About a year ago, a much-admired man
in Galloway County, someone I have
presumed to call a friend, died but a month
shy of ninety-one. Because I had come to
suppose he would last forever, I had never
quite gotten around to inviting this fellow to
expand upon a story he had told me some
years ago, a story that crosses my mind nearly
every time I walk past one particular house
here in Fjord, Wisconsin. I had happened
to ask this friend whether he was related to
a certain man with his same last name,
someone with whom I coincidentally had
once had a brief acquaintance very near
the end of that mans long life, which,
I believe I have notes that indicate,
was a bit beyond twenty years ago.
My friend told me, yes, he and the man I
named were indeed related, and then he
offered a story about that mans wife, a story
that now feels, to me, troublingly incomplete:
In the early nineteen sixties, at an address
a few doors from where my wife and I now
live in the Village of Fjord, the mans wife
took her own life by idling an automobile
inside a closed garage.
When the womans body was discovered, she
appeared, my friend said, to be at peace.
She was sitting in the passenger seat, he said,
and she had in her lap an opened book; her
two hands were folded lightly, as if in prayer,
and were resting upon those open pages. The
book was, my friend said, a guide for identifying
birds seen in this part of the United States.
And thats it. At this point, that is all I know. I
have not, until now, affirmatively attempted to
find out more. But if you do not have cause to
disapprove of my curiosity in this matter, perhaps
you will join me in seeking to discover a little more
about the man with my friends last name and
about his wife, the lady with the book of birds.