• The Death of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 12: Cliff

    PREVIOUS:  Chapter 11: Clair                                    The Beginning: Chapter 1: Theo  
    The house is quiet.

    Tonight Cliff and Clair plan to enjoy the quiet...together.

    Wearing his gray and maroon Temple University t-shirt and jeans, Cliff comes down into the living room and turns on the television. He is waiting for Clair to return home with the crabs for their late summer seafood feast for two. While he waits, the newscaster reports,
         "Beloved professor of political science, Alexander Scott, has passed away. Former CIA agent and Hollywood spy films advisor, Scott served as a consultant on the iSpy film with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson..." 
    Cliff flips the channel and says,
         “No bad news today.”

    Flipping a couple more channels, Cliff lands on another news report, 
         "Today, thousands of mourners light candles and leave signs and cards of condolences to the 16-year-old African American male shot by Philadelphia police in a mistaken identity case last night. William Glover, Jr., better known as “Little Bill” in his North Philly community was gunned down and is the latest in a string of unarmed black youth killed by police. The hashtag #LittleBill has quickly gone viral and trending on social media…”
    Cliff flips the channel and says,
         “No bad news today.”

    Flipping a few more channels, Cliff lands on the report of a school set in an old utility company building closing its doors, 
         “The Electric Company Charter School is finally folding after years of alternative and arts education for children of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Lead by Dr. Albert Jackson, the Electric Company has not been able to bounce back after the school suffered the worst gun tragedy in Philadelphia history last year. The gunman, Leonard Six as he called himself in his manifesto, entered the Electric Company School with a semi-automatic weapon and killed Dr. Albert Jackson and six other faculty members. Once called “Fat Albert” in the North Philadelphia community he called home, Dr. Jackson and his close friends opened The Electric Company Charter School to foster “a current of learning, a jolt in excitement and stimulating energy for a personal care in education” by having the people of the neighborhood teach in their own school. The school housed two academies: Darnedest Thing Grade School for students pre-k to the seventh grade; and A Different World High School for eighth through twelfth graders. The teachers who perished in the attack were Dr. Owen “Mushmouth” Johnson, Donald Smart, William Cosby, Russell Cosby, Harold Smith, Rudolph “Rudy” Davis, and Bucky Hanks. No students were harmed as the school had not opened for the fall term but it seems the school will remain closed and the children will be placed in the city’s public schools.” 
    Cliff flips the channel,
         “No bad news today.”

    Flipping the channel up one station, Cliff watches the news of a local man who was killed in Queens this morning, 
         “Former airline agent and Queens resident Hilton Lucas died from his injuries as his car was struck by a Cosby Enterprises freight train. No word on if any other people were…” 
    Cliff mutes the television,
         “What is happening in this world?! How can I escape the bad news? No bad news today. Maybe I should just turn the television off. That’s it. I’ll turn it off and live my day off in happiness.”

    Cliff looks at the remote in his hand and hits the power button to turn the television off. Rather than turning off, the volume unmutes. Cliff looks at the remote, thinking must have hit the wrong button and presses the power button again. This time the television advances to another channel, 
         “Today in the latest case…”
    Cliff presses the power button. A new channel, 
         “...of the Bill…”
    Cliff presses the power button again. A different channel, 
         “...Cosby rape…”
    power button...new channel, 
         “...allegations, five more women…”
    power button...new channel, 
         “...have come forward…”
    power button...new channel, 
         “...and have accused Cosby of…”
    power button!

    The television finally shuts off and rest with a black screen. Cliff is still sitting on his couch, looking at the dark screen which now serves as a blackened mirror, in which Cliff can see his own reflection. 
         “I simply can not take another word of bad news. I certainly can not listen to yet another account of that lousy Cosby fella, assaulting all of those women. If I thought someone had sullied any of my daughters in such a way, I would kill him. I know I took that Hippocratic oath and what not, but I would kill him dead. Five more women...what is he up to now? Thirty? Forty?” 
    Cliff gets up from the couch. As he rises, he feels a sharp pain in his chest. 
    The pain passes, as he has had many of these stings before...thirty...forty, maybe. He takes another step towards the kitchen door when another sharp pain shoots through his chest. Cliff grabs and clinches his chest as he is having another attack, but this one feels deeper and more painful than the others. He turns back toward the desk near the door, hoping to make his way to the telephone and call an ambulance. As Cliff stumbles his way to the staircase, he loses his grip on the banister and falls hard to the floor. 
         “Oh God no...not today. Just give me one more day to day goodbye to everyone...to my children...my wife. No today. Don’t let the last thing I see be the news of that monster. Let me see my wife’s face and hear her voice. Let me tell my son how good of a man he is and that I’m so proud of him. Let me look upon my daughters and thank them for making me a better man every day. Please let me hold the hands of my grandchildren. Let me...let me…”

    Cliff hears the back door open in the kitchen. Clair is home from the store. In the same breath, Cliff uses to call for his wife, another lightening hot pain pierces his heart. 
         “Please God no…” Cliff whispers. 

    Cliff hears his wife call for him but he has not the energy to reach back to her with his voice. As the room grows darker and fuzzier, he sees a young woman walking towards him. She is wearing a green prom dress. She is calling his name. This beautiful shape in green is running towards him. Cliff is only able to move his eyes and with them, he sees a lake and a green hill with this beautiful shape of flowing fabric is running over. He calls a name in a whisper, 
    The flowing form is calling his name...but it isn’t his name, 
    Cliff whispers, 

    Suddenly his body is turned over and Clair, seventeen years old and wearing a peach sweater is sitting next to him as he is laying on his back. She is looking into his face, smiling. The seventeen-year-old vision of Clair says to Cliff, 
         “Do you have to go back to the Navy, Cliff? Can’t you stay?” 
    Cliff responds, 
         “Clair...Don’t let them keep me this time. Let me come home. I’m tired. I don’t want to stay there. Don’t let them keep me. Clair...promise me. I want to come home.” 
    Clair says, 
         “I promise.”

    Cliff looks over at the flowing form continuing to walk in his direction, 
         “I’m here, Bucky,” reassures Eunice. 
    He had not seen his first girlfriend in fifty years and here she is, sitting in his bedroom. A brief rush of panic and confusion whips through Cliff. There is no way Clair would allow this to happen. Who let this woman in their home...in their bedroom?!  Cliff tries to sit up in his bed but his body aches in all the places possible. He can feel his life slipping away. After all of the attacks his body, his heart, his mind have taken, Cliff seems ready to let this life go. 
         “Call Clair.”  Cliff whispers. 
    Eunice slowly nods in agreement and leaves Cliff’s side to get Clair. 

    Clair enters the room, 
         “Yes, Cliff?”
         “It’s time.”
         “Are you sure?”
    confirms Clair.
         “Yes. I’m sure,” assures Cliff.
         “Bucky, I’m going to go.” Eunice steps back to Cliff’s opposite side. She holds his hand, “I wish you a loving departure and all my gratitude in love, Bucky.”
    Eunice releases Cliff’s hand and leaves the room, closing the door behind her.

    Clair pulls up a chair next to her husband. Cliff says to his wife, 
         “Wonderous Love.”
         “You would like me to sing, What Wonderous Love?”
         “Yes...but...before you do…” Cliff takes Clair’s hand, “For the last fifty years of my life...for the best fifty years of my life, you have been the breath of my life. I have lived my whole life loving you and I thank you, Clair Hanks Huxtable, for loving me. Thank you for our children. Thank you for dancing with me and singing to me and the Spanish…”
    Clair smiles. She leans towards her husband and whispers,
         “With all my love, Cliff” 
    and softly kisses him on the lips. Cliff closes his eyes and allows the tears to roll off the sides of his face,
         "Now...I’m ready. What Wonderous Love."

    In the darkness behind his eyes, Cliff can hear his wife singing his favorite hymn. As he drifts away, the song begins to fade and is replaced with the soundtrack of his life: his children's voices, talking and laughing...singing and playing; babies’ first wails; the sound of his parents bidding him welcome...all underscored by the loving serenade of the sweetest soul he has ever known. In the darkness behind Cliff’s eyes, he settles into a deep sleep and then fades away from his life.


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