“We are doing this for Claude,” Sheila intoned seriously as the smoke rose into the sky and the sky became colours and light.
The starlight burst open like a prayer and the clouds gathered around her belly like waiting winds, glowing pink and red with love.
“I am holding his hands.” She reached out, clasping Berger’s hand in hers as he gazed into the starlight and stretched wide, touching Claude’s back through the clouds.
Woof had Claude’s feet and Dionne his arms and they felt the thin muscles and tried to warm the intangible form. They wrapped the brightest and softest blankets around him and curled under them themselves to be close to him.
Jeannie began to cry.
“I want to, but he’s not here. What are we doing?” and Hud reached out and drew her into the puppy pile of bodies.
“He is with us,” said Sheila. Her hair shone like stars caught in a river and her convictions- always the strongest of any of them- burned behind her eyes.
“He’s out there hurting but we can reach him, and maybe the invisible part of him can feel the invisible parts of us, all of us touching him and loving him.”
As she said the words, there, in the midst of their tangled hand and feet and hair, lights shone between them and a little bit of Claude was there with them and they all laughed to see him there. Berger kissed Claude’s cheek and Sheila laid her bony hands on his belly and Jeanie held his hands between hers and let him feel the baby move to the sounds of the universe, and Dionne sang to him and Crissy and Hud rubbed his invisible limbs warm and all of them kissed him. The night was filled with purple and blue starlight and for now at least they were together again.
And somewhere, many cold, lonely miles away, the visible parts of Claude suddenly felt a flush of warmth and memory of things that seemed long ago, that happened to a Claude that wasn’t him but was him once. That happened to a human before they became a number. He felt warm lips upon his own and warm hands covering his and, just for a moment, everything was okay.