“Hidden in plain sight lie many treasures and answers not wanted or heard.”
Admiral Nano of Omicron IV.
Amongst the homeless that were at the Aurora Shelter that Admiral Nano had met and had some affinity for was Jack Jones, nicknamed Da Vinci, named after the famous inventor and painter,. His nickname was flattering, but it was a recognition by his friends of his knowledge and skills. He was not the first man to be at the shelter who had a good education or advanced skills but whom life had turned into a poor and homeless man by some method. Da Vinci’s main asset was not his educated mind or his knowledge of history or his diverse background, but his imagination. This was the main reason Nano liked him. It is one thing to be well schooled, but that normally dulls the mind, producing a man dependent on employment and addicted to a paycheck. Da Vinci was a rebel of sorts. He viewed life philosophically, not a matter of his circumstances, but of opportunities to grow.
This morning Da Vinci had invited Nano to come relax with him in a nearby park along the river close to the shelter. Having some curiosity and desire to break up their routines with something approaching an intellectual possibility, Father Pope and Lawyer Joe came along too. They found the cool shade of an elm tree to comfort them on the dry green grass. The morning blue sky promised a good day and mild temperatures with a pleasant breeze. They sat down and for a bit they all stared at the lazy rolling river below them near at hand. Ducks glided on it, the weight of a world not upon their shoulders. Nano lay down and inhaled the green life under and around him, distant sounds coming to ear. His mind skipped over similar remembrances of times past and future.
Lawyer Joe lighted a cigarette and gazed out across the river toward a nearby baseball field now empty of the smack of a bat on ball, the crowd of parents yelling encouragements to children as they pursued the ball and ran bases. Father closed his eyes, laid his head on arms folded behind him and seemed prepared to sleep more this morn. An enchantment was upon them none dare break for a short while, each to his own thoughts, but in harmony with one another as those who suffer together in some toil are likely to have. Da Vinci turned from gazing at the white clouds and looked at Nano for a time, staring without staring. Nano was aware of it, but said nothing. Finally the short eternity of peaceful silence ended like a bloom noiselessly opening itself to the sunshine.
Now Da Vinci said to Nano without looking at him, “Nano. Have you considered death?”
That is quite a potential subject and there is much that could follow in many directions. Many poets and authors have given much of their lives to such subjects for their fame. Admiral Nano did not pause to answer though.
“Yes, I have considered death.” That was typical of Nano, just answer the question, no ambiguity or evasion. To some degree, Da Vinci was like that, but he wanted … another insight, for his own consideration.
“Nano, are you afraid of death?” ask Da Vinci. Lawyer Joe turned and Father was still with his eyes closed, you just knew he was listening.
“No. I don’t fear death, but what you really want to know is why not, for you suspected I did not fear death already. I don’t fear what doesn’t exist.”
Lawyer Joe, “What makes you think there is no death?”
Before Nano could respond, a voice was heard. Coming toward them from behind them, from an area of nearby woods from along a nature trail, a familiar voice was heard. It was ‘Lord Aurelius’, Marcus Strong. With him was Jose ‘Cuervo’ Gold. Lord Marcus Aurelius had been the sixteenth emperor of ancient Rome, a leader of vision and successful general. Nano himself had nick-named Marcus Strong for the man’s face reminded him of the august Caesar. Cuervo was often seen in Lord Aurelius company as they drank themselves to oblivion. Now they approached, unaware yet of the foursome under the elms. Aurelius and Cuervo talked loudly of some recent trivial subject, laughing in good spirits. As they came on, down a cracked and littered way due to lack of maintenance and the night storm which had littered the wet ground with wet leaves and branches, Cuervo stumbled over an unnoticed limb. Going down, he threw out his arms, but inebriated as he was, he was slow and bounced his face off the rough path even as he fell into a puddle of muddy water alongside the narrow path.
Lord Aurelius stopped, an exaggerated expression of concern on his face as drunkenness will do. He reached for his friend and in the effort to help the stunned man rise, he too took a tumble and fell atop Cuervo and into the muddled, muddy puddle. They struggled to disentangle themselves from each other, sluggishly. Finally they sat next to one another in the puddle, laughing aloud. Blood dripped from the face of Cuervo, his face torn and scraped. The blood dripped upon his shirt, already dirty before he’d fallen, now much a mess.
“Cuervo” said Lord Aurelius, “you’re bleeding. You’re face is really bad.”
Cuervo moved a hand over his face inspecting it, found it bloody even as blood dripped from his nose to his shirt. “Yeah, I hurt myself” They laughed at each other. “But at least I didn’t fall on someone like a drunk moron.”
“No, you tripped on … that limb”, said Aurelius, spotting the object. “You tripped on a limb. Are you blind? Why did you do that? You trying to make yourself uglier than you already are?”
More laughing, despite the winch Cuervo gave as pain set in. “I need a drink.”
Aurelius took from his backpack, which he plopped in the puddle, a small bottle of vodka, half full. He passed it over to Cuervo. The bleeding man took a drink and said, “I feel better already.”
“You still look like crap” said Aurelius. “Let’s go to the shelter and get some bandages.”
Succeeding in struggling to stand without falling again, they started. It was then Cuervo and Aurelius spotted the foursome a short distance away that had observed the whole event quietly. Well, not quite quietly. There had been some laughing under the elms too.
“Hey guys”, said Lord Aurelius, victor of battles many against Roman foes like the Huns of what would become Germany one day. “We fell”. An epic understatement and not quite realizing yet in his stupor that would have been plainly observed by Nano, Da Vinci, Father and Lawyer. The twosome smiled sheepishly at the foursome. Aurelius and Cuervo continued along the nature trail toward the shelter, dripping blood, mud and water.
Nano looked at the other three, ending with Lawyer Joe. “Let me remind you of something Shakespeare said in relation to death and perhaps considering our just now passed friends. It is Hamlet speaking.”
To die, to sleep–
No more, and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to–’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause.
It could be assumed Lawyer, Father and Da Vinci had heard those lines before at some point in life. They thought, nodding as each realized the connection between pausing uncertainly to consider the implications of death and what comes after as though a dream to be wished for or not.
“Nano”, inquired Da Vinci, “How do you think of things like that?”
“Much have I seen and known–cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met.”
“Who said that?” ask Father for the first time speaking. He rolled upon the ground to look at Admiral Nano. They all looked at him, Lawyer grinning in expectation of something silly to be said.
“Ulysses” answered Nano. “Then Lord Alfred Tennyson the British poet said it.”
“Wasn’t Ulysses at the Battle of Troy when they fought for Helen?” said the educated Da Vinci.
“Yes he was” said Nano.
“How does Tennyson know Ulysses said that?” ask Lawyer Joe.
“I told him” said Nano.
Skipping the obvious question, Lawyer continued. “How do you know Ulysses said that?”
“I was at Troy. So, I tell you there is no death.” Such can be the conversations of friends at a shelter.