The names were swirling around in my brain. Mary, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Those were all old Biblical names.
Then it struck me. Was Luke the Luke I was talking with? Is that the reason he seemed to have such intimate knowledge about them? He never confirmed nor denied that he was one of the children Mother used to entertain, so was it possible that he was the Older, or the Middle, or the Younger?
Before I could translate my thoughts into actual words, Luke clutched the brown paper bag, stood up, went inside and closed the door. I wondered if I would be welcome the next week. I wondered if Luke would be forthcoming if I asked him straight out if he was one of the “younguns.” If I did ask, I wondered if I would again, be crossing a line.
On my way home, I had a chat with myself. All the possibilities. All the probabilities. All the coincidences. All the reasonableness and all the unreasonableness. The part of me who was partaking in the mock debate didn’t have any answers, but I was leaning toward believing that Luke was not one of the children Mother entertained. I believed that Luke was one of Mother’s children.
Then again, it didn’t make sense. He didn’t make sense. According to what he had told me, Mother had raised three fine “younguns.” If he was one of them, what happened to him? And where were the others?
Had he taken a wrong turn somewhere in his life? Had they? If they had turned out to be like their father, ne’er-do-well, Johnny-come-latelies, why would there be a monument to their mother? I had never heard of someone having their likeness cast in bronze because they had raised three “fine” children, or three ne’er-do-wells.
There had to be a back story and I believed that Luke was the one who knew it. I also remembered the town motto: “IF you share, share and share alike.” He had already told me that I would never know what was in the museum but maybe I could coax a little more “sharing” from him about the family.
Before I chanced my next visit, I stopped to look at the large, metal woman standing in front of City Hall. There was no inscription, other than “Mother.” There were no dates. There were no words citing praise for accomplishments. There were no words reflecting that she had raised three “fine” children. There was nothing.
A few people glanced my way as they journeyed through town, but a quick glance was all they offered. I imagined they all knew the story of Mother and maybe they thought that I knew the story, too.
I got to The Whole Year Inn and Luke, as always, was sitting outside on the stoop in front of the door. I was a bit worried that he might get up and go inside as soon as he saw me, but he didn’t.
Before I could say anything, he looked at me for just a split second and looked away as he said, “I’m not long for this world.”
I was shocked and a little saddened. I remembered hearing those exact words from my grandpa, a few weeks before he left us. I also knew that some animals have a sense about their mortality. They tend to go off somewhere, lay down and die.
My sadness was quickly replaced with selfishness as I thought, “I hope he stays around long enough to tell me the story of Mother.”
I finally asked Luke exactly what he meant. He looked annoyed and said, “I’m not long for this world.” When I asked why he thought that, he said, “sometimes you just know.”
To be continued_________________