霜雰

I was with Beatrix Kondo on her deathbed. The room was kept dim for her, and warmed by an oil-burning stove. She lay very still beneath her quilts, resting with her eyes closed. I inquired whether she was comfortable, and she gave a subtle nod.

I imagine she felt the end coming on, for she lifted her hand feebly to signal that she wanted me nearer. I leant in and asked, "What is it?"

"Don't grieve long for me," she said. "Rain will fall and settle the dust. Then when the rainwater dries, it returns to the clouds to rain down again, and the dust, when dry, flies up again. All things must cycle so. We view them for a span, and then we also return to water and dust."

With this she bowed her head and breathed softly, and I leant back again in my chair and was very much struck by her philosophic readiness to meet death.

Perhaps five or so minutes had passed when Beatrix wrinkled her nose and raised her head slightly, her eyes on me. "You farted, didn't you?"

I sat nonplussed for a moment, then replied, "No, I didn't."

She tsked and rolled her eyes. "You know, I'm only the one dying here. I'd rather not go out in a haze of your ass-gas."

"You're imagining it." I really was innocent of the charge.

"Just—go fart in the hall, if you can't hold it in." She dropped her head to the pillow again.

A moment passed, and then her eyes opened once more. Through long years of association with her, I've learned from time to time to read her thoughts from the looks on her face, and what I read now was chagrin and annoyance at having ruined the solemn mood brought about by her prior comments—by what I saw now were to have been her last words.

I saw a moment's hesitation expressed in her facial features, and then her mind began to turn. I fancy that I can even trace the course of her thoughts, as she prepared to repeat again what she'd said before—one last time, once and for all, and then keep her mouth shut till the end. What was it? she must have thought. Don't grieve—dust and rainwater—with the clouds and all that—view them for a spell? Wait, was it for a 'spell'? A 'spell' sounds too homespun... For the love of Chr—

But then, with her mouth still opening and shutting soundlessly, her breath ceased, and her eyes rolled back. Beatrix was gone.

I suppose I must have wept. She had been dearer to me than I can ever express. I do wish, however, that she'd taken a little more care at the end.

Her last words? "Go fart in the hall, if you can't hold it in."

I mean, give me a break, right?