in 2001, a few days before the destruction of the World Trade Center, they were drinking coffee and getting reacquainted.

They were together at last, the way it was supposed to have been. I don't think Bill ever loved another woman. But no sooner were they together, than Shayne was diagnosed with a fatal illness.

This house holds her spirit. My sister still holds her spirit. Bill would never let her spirit escape him again. I barely knew her, but being here I see and feel her influence in this house and in the way Bette and Bill speak about her.

This afternoon, Bill took me to the Northwest Maritime Center. Behind it, where one can sit or stroll to watch the boats upon the water, in the walkway is a design of inscribed bricks forming the Compass Rose. Shayne's name is in the ray that points east. He had it inscribed there.

Friendships form the core of existence. Good memories are the consolation for their loss.

 Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about the events and concerns of his life. If you've any comments or suggestions, he would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"


logo