Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery
dr_pretentious

To Avalon

Two figures--one tall and armored in gleaming steel, the other small and matronly in a wool coat--stood at the end of a city pier on a foggy December morning.

"We're going to need a bigger barge," said the author. "This one's about the right size for four queens and a bier, but everybody's going to want to come along. To see him safely across."

Sir Percival handed her a handkerchief. "Then write a bigger barge," he said, all patience.

"He has so many friends...had so many friends...we could fill up the Staten Island Ferry."

A bright blue triple-decker barge emblazoned with the words Avalon Island Ferry emerged from the fog and docked silently at the pier.

"You know the deal," said Percival. "He'll come back when you have need of him."

"But you know the deal, too. He'll come back as a memory, or some entirely different person. He'll never come back as our George again."

"Here, have a sip." Percival offered her the Grail.

"What's the point?" But she drank from it anyway.

"Listen to me," said the bearer of the Grail. "Before you met him, before he became your friend, he was already a minor figure of legend, wasn't he? He already had a hero's epithet."

The author laughed. "The Man Who Gets Things Done."

"And a full name you might have chosen for a comic book protagonist. Of course a George Marvil would be The Man Who Gets Things Done, wouldn't he?"

"The first time I heard someone call him by it," she agreed, "I thought it couldn't possibly be his real name. I thought it was just praise."

"He belongs where he's going now."

"Maybe so, but he belonged among the living, too. Was I a fool to call you here, Percival?"

"No. As long as the best specialists at the best cancer center in the world said there was still hope, someone had to speak for that hope. You were asked to speak for it."

The procession of mourners came slowly down the pier. They carried, shoulder-high, a man. Though it was a chill morning in the darkest time of the year, he was naked, for they were carrying him to a place where it was always summer, and his arrival would be cause for festival among the ones who would greet him there. What a long procession it was. Percival, whose eye for counting had been trained on armies, thought there were perhaps three hundred mourners, all come to see George Marvil on his way.

When the barge was full, the author stood on the deck and said, "Sir Percival, will you come with us?"

He shook his head. "Sloan-Kettering makes a fine Grail Castle. There are other Fisher Kings there. I should get back to them."

"I wish you victory," said the author.

He couldn't look her in the eye. "Even when I've failed you?"

"There was no failure here," she said. "Only things not working out. Go back to that hospital and give someone a victory."

Silently the barge began to drift across waters that were and were not the East River.

They waved to one another, the knight and his author, until the fog filled the distance between them.
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