(A parable of sorts, for All Hallow's Eve)


"The dead demand a curious debt from us living," said the first man. "In living, our fathers we safely ignore; in passing they encroach on our interests."

The last man looked over the rim of his raised coffee cup. A long history ran between these two. "You speak utter dribble. The dead ask naught. Our own expectations shape our demands." He sipped his bitter drink.

"Ahh, no, I fear my esteemed ally is astray in this one area, you see, for we are not free to expect a thing. While we still swim in these stifling currents we may shift them not a smidge, strain as we may. Remaining raptured in this realm, one route only is revealed. But with our removal the road realigns."

"I've lived my life dedicated to this: what I want this moment I pursue now. The moment is my ideal. Always is. No one, dead or live, encroaches on me."

"My friend, my fearless friend! Did not your father in his failing health favor you with a farm and freehold? In your youth and your yellow middle years, did you not yak and lay with young ladies and throw away your father's yoke, and denounce the wicked ways of this world? He would be heartened to see the honored man here now, the steward of seven seemly hectares of silky sun-drunk soil and the responsible redeemer of the wretched men who work it. Today I am tickled at the tenacious taskmaster you have turned into!"

"Does my friend jibe me? You recall, of course, that with seven acres I came to you and you worked that wicked magic of yours and drove men from the land which became mine? And how dare you suggest that I have changed? I grab land where once I grabbed pleasure. What of it? I am a grabber. I grab. My father was a responsible man, who never sought excess and was humble. He worked hard yet he was always hungry. I work not at all and yet I grow fat. I defy you to show in any way how I ever honored his memory!"

"You do dishonor to your drudging diligent labor in those young days. You tilled the turf with your own once tame hands, toiled, worked the tools of your new trade 'til tender muscles tore! Now you are noble of name and no longer need work your own hands, but you are keen and must notice that keeping control is more complicated than cretins' work. This I predict: your posterity will pass your power through generations, germinated ground will generate greater and greater bounties, 'til one day one will come from your offspring who is obstinate and a loaf, bearing the onus of authority but obliterated beneath it. The writhing wretches who now work your wet earth, their dead dictate demands too, and they shall rise against this royal progeny, and reap the riches you now rear. Then your humble, hard working and honest father shall be honored."

"Oh, stuff it! You seek just to provoke me, and I do not hold stock in dreams of fate. But by the creed I hold I do not care what lays in store for distant unborn heirs, so I am free to entertain this whim. If what you say is to be held as truth, our dead fathers do demand appeasement. In my father this is easy to see - he did demand of me tribute in life and I've no doubt that he would haunt me now. But your own father was a vagabond, a man after mine own heart it is true. Tell me, dear and loyal friend through the years, what pressures may a man exert in death, if he brought none to bear during his life?"

"Now, my mate and my master, you surely arrive at the meat of the matter. My fawned-over father for sure was a lazy layabout, begging for alms and bringing home all sorts of boisterous brutes. He was always aware of where to get his ale but he never paid notice to needs or nourishment. But he who was a troll in life is a tyrant since the time of his death! My dear dead dad makes the most difficult demand of all, that each little tic of life must be lived, must be smelled, searched, savored and at last smote! You have no idea how incredibly incapacitating it is to even try to imbibe life that way. No, my brave father burdened on me the bulkiest weight of all - in the dark days of my despair now it is not merely for myself I make misery, for I dishonor and dishearten that deranged dreamer too. He has left for me an impossible indebtment, and a gnawing guilt."

"My friend, I can see that you are troubled. You fancy that the dead do speak to you, when all they can do is lie in the ground. But even if you are right you should rest, and know that your father is a good man. If the dead do make their demands on us, there's only one they may rightfully claim; that we make time to properly enjoy what they only now see the value of.

With that, the last man squeezed his friend firmly on his shoulder and dove into the throngs passing by the sidewalk table as if they were water currents. The first man remained, not sure what to think.

The debt here may be dubious, but the literary conceits herein are even more so. For this I apologize.

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