Only the deep reddish glow of the setting sun remained on the horizon now, beckoning forth Luna and her train of stars to sing in the night sky, shedding forth subdued light from the vault of heaven, speaking peace to the troubled world they served. The now-gentle breeze seemed to repeat the same tune in perfect harmony with an unseen celestial choir, as life flowed on with such variety and yet so much the same. Astonishing diversity in incomprehensible unity, all moving toward the one grand ocean of clear and free wholeness in mystic communion.
Effete purposely walked slowly, for the first time admiring the street lights and the newly restored sidewalks nicely bordered with freshly planted golden lotuses and dale’s strain, which tugged at her heart to become involved in the Splinterbit Beautification Committee; after all, as the environmentalist, Luther Burbank, said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” Touché! And certainly Blue would understand and appreciate this.
“The flowers are exquisitely beautiful, aren’t they?” she queried.
“My, oh my, yes; one of the very real tangible manifestations of the intangible Form of Divine Beauty.” Blue pushed passed mere appreciation – again – into the more intellectual … but Effete didn’t mind at all. She enjoyed hearing … no, really and truly listening to the heart and soul of this man. This was simply Blue Poorman, through and through; who and what he was, no more, no less; and for all of that to be admired, appreciated, and valued. “Intuitively we know… we sense and deeply appreciate the icons of Beauty in all their myriad forms.”
Rue and Bane were running back and forth along the sidewalk, making Effete wonder just how much more energy they could possibly have, but it only made her smile all the more. Best of all, it didn’t seem to disturb Blue one bit. He liked the boys and they liked him, and they all got along swimmingly well. They were icons of beauty, invaluable soul treasures, and yet they had no idea just how they were so fundamentally important. She was thankful beyond words for the liberty they now enjoyed and the opportunities they had now.
“And what about Fen?” Effete asked abruptly. “What kind of icon is he? An icon of ugliness … at least I hope you would say.”
“Well, methinks you already know what my answer is, Effete. Ugliness, according to my perspective, is the depravation or absence of Beauty, just as bad – or in older parlance, sin – is the perversion of absence of good.” Blue then placed his hand in Effete’s without even thinking about it. She was surprised, to say the least, but elated. “Somewhere along the line, I can only guess, Fen made the decision, consciously or not – or, perhaps a combination of both – to warp whatever good was resident within him and within his reach. I don’t really know if Fen ever possessed an authentic understanding and appreciation for Beauty. He may very well have eradicated so much goodness in his life so early that he never had an opportunity to mature an appreciation for the aesthetic.” Blue paused, glanced at Effete with tenderness, and then continued. “Of course, he became, as he still is, an icon of the Ugly.”
“I know I’ve listened carefully, and I’ve tried to understand as best I can, but you’ll have to excuse me because I’m a bit rusty where intellectual/academic matters are concerned.” Effete squeezed Blue’s hand and guided him down a side road to make the walk home longer. He didn’t mind at all … and neither did the boys. They were close enough now; they could go on to Lucent’s if they wanted to anyway. “I think you equate Beauty, with a capital ‘B,’ with God, so do you see the Ugly, capital ‘U,’ as the devil, Satan, the Destroyer?”
“Very interesting that you should add the one descriptive of ‘Destroyer’ to the list of names and titles attributed to the Evil One – the Father of Lies, Lucifer, Rahu, Kroni, Satanael, Mara – but in this case the ‘Destroyer’ is very appropriate. And the simple answer to your question is, ‘yes.’ This personification of Evil is both Liar and Destroyer, who cannot create but only warp, pervert, undo, and steal.” Blue slowed his pace, as did Effete, and he looked at her intently. “Satanael … Mara … the Destroyer hates, absolutely hates, beauty and, if I may be so bold, this is at least an important part of the reason you, Effete, have suffered so much.”
Now it was Effete’s turn to blush. They had come to a dead stop and were simply looking at each other. “Hey, mom, we’re going on home, o.k.?” Bane’s voice carried down the sidewalk about 20 feet or so. “That’s fine, honey. You guys just stay together, and … I’ll be home shortly, o.k.? Tell everyone there’s no need to worry about me, o.k.?” The boys both laughed, and Rue answered, “Well, we know that; you’re with Blue!” Then they ran off, and both Effete and Blue looked down, slightly embarrassed, and chuckled.
“You are, indeed, very kind and overly gracious, Blue Poorman,” Effete practically whispered. “If you only realized just what a mess I am right now… I’m certainly no angel, and at best an horribly tarnished icon of Beauty… So much poison has been poured into my system, Blue, that I’m finding it extremely difficult to believe in the God of Beauty and Goodness… If you knew me really well, you probably wouldn’t like me at all.”
“Effete, listen,” and now Blue took both her hands, “I would be insane to think that you could possibly be an unrestrained, happy, go-lucky lady right now.” He kind of chuckled. “You have been terribly, tremendously wounded physically, emotionally, psychologically, sexually and spiritually… How can you possibly recover and heal from that overnight? Or even in a few weeks, or months? I know this, of course, but may I say to you something very important?” Effete nodded with tears in her eyes. “The emanation of Beauty and Goodness that I see and sense in you is as divine as the song first sung by the stars in the first night sky eons ago. I’m not talking about some distant God when I’m talking to you – the God of philosophy, the God of theology, the God of silly intellectual debates – I am talking about the real and living God within you, who overflows your whole self and shines as brilliantly as the noonday sun. I am talking about the manifestation of Beauty and Goodness in Effete Mann, right here and right now, in this moment I’m so privileged to share with you.”
Now Effete had to wipe her eyes, but surprisingly Blue was ready with a clean, white handkerchief. Had he planned on her crying? Or maybe he thought he’d need it for the walk back home. He certainly had filled plenty of handkerchiefs with his own tears plenty of times. Not this night, though; this night the soft, white cloth was for beloved Effete.
“How can I possibly argue with you, Blue Poorman? You are as debonair and elegant as you are intelligent,” Effete laughed while she continued mopping her eyes. “My heavens, you’ve certainly turned this wonderfully mystic, enchanting day into something completely beyond my wildest imagination. I don’t have words to describe just how much you’ve turned my whole world upside down, and inside out in the short space of one late evening. And to properly thank you is impossible.”
“Your tears of gratitude are more than enough, but accepting the truth of what I’ve said would be even more deeply cherished.” Blue wanted more than anything in the world to take Effete back with him, to hug her and hold her and lavish her with all the love in possession of his soul, but he knew they had to be on their way to Lucent Keener’s home. Folks there would bound to get worried eventually, despite what the boys had said, so Blue began walking again with Effete by his side … this time with one definite destination ahead.
“Well, you most assuredly are a personification of kindness, gentleness, all-round goodness, and beauty, Blue, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
“Thank you, Effete,” Blue responded rather shyly. “I don’t know what else to say, except thank you. Coming from you, that means more to me than I can express in words; it really does. And that is my goal in life … and much of what I try to explain in my book, now with the very helpful illustrations of Able.” He smiled.
“Say, how is the book coming along? I haven’t heard in awhile.”
“Actually, it’s complete and now in the hands of a mid-sized publishing company, Semen Frank Publishing, who immediately requested the whole work after reading my précis, so … we shall see.”
“That’s wonderful, Blue!” Effete exclaimed as they reached the door. Before she could say anymore, though, Lucent was standing in front of her with an obvious look of mixed emotions on her face. “I hope I’m not in trouble for … being too late, maybe?”
“Hardly,” Lucent replied in monotone. “And hello, Blue, come on in.”
They both did, but didn’t get far before Lucent sprung the news on them. “I can hardly bring myself to say I’ve got ‘bad news,’ but then the professional nurse in me seems to militate against saying ‘good news,’ either. Besides, we don’t know what a monkey wrench this might throw into the works, but…”
“O.k. But what?” Effete was anxious for her to just spit it out.
“We just got a call about an half-hour to forty minutes ago informing us that Fen Sloughheart is now comatose.” She paused to let the news settle somewhat. “At this point, at least, it doesn’t look as if he’s going to make it.”