Luke was becoming an enigma. I didn’t believe that he was a bum, despite his appearance, but I wasn’t sure he was educated or had ever been successful. He quoted Shakespeare, used big words and now he seemed to have some prophetic sixth sense.
He wasn’t necessarily rude but he wasn’t nice. He talked but he really didn’t say much of anything. I got the sense that he wasn’t going to open up to me today. I also got the sense that he was never going to open up to me. He was going to remain a mystery and I was going to be left wanting as far as the story of Mother, Older, Middle and Younger.
I sat on my usual spot for almost two hours, watching a sad, old man staring out into space. He never said a word during our time together and I somehow felt that I shouldn’t invade his solitude. When I said I needed to get on back home, Luke never said a word. He didn’t look at me. He just sat there, like a man who was welcoming a visit from the grim reaper.
The next day, I heard that Luke had died. My first thought was, “Damnit! Now I’ll never know the story.” How could I be so selfish? Of course, I was sad but it wasn’t like I really knew him. We weren’t friends, and I don’t think he would have cared one way or another if I had come to visit every Friday.
I wondered if I would be allowed to look in his room. I walked to the Inn and there were a few police officers standing guard. The coroner had already taken Luke away. I asked the officers if I would be allowed to go into his room. They asked if I was a relative and when I said “no,” so did they.
When I asked if they knew him or anything about him, again, they asked if I was a relative. Like Luke, they weren’t rude but they weren’t overly nice.
There was no funeral or even a service for Luke. He was cremated and I suspect that his ashes were put in the hole-in-the-wall museum at the end of the street.
I had never taken a class in how to become a criminal but I did know how to pick a lock. It was something I perfected as a youngster and it had come in handy more than a few times when I inadvertently locked myself out of my house or my car.
On what would have been my regular Friday to visit with Luke, I wandered down the street to the museum. I went around to the back and to my surprise, the door didn’t even have a lock on it. I just turned the knob and went inside.
I’m not sure what I saw would be considered a museum. It certainly wasn’t like any I had ever seen but the more I looked, the more I understood why no one ever went inside. There wasn’t really much there; just a table and a few boxes in the back of the room.
I did feel a little guilty. I remembered Luke telling me that I would never know what was in there. I think he probably felt like it was not my secret to know. As I continued to walk through, I felt almost like I was treading on something sacred…sort of like invading a Native American burial ground.
I went over to the table and looked in one of the boxes. It contained some sort of fabric but I couldn’t tell what it was. I pulled it out and was horrified to see that it was a dress. It looked as though it had been soaked in what I was sure had to be dried blood. I quickly returned it to its cardboard casket and started pulling out newspaper clippings from the other box.
“Wow!” That’s all I could say, “Wow.”
As I read all the clippings, I thought, “Mother did indeed leave a mark.” Although it was a tragic one, she’ll surely be remembered, but even more tragic, was the mark left by Luke.
According to the stories, Mother decided to rob the bank with an unloaded gun, left by her ne’er-do-well, johnny-come-lately husband. Luke, the Younger, found out about her plan and was rushing to stop her but he was too late. The security guard shot and killed Mother just as Luke arrived.
Enraged, Luke wrestled the gun away from the security guard. As the guard was trying to run away, Luke shot him in the back, then walked over and shot him in the head.
Luke spent 50 years in Riverbed Maximum Security Prison and had just been released six months before I met him. Older and Middle left town and were never heard from again.
The great irony is that Mother was by all rights, a good woman. All she wanted to do was make a mark. All she wanted to do, was be remembered.
She’ll be remembered but she’ll be remembered for being the reason her son spent almost his entire life behind bars.
I imagine the monument is there to remind people that there are better ways to leave a mark in the world. There are better ways to be remembered. It might be better for her to have just been forgotten than to be remembered as the person who would unknowingly sacrifice so much, simply to be remembered.