Just finished off Ava’s Man last night for the second time. Near the end of the story, when Charlie’s death is within a stone’s throw of being upon him, Rick gives us an account of his grandfather’s last moments. They are moments that are beautifully recounted:
It was a fine walk. The trees and shrubs and crawling vines were in flower or already green, covering the gray bark that always looked so dead and hopeless in winter, and new grass covered a cow pasture not far from the house. Later, the night train would rumble across the Tredegar trestle, shaking the trees, stabbing the darkness with a lance of yellow light, but now there was just the dying sunlight, and the wind, rushing.
The men were passing a pasture gate when he just stopped, to get a breath. He looked around him, as if it was the first time he had seen anything like it, anything so fine, and fell onto the new grass.
I found the words so lovely, and so reminiscent of another favorite passage of mine, the closing of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front:
He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.
He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.
If you read Bragg’s and Remarque’s passages together, you can almost envision them written for the same man.
One of these days, I’ll stop talking about Rick Bragg…but not just yet.
Listening to: Miles Davis’ Quiet Nights