The Bard of Bel Air
: A Bel Air Funeral by michaelcahill
If cast-off scraps are the fair of the day
then seek garbaaage superior
trash has grades of quality
why would'st I dine inferior?
"I tell you I AM invited! I've known Harpster for five years. We were friends. I'm here to pay my respects like everyone else. Who the hell are you anyway to tell…"
"What seems to be the problem, Lincoln? We have a funeral to conduct here." A man of confidence and a cold cultured air intervened.
The scene hadn't become overly disruptive yet, and the impeccably dressed gentleman clearly wanted to keep it that way. The man causing the ruckus looked out of place though he didn't present himself in an overly disheveled manner. In comparison to the uber-rich that attend Bel Air funerals, he looked out of place.
A man dressed for service responded, "I'm sorry, Mr. Blackwell. This man is trying to strong-arm his way into the private ceremony."
"It's okay, Lincoln. He can stand on the outskirts." He said the last part under his breath.
He spoke now directly to the intruder, "Come in, Bard. I'm sorry for the mix up. My father would be most upset with this breach of decorum. Lincoln was not aware of your status. I hope you understand."
"Too big for his britches
I'd leave him in stitches
respect the old man's riches
look out for snitches"
The Bard answered in verse quite often, thus, his well-earned nickname. His poetry usually went in one ear and out the other. He continued with a more conventional response. "Okay, Mr. Blackwell. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it."
Stewart Slater, AKA The Bard, had a long history of success in his life. He achieved acclaim in academia and graduated from U.C.L.A., not far from where they were, right this moment. Majoring in ethno-musicology could be called ill advised, but a degree from U.C.L.A. had its own weight, regardless of the field. He minored in English composition. He was a writer and a poet. There are other triumphs and rewards reaped. He could still write and play music. He could compose poetry on the spot.
He had a history of failure and loss as well. There was blame to lay at his feet. However, mental illness played a role in his demise. Mental illness did not represent something that he sought nor did he acknowledge its existence. For now, he had the funeral of his friend to attend. It was a sad time for him, but at least some acknowledgment of his status had been forthcoming.
"Roses are red, violet a shade with blue, lividity set in, what's a corpse to do?" The Bard muttered under his breath. No one paid attention, as usual. He often made sense. He stood near the back of the gathering and didn't make a scene.
The Bard had walked into the private ceremony past two distracted guards who were preoccupied directing late arriving traffic. In Bel Air even, a funeral was cause to consider one's entrance, and fashionably late still had its appeal for a select few.
The list of legends buried here sounded like a who's who of film. Myrna Loy, Mary Pickford, the list was long and impressive. Among the unrecognizable names were many like Mister Blackwell's, men of money that greased the wheels and made the business run. The setting might entice some to choose death over life, if it meant a permanent repose in such a beautiful and peaceful resting spot. There were no grave markers here, only sculptures and monuments and tributes in stone. It was a blanket of green embroidered in a riot of colorful flowers, sprung forth from the wildest imagination, the personification of loveliness.
Stewart Slater, or The Bard, as everyone called him, walked in with his head held high and took up a position towards the back of the assemblage. Lincoln rolled his eyes when he felt certain that no one would catch sight of his action. Mr. Johnathon Blackwell Junior, son of the guest of honor, returned to his station graveside. The slight smile vanished long before he resumed his solemn duties as the new head of the family.
The coffin caught everyone's eye as the hot California sun glinted off it reminding everyone of the oppressive heat that competed for center stage. Being empty didn't seem to matter or affect the gravity of the expressions in attendance. Johnathon Blackwell Senior's death had been unexpected. Only sixty-two years old, they had been years of luxury and the best of medical care. Being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth was nearly a literal depiction of his birth. If one were to remove his mother's failed attempt at breast-feeding, then the first open jar of Gerber's would have made the cliché a reality.
Junior simply found his mother's milk to be distasteful. Isabel the head maid was nursing at the time and offered her services, but Lilith would not have it. So, Gerber's became Junior's diet during his suckling years. Ironically, Isabel's services, so to speak, would come in to play fifteen years later, but that is not a story to tell at a funeral.
I suppose "Harpster" is a curious nickname. Its origin is curious as well. Johnathon Blackwell Senior, prior to his demise, ranked among the top three harpists in the world. Harpster played the last notes in a long line of accomplished musicians, dating back to the eighteenth century. None of his sons or daughters had shown the slightest interest in music, other than the millions of dollars that Blackwell Publishing produced. For a family that made millions producing recording artists and selling and publishing music, the Blackwells had zero interest or appreciation for music itself. With Harpster's death, there wasn't a single, living Blackwell to play a note, or have an inkling to sing a Christmas carol. A Blackwell that played an instrument and sang a song did exist, but she didn't know she was a Blackwell.
Ruby Patsy Dancer grew up on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the daughter of Bridget Diamond Dancer, a singer and musician that left a promising career to raise her daughter by herself. Diamond kept silent concerning Ruby's father, claiming to have no idea who he was. Only she knew. Well, Johnathon Blackwell Senior knew, but he was dead now.
The Bard knew about this. He knew about more than most. Harpster felt comfortable talking to the Bard, as though he was a harmless neutral party. And, maybe the Bard could be trusted that way, a man with no agenda. The Bard knew about the daughter that was out there somewhere, but not any details. He knew about an old man staring at stars dreaming of a life that wasn't lived, that couldn't be lived…that couldn't be dreamed. But, it was still a life to send a sigh on a journey with a shooting star.
Sometimes disregard gives one a vantage point that no one else has. I suppose a cop on horseback gets notice from adventurous lovers in a midnight park. But, an old wino on a park bench seemingly passed out is of no consequence. But, that one open eye sees clearly every kiss and wild dalliance. So, it is with the Bard. No one notices him standing across the street looking in your window while your private life goes on. You're just not aware of that one open eye that sees clearly.
The service went as planned. Speeches were made. Lies were told. Not one word about money or power came up. It reminded me of playing classical music on the piano. If one thinks about it, it can't be done. One has to let the fingers go without thought. As soon as one tries to think about the notes, the fingers falter.
It must be the same with money and power. Person after person got up and spoke about Harpster, what a wonderful man he was, how much they cherished his harp playing and blah, blah, sugar coated blah. All the while, there was nothing on their minds, but his money and power, and how they would divide it up.
Meanwhile, they lowered an empty coffin into the ground and covered it with dirt. Cardinal O'Daniel spoke some solemn words over the empty grave and imaginary tears flowed like a river in the Antarctic. Harpster's body remained in cryogenic deep freeze in an underground storage facility several levels beneath the Institute for Cryogenic Research at One Wilshire Way in Los Angeles.
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