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THE SCENE / Eric Nelson In the foregound, the four of us—my sisters, mother, and me—hamming for Dad's camera. Toothy stage waves, a leg in the air, somebody's fingers making horns behind my head as I grip the pistols Dad gave me that morning. Behind us, a crowd of backs and backs of heads, shoulder straps and camera bags. Lots of caps, short sleeves, short skirts and shorts. Beyond them, across the street on the sidewalk, a young couple embraces in hard rain. In front and behind, under umbreUas, in raincoats, people on their way somewhere pass by. Shooting our way through the French Quarter, we saw the crowd gather. Two men hosed the sidewalk a long time before steam stopped rising and glare disappeared. The rain came from sprinklers fastened to ladders, the couple from separate trailers down the street. The ones who walked past, the same ones over and over in different clothes, amazed me most— the way one person became another by adding a hat, then another by changing a coat, hurrying alone in one direction, slowly returning as one of a couple. That movie stiU runs. Late. Two stars. I watched it once but didn't see the scene we saw filmed and filmed ourselves. 244 · The Missouri Review Cut, whatever happened in the rain in that grade-B story of love condemned, it never happened. I feU asleep before the end, woke to snow storming across the screen. At first I couldn't teU if what I'd seen was movie or dream: A man in bad clothes, darkfaced , floats out of nowhere into the path of a boy and father. He flutters, hand out, mumbling. The boy stares and steps toward his father who acts as if the man isn't there. They pass right through him into the street against the Ught. The boy looks back. Nothing is there except empty sidewalk winding toward a turn. Though dreamlike, long cut from memory's reel, I know I was there. But where were my sisters, mother? Who was my father? In real Ufe, the actress drowned after falling from a boat one night. Others were there, somewhere else. No one knows what happened. At reunions my father, younger-looking than his age, his love my slowlearned lesson, quietly presides. Family fleshed out with husbands, wives, children and grandchildren, we sUde-show our thirty-year-old vacation: the four of us pointing to our hotel, posing on Bourbon Street, standing in front of a crowd. We don't beUeve our clothes and haircuts, how much we've gained and changed. We point to the false rain and couple in the background, explain the tricks of a scene that appears nowhere but behind us, in front of us. Eric Nelson The Missouri Review · 245 ...


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pp. 144-145
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