Terésa Dowell-Vest

The Death of Cliff Huxtable...So We Can Survive Bill Cosby

I figured if we kill off Cliff Huxtable, maybe we can finally separate Bill Cosby from the man he played from the man he is. This is a work of fan fiction, in a non-fiction world. This...is an ode to a character...a hero...no less fictional than Superman.


Get Your Copy of The Death of Cliff Huxtable Here!

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  • Terésa Dowell-Vest

    Terésa Dowell-Vest is the founder of Diva Blue Productions and Publications and is an Assistant Professor of Communications at Prairie View A and M University. Terésa is the Director of Film and Television Production at the university and is the producer of PVAMU-TV and Festival on the Hill, PV's Official Film Festival. In 2015, Terésa was a Visiting Professor for the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. Her course there is entitled, "From the Drinking Gourd to #BlackTwitter: Social Communication for Social Change" Terésa is a three time Geoffrey Award (Santa Monica Theatre Guild) winning director and a NAACP Theater Award nominee. Terésa currently resides in Houston with her wife Michelle and their dogs, August and Langston.

    • CV / Portfolio
    • tdv@teresadowellvest.com
    • Visit Diva Blue Prodcutions at www.divablueproductions.com

    My Work

    Diva Blue Production Since 1997
    Diva Blue Publications Since 2010
    Diva Blue Photography Since 2000
    Educator Since 1994

    Genesis: New American Superheroes

    “Genesis” follows the lives and adventures of five siblings who were given extraordinary powers by their scientist parents when they were children. The outcome, the resulting powers, far exceeds the parent's expectations. In present day, the siblings are reunited, having long forgotten their parents, their powers and each other. “Genesis” is the story of when five strangers must become family…and then heroes. Here's how it begins...

  • eBook: Amazon / Blurb Books
  • Softback: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
  • Hardback: Blurb Books
  • The Death of Cliff Huxtable

    I figured if we kill off Cliff Huxtable, maybe we can finally separate Bill Cosby from the man he played from the man he is. This is a work of fan fiction, in a non-fiction world. This...is an ode to a hero.

  • eBook: Amazon / iTunes / Blurb Books
  • Softback: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

  • Passage Home

    “Passage Home” is the story of the day America killed currency, demolished the Social Security program, federally issued new tracking numbers for all citizens, mass deported those who could not prove citizenship, sealed the borders, and sent Black Americans back to Africa...in less than a year. Set in the year 2019, this 400 year anniversary of Africans in America would be like no other celebration we have ever known.

  • eBook: Amazon / iTunes / Blurb Books
  • Softback: Blurb Books
  • Hardback: Blurb Books

  • The Box 69: A Photographic Chronicle in Verse, Song, and Crayon

    "I've been hoarding my box of crayons... when I got up this morning, I opened them and got to experience Jazzberry Jam all the way thru orange... I laughed out loud, had tears running down my face from Fern, and was amazed at their beauty... what a perfect way to start my day. Thank you..." - Jane Lanier (Tony Award nominated Broadway actress, dancer, singer) "Beautiful!! You are no Salt or Pepa or Queen La.. but just as divine and inspiring... you are..Teresa and made me cry. God's most abundant blessings to you. Thank you for your creation." - Cheryl "Salt" James-Wray (Grammy Award winning hip-hop icon)

    The Box 69 Gallery

    The photographic gallery for the Box 69 series.

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    A collection of poems, essays and random thoughts about hot lust and sweet love.

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  • 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.

  • The Death Of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 11: Clair

    PREVIOUS: Chapter 10: Eunice Chantilly                             NEXT: Chapter 12: Cliff

    The house is quiet.

    Clair is sitting in the bedroom, on the edge of the bed, alone. She has never known a life in this house without her husband. Hearing herself bid countless guest “good night” echoes in her mind but she is restless and will not sleep tonight.

    The house is quiet.
    And Clair…is alone.

         “Good morning, my love” greets Cliff.
         “Good morning, Heathclifford” groans Clair. “It’s Saturday. You’re sure you don’t want to sleep a little bit later than…” Clair looks over at the clock on her side of the bed, “…than 5:45am?”
         “No ma’am. I’m up! I don’t have to go anywhere today and I want to enjoy the whole entire day.”
         “Ok…this is my point exactly. You have the whole entire day away from patients…away from the hospital…away from your students…away from the kids…away from the grandkids…”
         “I know…and that has to change.”

    Clair listens to Cliff and realizes he isn’t simply rising early from his sleep.
         “That last conversation with Russell got to you, huh?”
         “Clair…technology has taken over and we don’t see our kids anymore.”
         “We see them.”
         “That Skip…”
         “Whatever…doesn’t count. And I know it’s Skype. I was checking to make sure you’re up to speed on the hipness.”
         “Yes…because you are so with it, huh Cliff. Ok. What’s going on?”

    Clair sits up, rubbing her sleepy eyes and waking up to give Cliff her full attention.
         “Clair. We should go and visit with each of our children and visit with them. If they won’t come to us. We go to them.”
         “That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?”
         “Would you like something else?”
         “At six in the morning…”
         “Five forty-five.”
         “At five forty-five in the morning, I’m having an epiphany and all you can say is ‘OK’?”
         “And what is your epiphany? That we must go see our children and grandchildren?”
    Chuckles Cliff.
         “That is not an epiphany, Cliff. That is Saturday. If you want to visit the children…let’s visit the children. But also let me say, the children need to come around here more often. And let the record show…”
         “Oh Lawd…here we go with the record…it’s always time to show the record…”
         “We do visit them more often than the reverse. We’ve made our rounds. These people are younger and more spry than us…”
         “Speak for yourself, fair lady. I am plenty spry.”
    Cliff slides closer to Clair and throws his arms across her body to draw her closer to his. Attempting to seduce Clair, “Let me show you how spry I am.”
         “Cliff, I am not spending my Saturday in the emergency room again because you’ve got spry on your mind.”
         “It not just on my mind,”
    Cliff lifts the sheet to suggest his “spry” has sprung!
    Clair looks at Cliff’s ‘spring’ with a furrowed brow,
         “Put that away before you hurt yourself. Wait…did you take a blue pill this morning while I was asleep?”
         “A doctor never discuss if he self-medicates.”
         “And a judge knows how to cast a sentence of probation for the disobedient and wretched."
         “You wouldn’t dare,”
    taunts Cliff.
         “Let…the re-cord…show…”
         “Touché. Now kiss me woman.”

    Clair opens her arms and embraces her husband as he rests into her bosom. The closeness of Clair is all Cliff really wants. It’s all he ever wanted: to be close to her. Clair holds her husband, stroking his white hair, and humming him back to sleep.

    Her care is what he needs of her right now.

    The house is quiet...except the faint sound of the television in the living room.
    Clair calls from the kitchen. There is no answer. Clair brings in a bag of groceries and places them on the counter. 
         “Cliff...I’m back with the crabs.” 
    Clair goes back out the back door to retrieve one last bag of groceries. She reenters the kitchen and calls for Cliff again. 
         “Ok Cliff. I hear the television so I know you’re in the next room. Come in here and help me with this crabs.” 
    Still no answer. It isn’t like Cliff to ignore Clair. Trying not to worry, Clair jokes, 
         “No crabs for you tonight, buddy. I’ve called you three times…”

    Clair walks through the kitchen door into the living room. 
    She sees the television on but no one in the living room watching it. Thinking Cliff must be in the bathroom, Clair calls up to him,    
         “Cliff, I’m back with the crabs for tonight. Are you upstairs?” 
    Still no answer.

    Clair crosses the room towards the stairs and finds Cliff laying on the floor. “Cliff!” Clair rushes to her husband’s side. 
         “Cliff! Can you hear me?! Cliff!!” 
    Clair rolls Cliff to his back, takes off her jacket to prop his head up. Cliff’s eyes are open and his is able to look at Clair. He whispers,
    Clair hops up and grabs the phone off the desk near the door. She calls 911, 
         “Yes. Dr. Cliff Huxtable at 10 Stigwood has had another attack. Please send an ambulance and come to the front of the house this time...and hurry. Ok. Thank you.”
    Clair returns to Cliff.
    Cliff whispers again.
         “Yes...I hear you. Don’t try to speak. Save your energy. The ambulance is on the way.”
         “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.”
         “Stop trying to be your own doctor. Let’s get you to Dr. Burns first. You need to stay calm and stay relaxed.”
         “Clair...promise me. I want to come home.”
    Clair reassures Cliff she will take care of him and all will be as he wants it., but first they will go to the hospital.

    The ambulance arrives and the medics enter the front door with urgency and familiarity. They have done this before...for Dr. Huxtable. As the medics get Cliff on the gurney, he makes Clair promise once more that he will be able to come home. Clair promises Cliff his wish.  Her promise is what Cliff needs of Clair right now.

    The house is quiet...except the occasional bursts of laughter coming from her bedroom.

    Eunice Chantilly and Cliff are visiting and Clair is biting back every ounce of vinegar she has building up. All Clair wants to do right now is walk into her bedroom and kick that low down, no count heffa out of her house. But no. Today, for her husband, she will be the bigger woman and demonstrate grace and God while Eunice Chantilly is sitting...in her bedroom...with her husband...in her house...wearing that tacky wooden barrette. Clair sits stone still for a moment and says to her herself in a whisper, 
         “She is wearing that barrette. Did Cliff buy her that barrette? He better not have bought Eunice Chantilly that barrette! Let me find out he bought her...no...stop Clair. Stop it now. That is your husband. You trust him. Even if you don’t trust Eunice Chantilly the length of an inch worm...you trust him. Yes. Yes I do. I trust my husband...MY husband. Ummm hmmm…”
    Another burst of laughter seeps through the cracks of her bedroom walls, followed by an “Oh Bucky…” in Eunice’s voice. Clair wants to bust that whole entire door down! She loud whispers, again to herself, 
         “Oh Bucky?! What she in there doin’, talkin’ about ‘Oh Bucky?’ What’s Bucky in there doin’?! No...pull it together, Clair. You are a rational woman. You are Mrs. Heathcliff Huxtable. Have been for 50 years and Eunice Chantilly has nothing...no...thing...except that tacky barrette.”

    The walls can not hold the growing amusement Eunice Chantilly is experiencing in the Huxtable bedroom, “Oh my goodness Bucky. You are too much. You need to stop.” Clair is fuming. She jumps up from her chair,
         “Yes Bucky. You need to stop. She’s got but one more ‘Oh Bucky before I…”
         “Bucky...now, that ain’t the way I remember it…”

    All Clair want to know is what are they in the room reminiscing over? Are they remembering the time when they fell in love? Are they remembering the church trips when she would see Cliff and Eunice Chantilly sitting with each on the bus? Are they remembering the time Cliff promised to take Eunice to her senior prom but missed it because he was sitting by the lake with me? A sadness washes over Clair as she remembers the look on Eunice Chantilly’s face when she came over the hill, in her prom dress, calling for Bucky, only to find him kissing her by the lake. Clair won the man, through some persuasion and some theft...Cliff was hers. Clair sits back down in her chair. For the next hour, she listens as old friends remember and laugh. Through grace and God, Clair found the peace in herself to allow the only woman she worried could ever take Cliff away, spend an intimate afternoon with her husband...in her bedroom.

    Bucky is saying goodbye to his first love, and her grace is what Cliff needs of Clair right now.

    The house is quiet...until the phone rings for the hundredth time today. Clair suppose to be planning the funeral but sitting on the edge of the bed, staring into the opposite wall seems to be all she has the strength to do. The funeral is set for next week and in that time, there is a lot to accomplish. She will select what Cliff will wear. She will arrange the order of events for the funeral. She will host the repast. She will handle it all and all be handled in the typical, elegant, Clair Huxtable way.

    She is in full control and her resolve to see the entire family through the funeral is what Cliff needs of Clair right now.

    The house is quiet...finally...again.
    The funeral was smooth and well executed…as far as funerals can be good. The choir sang all Cliff’s favorite hymns. The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke a few words as did fellow Dr. Ben Carson, both of whom respected Cliff as a man of the community, a man of service, a man of medicine and a man of God. Cliff honored his relationships with important people in the city but he favored his family above all else and while most marveled at his connections with the great and famous, his wife was his best friend and his greatest ally. Cliff had a champion in Clair.

    The repast was flawless. There was a balance of grief and joy, of tears of sorrow and from laughter. Cliff’s children, all but Denise, indulged the visitors with tales of better times with Dr. Huxtable and inquiries on their lives. Constant questions like “How are you holding up?” and “You making it ok?” and “You’ll let me know if I can do anything for you, right?” began to irritate Clair. 'I’m not fragile. I’m not on the brink of falling apart.' Clair exuded confidence and strength the entire evening and never once let a crack in her heart’s armor or her cool demeanor show. But why? Who was THAT for? Why not fall apart and allow someone else to catch her or pick up the pieces?

    The last two weeks have been long for Clair, caring for her husband as he laid, dying in their bed. He wanted to be home his final days, receiving family, friends, and Eunice Chantilly in his final moments. The exhaustion of portraying the dutiful and strong wife has taken a toll on Mrs. Huxtable.

        “Well...” Clair whispers to herself. “Heathclifford...you made it to the finish. You made it…”
    Clair can no longer hold back the tears. She can no longer manage the strong facade or the cool demeanor. Clair grieves,
         “CLIFF!!! Oh my darling darling love…”
    Clair cries and falls to her knees as there is no one left for her. No one stayed because no one thought Clair was vulnerable. No one stayed for Clair because Clair is always strength and fortitude personified. The only one to ever catch Clair when her knees and strength gave out is no longer home. Clair’s spirit breaks in the floor of her bedroom as the life of her husband no longer resides there. Clair cries the lament of a million broken hearts and abandoned loves. The keening relentless...the moans from a depth of sorrow Clair had never known in her life exhausts her and helps her sleep, in her clothes in middle of her bedroom floor. 

    The morning sun pours through her bedroom window, kissing Clair’s soft face, just as Cliff had nearly every morning for fifty years. A slight smile creeps upon Clair’s face as she mistakes the rising sun for the warmth of Cliff’s love. Rolling over expecting to greet her husband with a comforting ‘good morning’, Clair’s arm hits the bed frame at the foot of the bed. She slept there all night. Still in her clothes from the previous day, Clair sits up and leans against the bed’s foot board. She speaks to her husband,
         “Cliff. Thank you. You love...loved...me and I thank you. You gave me five beautiful souls and our children gave me a new life every time I gave life to them. You did that with me. You did that for me. You brought so many lives into this world but no soul was touch in a more profound way than the way you touched me. Thank you.”

    The house is quiet. Clair close her eyes and feels the sunlight kiss her face. She sings We Belong Together, a song she use to sing with with her father. Today, she sings it for Cliff. As she sings, Clair gets up from the floor and removes yesterday’s clothes...yesterday’s sorrow. She puts on her robe and sits on the edge of her bed.

    The house is quiet.
    And Clair…is alone.
  • The Death of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 10: Eunice Chantilly

    PREVIOUS: Chapter 9:  Winnie & Nelson                             NEXT:  Chapter 11: Clair

    Steam ascends from her bath water, smelling of lavender and eucalyptus. Her raised back, free standing, country copper tub makes her feel like a queen every time she takes a soothing bath. Candles lit and soft jazz bellowing from the stereo in the background, the lady soaks her sadness and drowns her dreams of loving him. It is finally time to let Cliff go. Eunice continues her bath, beads of sweat falling off her breast and tears streaming down her face.
         “He’s calling for you. He needs you here.” 
    echoes the message from Clair on Eunice’s voicemail. She didn’t answer the call as she knows very few people in an 718 area code. She only knows one number from that place called Brooklyn.
         “I know how much he means to you, Eunice. I know what you mean to him. My husband is dying      and he is asking for you. I know this is the most impossible message to receive after 50 years…nearly as impossible as it was for me to make this call…but my husband is dying…and he is asking for you…too. Please come.” 
    The message replays in Eunice’s mind. Burned deep into her brain is the quiet pride of the woman who won the man…a woman who would stand above the petty and call with grace. Eunice always despised Clair for being so magnanimous. That shit simply pissed her off. Today, however, Clair’s grace will afford Eunice an opportunity to see the first love in her life and for that, she is grateful. Now…if she can just figure out what to wear.

    ​New York City is a monstrous beauty, thinks Eunice as she takes in the aerial view of the city’s skyline from her airplane seat. Eunice doesn’t travel often and rarely ever takes a plane anywhere. Seeing the city’s tall buildings from the sky is exciting. She flips through the pages of her 1995 travel book of New York City, searching for a map of Manhattan. On the page, she locates the World Trade Center. Eunice looks out of her window and says a solemn prayer over the island that lost so much. In minutes, Eunice is back on the ground and thankful she has landed safely.

    ​Eunice’s taxi pulls up to the address Clair sent her in a text message before she left Stone Mountain, Georgia this morning. The brownstone looks warm in the glow of the early September afternoon. Eunice pays the driver and tips him generously,
         “Are you sure ma’am? This seems to be a lot.” asks the cab driver. He wants to claim the entire tip but he doesn’t want to take advantage of this apparent newcomer to the city.
         “No. I know what I gave you. You are a part of a story I have been waiting 50 years to live. Consider it a blessing for playing your part.”
         “Ok. Well…thank you.”
         “No, son. Thank you.”
    Eunice takes one final look at herself in the driver’s rear view mirror. The driver adjust the mirror so the lady in the back can see her reflection clearly.
         “Do I look alright?”
         “You are a vision. “
         “Speak plainly, son. I don’t know what a ‘vision’ looks like. I could be rabid dog ugly…and be a ‘vision’.”
         “Ma’am, you ain’t no where near no rabid dog…I’ll tell you that. You look beautiful. I especially like that green barrette. Is it wooden?”
         “Yes. Yes, it is. It’s got a stone in it and everything. My love gave it to me over 50 years ago. I’m wearing it for him today.”
         “Well, he’ll love it.”
         “I hope so.”

    Eunice steps out of the car and closes the door behind her. The cab slowly pulls away, leaving Eunice standing alone in the street.
         “What am I doing here? I can’t go in there.” 
    Eunice quickly discovers she can’t stand in the street either as a car zooms by dangerously close to her. She steps up on the sidewalk and proceeds to the Huxtable front door, taking one step at a time. Each step erases a decade away from Cliff. Each step signals a louder thump in her chest…heart beating so heavy she thinks she will burst.

    ​Reaching the top landing and raising her wrinkled finger to ring the bell, Eunice catches her reflection in the window of the front door. Looking to see if her hair, makeup, and dress are all perfectly set, her reflection changes to a face she recognizes, but is not her own. Clair peeks through the etched design frosted on the front door window and opens the door before Eunice can ring the bell.
         “Hello Eunice.”
         “ I’m so happy you made it.”

    Eunice smiles politely, waiting for Clair to invite her into the house. The glass stone in Eunice’s barrette catches the afternoon sun, bouncing a sparkle of light into Clair’s eyes. Clair, wearing a plastic green bracelet, which looks awfully cheap and out of character for the impeccably dressed Mrs. Huxtable, extends her arm and says, 
         “Where are my manners? Please…come in.”

    Eunice steps through the threshold of a world she hoped would belong to her, many moons ago. She looks around the living room, looking for a shortcoming or a chance to say, “I would do that better.” There is no such signal. There is no such evidence that Cliff and Clair’s life together wasn’t perfect.
         “Can I get you something to drink? Water? Coffee? Tea?”
         “Tea sounds nice.”
         “Well good. I just put some water on to have a cup myself. Let’s go into the kitchen, pour ourselves some tea and then we’ll head upstairs to see Cliff.”
         “Ok. That sounds nice.”
    Eunice is nervous. She tells herself to relax and to stop saying everything sounds nice. It has always been Eunice’s coping mechanism to minimize her emotional investment or engagement in an unsavory situation by saying “sounds nice.” She suspects plenty of things will “sound nice” today.

    ​The two women move into the kitchen. The hot water is whistling in the kettle. Clair reaches in the cabinet for a second mug for tea while Eunice takes a seat at the kitchen table.
         “You have a lovely home. I always suspect you would.”
         “Why thank you. It has served us well for nearly 50 years. I’m thankful it’s still standing.”

    ‘I can’t stand her’ thinks Eunice. ‘She couldn’t just say thank you. No. She had to remind me that she and Cliff have been together for fifty years. I would have been with Cliff for fifty ONE years had she not come switchin’ around, with her fast self. Fifty years…what you want me to do? Get up and sing y’all a song and dance around the living room because you been in this house together…for fifty years?!’
         “Well, it’s a lovely home and being here for fifty years…well, that sounds nice.”

    ​The genteel rivals made their way up the back stairs to the second floor. Eunice can feel her heart race and her palms moisten with sweat. 'I shouldn’t have come. This is going to hurt too much,' wonders Eunice. Passing the plethora of bedroom doors, Clair finally escorts Eunice into the master bedroom. In bed, resting peacefully, Cliff is sleeping. His face is just as she remembered: kind and sweet. She counts a constellation of moles and soft wrinkles on her love’s face, but he is as beautiful as the first time she laid eyes on Heathcliff. Tears well up in Eunice’s eyes for today, she will lose her love…again.

    ​Clair gently shakes Cliff’s shoulder, followed with a soft call to wake up,
         “Cliff, darling…wake up. Someone is here to see you.”
         “It’s ok Clair. Let him sleep. I can sit with him for a moment while he rest.”
         “Are you sure? I can…”
         “No…no…let me sit quietly with him first. If that’s ok?”

    Clair looks at the tears dropping from Eunice’s face with sympathy…and care.
         “Ok. I’ll be in the next room. Call me if you need anything.”
    Clair walks out of the room, closing the door behind her. Eunice stands still in the middle of the bedroom, staring at Cliff, still asleep in the bed. She takes a look around the room, surveying the place he spent the last fifty years with another woman. She imagines Cliff getting dressed for work…for church…for bed…in this room. She imagines Cliff starting his day and settling in his bed after a long day at work. She imagines curling up next to him every night and sleeping in late with her love on the holidays and the occasional free Saturday. She imagines Cliff making love to her in the bed she stands before now. 
         “I want to let go of my petty jealousy before I come sit next to you, Cliff. I want to let go of the heartbreak of you leaving me, so many years ago. I know we both moved on and married other people and had families but I still carry a hurt that I wasn’t woman enough for you. I later realized that I was woman plenty for any man, but you weren’t just…any…man. So, I’m gonna stand here, for a moment, and let go of my petty jealousy because when I come to you, I want to come to you with open love in my heart. I want our last moment in this life to be a love filled time for just the two of us.” 
    Eunice takes a deep breath and releases a deep sigh, expelling fifty years of regret. She slowly walks to Cliff’s bedside and pulls up a chair. She sits. She slowly takes Cliff’s hand in hers and cradles his hand like a school girl holding her sweetheart’s hand for the first time.

    Cliff opens his eyes. He blinks a few times to adjust to the light. He looks around the room, in a medically induces daze, until his eyes land on Eunice. He can not believe what he is seeing. Eunice smiles and tries to present a light, happy disposition.
         “Eunice? Eunice is that you?”
         “Hey Bucky. How you feeling’?
    Cliff chuckles. “I haven’t heard that one in a long time.”
         “Yeah…it’s been a while. It’s good to have the little things to remind you of home.”
         “Home. Yes…I suppose you are right.”

    Cliff attempts to sit up but struggles. Eunice helps prop him up and fluff his pillow behind his head.
         “Clair know you in here? You know that woman don’t allow no other women in our bedroom.”
         “ I ain’t no other woman. I’m the first woman.”
         “Oh Lawd…here we go…”
         “Every one needs to keep that in mind.”

    The two old friends laugh and hold hands again.
         “I’m glad you’re here Nicey.”
         “Me too Bucky.”
         “How did you know to come?”

    Eunice pauses before answering. The truth will illuminate Clair’s angelic light even further and Eunice simply can not stomach that idea. However, Clair did see fit to call Eunice when a world of other women would likely treat her husband’s dying wish to see his first girlfriend as a delusion of pending death…or the drugs. Clair loves her husband that much and for that, and out of respect, Eunice replies,
         “Well…Clair called me. She told me you were hollering and crying for me. So I came.”
    They laugh some more,
         “I was not hollerin’ and cryin’…was I?!”
         “Yeah! Oh Bucky…to hear Clair tell it, you said you just had to see me.”
    jokes Eunice.
    Cliff’s laugh softens. His eyes softens as well,
         “I did. I had to see you…one last time.”
         “Oh Bucky…don’t say that…”
         “It’s true. This will be the last time I see you. I’m dying. It won’t be long…and I’m glad…I’m happy…I get to sit with you for a little while.”

    Eunice feels her heart break into a million pieces.
         “Me too.”
    Cliff notices the barrette in her hair. He smiles,
         “I like your barrette.”
         “This old thing?”
         “Yeah…I remember you liking it at the five and dime back home.”
         “Umm hmm…and I remember you ain’t have a five or a dime to get it for me.”
         “Yeah…but I wanted to though.”
         “Wanted to and did were two different things.”
         “Yeah…but I finally came through.”
         “My birthday…a couple years later. You left this box and a card on my front porch.”
         “I wanted to surprise you with a little something.”
         “It was sweet but I almost threw it away.”
         “Yeah…I know…because you were mad at me.”
         “I was hurt. You hurt me, Cliff.”
         “I know. I am sorry, Eunice.”

    While she appreciate Cliff’s apology, Eunice didn’t come to New York for rehashed hurt and the obligatory ‘sorry’.
         “No. No, you’re not sorry, Cliff. You made a choice that lasted fifty years. You and Clair were suppose to be together…just like me and Albert. We walked the paths laid for us. I understand that, but I loved you.” Eunice swallow tears and her pride. “I still do. I love you Bucky and I always will.”

    ​Cliff is quiet. He takes Eunice’s hand up to his face and smells the sweet lavender and eucalyptus scenting her skin. He brings her hand to his lips and gently kisses her hand. Eunice’s tears fall free and her love unlocked eternally.

    ​Eunice Chantilly and Cliff Huxtable, high school sweethearts, spend the rest of the afternoon, courting and conversing of old times. Bucky and Nicey are together…again.

  • The Death of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 9: Winnie and Nelson Tibideaux

    May 29, 1962
              Dear Clair,
    The seas are rough...waves bouncing beneath storms...and sickness all around. I'm fine but I'm sick too. I'm homesick for you. I miss you beyond the reach of my duty. I love the Navy but I love you more. I will marry you Clair. I am going to enroll at Hillman. I will attend medical school...become a doctor...a surgeon...and be your husband. We will have children...two...maybe three. I see my future with you and I am walking towards that future. I'm coming home...to you.
              Love, Cliff.

    Nelson holds the love letter on off white parchment with care in both hands. This delicate artifact of his grand parents' love and courtship is but one of dozens of letters he and his twin sister, Winnie, are exploring. Kept in a small vintage leather suitcase, the letters range in color from tea-stained tan to egg shell white, marking the varying decades love lived between the Huxtables.

    Nelson and Winnie relax in their grand parents' bedroom as the repast crowd remember and wane in the night.
         "Are all of these letters from grandpa to grandma?" asks Winnie.
         "Most of them...looks like it. I see some from grandma to granddad too. But yeah...mainly from granddad to grandma. Man...he was pressed."
         "Well...I mean grandma was a catch." Winnie sifts through the letters and come across an envelope with a photo tucked in with the love note. She carefully pulls out the letter and the photo, "See...this one is from grandma and she sent grandpa a photo too. Look!" Winnie holds up the photo for Nelson to see.

         "Oh wow..." marvels Nelson. "Ok...well...that's...ok...that ain't how grandma's are suppose to look."
         "She was young and beautiful, huh?"
         "Granddad didn't stand a chance. What does her letter say?"

    Winnie's fingers gently unfold Clair Hanks' letter,

    June 30, 1962
         Dear Heathcliff,
    Days pass slowly, waiting for you to come home. I want to be excited that you will be attending Hillman, but for a sweet afternoon and a stroll by the lake near the church, I want you to myself.

    ​Winnie stops reading,
    Winnie folds the letter perfectly in the creases and replaces the photo of Clair back in the envelope.
         "I am not reading this. This is a private letter..."
         "They're ALL private letters!! READ IT!"
         "Ok...Nelson...you're being creepy grand son right now and it's weird."

    Winnie replaces the envelope into the short stack of letters the twins have already read. Nelson reaches for the letter, defying Winnie's refusal to continue. Winnie strikes her brother's hand with the quickness of swatting an annoying fly.
         "OUCH!! What you do that for?!"
         "Because you're being an asshole."
         "You're an asshole."
         "I'm the asshole's twin. We're not identical."

    Nelson rubs his tingling hand while giving his sister the "I can't stand you sometimes" look. His eyes moves on to a small bundle of dark tan letters. He reaches, with caution, for the bundle. The letters are older than the letters he and his sister have been reading from Cliff and Clair. They are fragile correspondences between their great grand parents, Anna and Russell Huxtable.
         "Oh wow, Winnie...look."

    ​Nelson passes a couple of the letters to Winnie. They both look in awe at the penmanship and poetry their two elders shared with one another. Nelson selects a letter to read and a photo a young Russell drops out.  Nelson reads aloud in his great grand father's voice,

    ​August 17, 1945
         My Dearest Anna...my only love.
    Your love gets me through these long days of war and death. I listen to the song in your voice over the constant firing of weapons and the cries of the barely alive. I am barely alive...without you. I miss you Anna. When I come home, I am going to marry you. I am going to make you my wife and live the best days of my life as your husband. If you will have me...love me forever...as I vow to love you. In this letter, you will find a photo of me. All the fellas and I took photos to send to our loves. We had to share the suit, but it was worth it. I was thinking about making it home to you when they took the picture. As soon as this war ends, our life together will begin. I'm coming home.
         Yours, Russell

         "What was the date on that one, Nelson?" asks Winnie as she sifts through the short stack looking for Anna's response. "Ahh...here it is."
    Winnie pulls Anna's response to Russell and reads it aloud,

    September 1, 1945     My Love,
    I do not know what news gives me the greatest joy: the war being declared over, you coming home, or me getting to be your wife. Oh Russell, I have loved you, and only you, for as long as I can remember and for as long as I live. I think on our life together. I think of the children we will have together. I pray for girls...two...maybe three daughters because this world is not as kind to Negro sons. When we get you home from this war, we will never be apart. My life waits for you. Come home, my love. Come, be home, with me.
         Forever yours, Anna

         "Wow...we come from people who love deeply." expresses Winnie proudly.
         "Yes...yes we do." replies Nelson.

    ​Nelson puts the stack of vintage letters back together and replaces it in the suitcase. Winnie gathers her stack as well and neatly restore the letters in the suitcase. Once the twins replace all the letters, Nelson spots a lone letter tucked into the side of the suitcase, wedged in between the interior fabric and the hard leather outer shell. Nelson digs his index finger into the side of the suitcase, wiggling the hidden letter out of its secret compartment. Winnie watches as Nelson finally frees the letter.
         "Hey...what is that?"
         "I don't know. It isn't with the other letters and was even kinda hidden away."

    ​Nelson first reads the envelop. It is addressed to Cliff but the return address has no name...just the address. Seeing that the letter has been opened and presumably read, Nelson takes the letter out. Winnie isn't certain this letter is meant for anyone to read it but her grand father.
         "Maybe we shouldn't read this one, Nelson."
         "Why not?"
         "Ummm...because it was hidden. Clearly this isn't a letter grandpa wanted anyone to find."

    Nelson takes a moment to consider what Winnie is suggesting. This makes him want to read the letter even more.
         "Winnie...do you think granddad was cheating on grandma?"
         "Never. Not in a million years."

    The two sit quietly. The letter, out of its envelop is sitting in Nelson's hand. All he has to do is unfold the note and all their questions will be answered...or so they think.
         "Ok...Winnie...Granddad did not cheat on Grandma. He would never do that and this isn't some letter hidden and tucked away. When we put the letters back...or when whoever the last person to go through these letters put them back...one of them was accidentally shoved in between the fabric and the case. It's no big deal. No one cheated. Ok?"
    Winnie pauses for a moment and then embraces Nelson's theory,
         "Ok then."

    Nelson places the envelop on the bed and unfolds the letter. A single photo drops out of the honeysuckle scented paper. Winnie picks up the photo as Nelson brings the parchment to his nose for a sniff.
         "Oh man...this smells good."
    Winnie stares at the photo trying to recognize the beautiful black woman smiling back at her. She has never seen this face but recognizes the smile of a woman in love. While Winnie examines the photo, Nelson begins to read the letter,

    ​September 13, 1958
    My darling Cliff...

         "Whoa!" exclaims Winnie. Nelson stops reading and scans the four pages of handwritten musings to get to the last page for a name. Upon reading the salutation, Nelson asks his sister,
         "Who is Eunice Chantilly?"

  • The Death of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 8: Russell

    PREVIOUS:  Chapter 7:  Olivia                            Next: Chapter 9:  Winnie & Nelson

    The house is quiet.

    The rhythmic hum of the respirator helping Russell breathe interrupts the stillness. The afternoon sun peeks through the bedroom curtains in separate shafts of light, illuminating the dancing dust hanging in the air. There is very little movement in the house since Anna's passing. No one thinks to dust the arrangement of family photos on the mantle or the large white family Bible on the coffee table. Anna took care of those things. She took care of the house. She...took care of Russell.

    The afternoon nurse props Russell's body up against a freshly fluffed pillow. He has guest. He looks forward to having company. The days are long...alone.

    He hates how quiet the house is.
         "Russell, you have a guest," the nurse quietly announces.
         "Who is it, Donna?" inquires Russell.
         "Ain't nobody but the tax man," jokes Cliff.
         "Take it. I won't need it soon enough."
         "Oh come on now, Dad. You're doing fine."

    Cliff sits in the brown, soft leather club chair next to the bed. Donna pulls the curtains in the room, increasing the light on the dancing dust performance. 
         "Pop, you should have someone come and wipe down the house from time to time. This dust can't be good for you."
         "I'm fine, son. I'm not going to bother anyone with a little bit of dust. Maybe if my grand kids came to see me, dust wouldn't have time to settle."
    Cliff reflects on the truth that no one comes to visit Russell anymore.
         "Yeah...well...we hardly see the kids anymore ourselves. They're off raising their own families and Skyping when they can."
         "And you?"
    asks Russell.
         "And me? What about me, Pop?"
         "Where are you?"
         "I'm...I'm right here. I'm right here, Dad."

    Cliff looks up at Donna, worried his father is confused about where he is. Donna reassures Cliff,
         "He's fine. He's talking today. That's a good thing."
         "Yeah...I'm fine, son. And I do believe I asked you a question."
         "Pop...maybe you should rest."
         "All I do is rest. I ask you where you are and you tell me to rest. You don't tell me to rest. I tell you to rest. How you gonna tell me when to rest. I'll rest when I feel like resting."

    Russell is getting worked up and begins coughing while ranting. He tries to sit up in the bed but Donna and Cliff are quick to comfort and calm Russell. Russell's rant subsides.
         "Dad...I didn't come here to fight with you. I don't want you to get all worked up and upset. "
         "I'm not worked up or upset, Cliff. You have to be careful. You just have to be careful is all I'm saying."
    Confusion washes over Cliff's face as Russell diverts topics mid conversation. Russell continues, "So don't tell me to rest. I can't. I can't...because your brother needs me to...to..."
         "...your brother needs me to..."
         "...he's not going to..."
         "CLIFF! Stop it! Stop...trying to handle me. I know what I am doing! Theo is going to be fine. Anna doesn't believe me...and I need you to stop...trying to handle...me. Theo is going to be fine."

    Cliff is no longer confused. He is clear as to where his father's mind is right now. Donna, on the other hand, has picked up Cliff's confusion and is wearing it herself. She asks D. Huxtable about his son,
         "Is something wrong with Theo, Dr. Huxtable?"
         "Hmmm? Ummm...no, Donna...no. My son Theo was named after my brother James. James Theodore Huxtable. He...ummm...died...when he was seven."
         "And you didn't do anything to save him, Cliff!!"
    accuses Russell. He is in a clear state of dementia.

    Cliff tries to remain level headed and treat the moment as Dr. Huxtable, physician who recognizes his father is suffering from a Alzheimer's and not actually accusing Cliff of James' death. Russell continues, 
         "You're the big doctor!! YOU SHOULD HAVE SAVED HIM!!"
         "Dad. Stop it. Now."

    The room falls quiet. Cliff sits quietly, waiting...hoping...this fit will pass. The doctor in Cliff wants to explain the fit as a product of the illness. The son of Russell Huxtable, however, is shouldering guilt and sadness behind the death of his brother. Cliff is biting back tears,
         "Dad...you...ummm...you need your rest."
         "And there you go...because you know best."
         "I don't know what to say right now. You're not yourself. I want to stay and sit with you....but..."
         "...but you have to go? You just got here. How are you son? How are my grand babies?"

    And with the flip of a neurological switch, Russell is having a lovely visit with his son. Cliff's heart breaks as he attempts to have whatever conversation Russell is having from moment to moment. Cliff obliges,
         "The kids are fine, Pop. Everyone's...fine."
         "Good. That's good. You talk to your brother lately?"
    Cliff's faces reflects slight frustration as he can't seem to figure out what is Russell's fixation on James is today. "Well...have you?"
         "I don’t know how to answer that Pop. James is…is gone."
         "No he isn’t. He’s not. I just talk to him this morning. He said you two are going fishing today. You promised him. He said you were going to take him fishing and swimming. He’s very excited, you know."

    Cliff looks to Donna,
         "Has he been talking about James…Theo…to you lately?"
    The nurse responds, equally confused, 
         "No…I’ve never heard him mention anyone named James. The only Theo I know anything about is your son."
    Russell is annoyed to be spoken over as if he isn’t in the room, 
         "I’m right here, you know. I hear you. I can talk. I can speak for myself."
    Cliff keeps a soft tone, as not to upset his father again. 
         "Ok…good. Good. What do you want to talk about?"
         "I want to talk about…about…"
    Russell quiets. He appears to be searching for the words, struggling to make sense of the confused thoughts racing through his mind. He looks into Cliff’s father, seeing him for the first time since Cliff walked into the room. "Hey son. When did you get here?"
    A slight smile creeps up over Cliff’s face. He gets to begin his visit again.
         "I just walked in Pop. It’s good to see you. You’re looking…you’re looking good."
         "I feel pretty good. I do. How’s Clair?"
         "Clair's fine. She’s doing just fine."
         "Well good. That’s good. Anna and I are gonna go over and see her. You finally had a boy. I know you must be happy."

    Going alone with Russell’s new route, 
         "Yes…happy. Very proud."
         "You take good care of him, son. This world will try to swallow a Black male child up whole. You teach him…bring him up strong so he doesn’t get swallowed up."
         "I will, Pop."
         "They don’t won’t him to grow up to be a man."
         "Who is they, Pop?"
         "You don’t know?"

    Russell looks at Donna. He stares at her for a moment, trying to recognize anything in the woman’s face. His eyes scan and scan until they light up with recognition. 
         "Donna. Yes…Donna. Would you mind giving me and my son a little privacy?"
         "Of course, Russell. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything."
         "Ok honey…ok. And you can call me Slide. All the ladies do."
         "No…I think Russell will have to do."

    Donna leaves the room and let the two men have time alone, together. Russell watches as Donna leaves, 
         "Don’t tell Anna."
         "Don’t worry, I won’t."
         "That woman is feistier than a wildcat."
         "I won’t know about that."
         "Yeah…she told me she loves me."
         "She loves you. She does."
         "Yeah…but she told me. Today…just this morning."
         "You saw her?"
         "Well, of course, son. Just this morning. You missed breakfast. She and James said you were still sleeping. Said you came home late and was still sleeping. James said you promised to take him out to the lake today. It’s hot, so be careful."
         "He said that, huh?"
    Cliff gives in and joins Russell’s conversation…wherever he may be.
         "Yeah…be careful out in that water. You know your brother can’t over do it. His heart can’t take a whole of messin’ about."
    Tears well up in Cliff’s eyes. He continues the conversation with his dad.
         "Ok pop. We’ll be careful."
         "And look out for your brother. Look out for him because that lake is deep and it’s dark and you know he can’t swim…"
         "…he can’t swim…"
         "…right and so you have to be careful and you have to look out for your brother. Now…he’s very excited to go with you today so I’m trusting you, Cliff. I’m trusting you."
    Cliff’s tears grow into a deep cry. "Oh…don’t cry, son. He’s alright. He’s ok. He’s with your mother. I saw them this morning and he said he’s ok."
    Cliff looks up into Russell’s eyes. He searches Russell’s face for fear or worry. All he saw was calm…peace.

    Cliff will lose his father today.
         "No son…don’t worry. I see the worry, but it’s ok. James doesn’t blame you. His big brother took him fishing…took him…swimming. He lost his step and slipped into the water and it swallowed him. It swallowed him up."

    Through his tears, Cliff relives the grief for his brother’s death,
         "I tried to get to him. I couldn’t…I couldn’t swim to him fast enough…he got pulled out of my reach…and I couldn’t…"
         "I know son. It’s ok. But you know what? James is alright. He’s ok."
         "Is he, Pop? Is he ok?"

    Russell slowly reaches for Cliff’s face. He wipes his son’s tears. He brings Cliff towards him and whispers, 
         "You needn’t worry. He is just fine."

    Cliff rest into his father’s chest and releases all his pain. He wraps his arms around his father, clinging to the man who taught him how to be a father. Russell rest his left arm over Cliff’s back while his right arm relaxes by his side. Cliff can feel the life leaving Russell as his arm is resting heavier and heavier across Cliff’s back. And with his final breath, Russell leaves his life,

    Cliff squeezes a little tighter and mourns the passing of the father who taught him.

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