I love the two stories. In one he says, “Die? I should say not,
dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional
thing to happen to him.” In the other, he tried to tell Lionel
something. But Lionel missed it. So John immediately got
mad, said, “You heard me,” never uttered another word.
Was it Prohibition rotgut that did him in, or Alzheimer’s?
He’d lost his ability to memorize lines. Lionel falters,
kicks himself for letting it slip through his ears, a bird
extinct before being named, a sentence spirited off,
helium balloon from a chubby fist, diamond ring through
a hole in ice. Had there been one summing sentence, true
and clear, to resolve all the childhood squabbles, to scoff
away hurts? The most crucial cue, dissolved in breath,
from younger brother, leading man, approaching death?
Tina Kelley’s Rise Wildly appeared in 2020 from CavanKerry Press, joining Abloom & Awry, Precise, and The Gospel of Galore, a Washington State Book Award winner. She shared in a Pulitzer covering 9/11 at The New York Times. She and her husband have two children and live in Maplewood, New Jersey.