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Ninth Street Center Journal

Dayshine and the Winds of Death
by Dean Hannotte

As he entered the park he saw the child, alone in the tall grass. Silently, the child watched his approach, almost recognizing Dayshine. How tall he is, the child thought, how strong he must be. Dayshine neared the child and, sensing its interest, smiled into its eyes and said, "I know you."

"Who am I?" asked the child curiously.

"You're you!" A giggle burst across the empty field and the child smiled back, feeling a twinge of childlove for the man.

But Dayshine walked on, as if lost in thought, and the child abandoned its play to follow the footsteps of its tall leader. How real is the light in that child's eyes, Dayshine thought, but I must not play with it or it will be lonely when we part. He continued up the hill, the sun at his back, his lengthening shadow proceeding him.

"Who are you?" came the little voice behind him. They stopped and again their eyes met. The child's breathing stopped in awe of the sunlit face before him. How long and fine his hair is, it thought, how deep and strange are his eyes. Even the scar that runs across his cheek is beautiful.

Dayshine looked ahead once more, then to the ground. He answered, "A shadow. . . . I am the shadow of what a man is." And he continued up the hill.

Yes, that's not far from the truth, he thought. I have been many things in my life, but none of these things have been my real self, which I am even now trying to find. I have spent a lifetime being jealous of other men, who never need to search for their happiness.

As he neared the summit his thoughts continued. All I ever wanted was to free my soul from the bondage of worldly things, hoping no longer to see through a glass darkly but to attain a clear vision of the truth and a firm control over my destiny. And so I have spent my life searching for reality, trying to draw aside the curtains that separate me from myself.

"But I have failed," he whispered. The child did not hear him, having spied a feather floating down from the flight of a bird. It chased after the feather as if it were a butterfly, and having caught it, carried it to his friend.

"Here's a present for you," it said proudly. They were now at the top of the hill which overlooked the city. Below them a swarm of tiny lights grew in number, as families began their evening reunions. Dayshine tussled the child's hair affectionately and took the present. He sat down with his back up against a large oak, stretching his legs before him as the child collapsed in the grass at his feet.

Dayshine smiled and addressed his tiny audience. "You ask who I am? I am like this feather here." He twirled it between his long fingers.

"The way a feather breaks loose from the bird, I have broken loose from the flock of mankind. The way it floats through the air looking for a place to land, I float through the world looking for my home. And you have caught us both!"

The child laughed, understanding perhaps a little. "But the feather is dead," it said.

"And that's the difference," Dayshine concluded. The child nodded in agreement, thinking, He is like a wild animal, yet he is as gentle as me. And he is very, very alive. It nodded again, more firmly.

What is he seeing? thought Dayshine. I have never found such love in a child. It cannot be real, yet I sense nothing false in this giving.

He looked at the city, and at the sun just above it. It would be less than an hour till darkness fell, and already he felt very weak. This is a good place to have it happen, he thought, this is a good place to do it. It is true that I have given nothing. I know now that the reality of this world is a frail thing, that most men live in a world of illusions. But even the simplest of men contribute something, finding happiness in their value to other men. It is right that I pass out of the world unknown to men and alone, not knowing what effect my life might have had. A baker of bread or a cobbler of shoes gives more than I have given.

Then he thought of something else, and said to the child, "Here, now I have a gift for you." He handed the feather, the same the child had given him, into the hands held open before him.

"If this feather is like you I will keep it forever," said the child, and fell back into the grass to examine it. A breeze came up, and the winds made the feather flutter helplessly.

Dayshine settled against the tree and closed his eyes. If I am like that feather, he thought, at least I have not been so helpless against the winds that carry the lives of some men away. I have chosen exile from the affairs of men, yet I am more free than they. I always charted my own course, though I never knew my destination. I've never found my soul, and yet I've never really lost it. I have turned away from the life that most men find, and yet -- and here he thought of the child -- and yet it is true that I am still very alive.

He enjoyed the irony of what he now could see. But it was time to send the child away, and he awoke from his thoughts.

"I am going to sleep now," he said, almost afraid of his own words. "You must go ahead."

The child had been playing with a foot, looking for secrets hiding between the toes. But Dayshine's words stopped him, leaving him cold and empty. He did not want the happiness to end so soon, but he would not disobey this strange man who had come into his life with such power, who had led him to the hilltop overlooking the city, and who had spoken in riddles as if he himself were a child. It came to the man and kneeled, and placed two wet lips on Dayshine's cheek thinking, Now I kiss you with love, strange man, but someday I will be even as beautiful as you are.

Dayshine smiled into the eyes of the child, reading the light that shone so strong and clear within them. But there was no time now. Night was falling and the sun was soon to set. The glow from the city reminded the child of its supper and of the things children do in the evening. Obeying Dayshine's last wish it rose to its feet, still clasping the feather in its tiny fingers, and wandered down the hill in the dying sunshine, down into the dawn of its own day.

-- reprinted from The Ninth Street Center Journal 6, Autumn 1986


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