Eli told me with pride, more than once, in the context of a story of what a tough son of a bitch he’d always been, what his father had said about him.
“My father used to say ‘he would have been a gangster, but he don’t hev it in the blutt’,” and he would laugh, possibly at the thought of how much wealthier and more powerful he might have been if he’d had that criminal gene pulsing in him somewhere.
I never knew if the pride was because his father recognized his basic goodness or because his father saw what a bad ass his first born was.
“Interesting question,” said the skeleton alertly. “hard to say which he would have been prouder of. You know, as far as you, I always said you were extremely ethical, and had a good, if idiosyncratic, character.”
Yeah, I remember that. Didn’t help much when it came time to have your rage discharged on me, but I do recall you saying that I was a highly moral person and all that. Strikes me about the same now, years later, as the remarkable chat we had during your last night on earth.
“Think of it like this, Elie, you were a much better instrumentalist that I ever was (I didn’t play an instrument, after all), and as good an improviser, and you stood by my bed as I expressed my regrets and didn’t indulge yourself to play even a single note of a solo. That’s called restraint. You kept the beat and adjusted the accompaniment to whatever mood I struck, backed my vocals seamlessly. The mood was the blues all the way, but sometimes very dark. And you were like Django’s rhythm section, just pumping that heartbeat of a pompe, as the frogs call it.”
What the fuck, man? I know what you’re saying, but you would never talk like this.
“I know, Elie,” said the skeleton.