“Soupster, are you crying?” asked Laine as she encountered him on a bench near the harbor.
“Oh, just deep thoughts,” the Soupster admitted, wiping his cheek with the side of his hand. “I was just thinking about Clarence… and novels.”
“OK,” Laine said, sitting down. “I’ve got a minute. Tell me what’s on the Soupster’s mind. This can be like in one of your Our Town columns.”
Some gulls squawked at her joke, but the Soupster didn’t.
“Good old Clarence,” said the Soupster. “I was giving him a bad time about some old snow shovel he borrowed and gave me back bent – this was just last week.”
“Now, he’s gone,” said Laine.
“Clarence, The Novel, is finished,” the Soupster agreed.
“Explain,” said Laine.
“A great thing about Our Town, maybe the best thing about it for me,” said the Soupster, “is the fact you get to see the same people in all different kinds of ways. You might see them with their kids at a concert and then where they work and then maybe leading around a group of people who look just like them and you figure they must be relatives.
“All these same people, like Clarence, develop in front of you, like characters in a novel,” he concluded.
“Clarence, The Novel, is finished,” said Laine, nodding with understanding. She and the Soupster let a long pause occur, respectful of their friend’s passing.
“We only get to know part of the story,” said the Soupster. “I only knew Clarence, The Novel from the middle to the end. I never `read’ the beginning.”
“If it was anything like the later parts, it had to be a good read,” chuckled Laine, toasting Clarence with an imaginary drink in one hand.
“Seeing kids grow up in Our Town is cool,” said the Soupster, “That’s the beginning of the novel.”
“You know, you may never read the end of those novels,” she said. “You probably won’t.”
“That’s okay,” said the Soupster. “I’ve always liked the beginnings of novels best. I love the first 10 minutes of every movie I see.”
“Well, if this is an episode of Our Town, we must be near the bottom of the page,” said Laine. “Because I have to go.” She stood and walked a few steps, then turned and smiled.
“And so Laine, The Novel, continues,” she called back. “But this chapter is finished.”