with tremendous love, for Astrid

How tall is he? For he is tall and straight, well-spoken and kind, gifted in all things. He is loved, he is adored. He comes barely to their shoulders, the shoulders of men broad in the beam (three teams of orphans could contend in the noble sport of handball against the back of Finn MacCool, but one single red ball serves to compass his back) men who stoop to listen to his wise council. Brave his heart, and for his heart we are both named the Lionhearts.

Death was come to the land of death, sorrow to the land where sorrows cease, tyranny to a place where freedom flowers forth in joyous song. Here I too am straight, though not tall; here I am brave, though not bold. Here I am his valued lieutenant, and worthy too. Cherry blossoms on the sweet water, sunshine ripening through the fields, grapes heavy in every arbor. A land of endless giving, with one pallid worm lurking at its heart.

Rusky, he says, you must be brave for both of us now. I am brave and cannot move. You must be the wings that carry me to the true land of joy. Carry us both. For we have been tried, have we not, oh my brother, have we not shown ourselves worthy? Death is Mother’s shadow passing over the door; the light dims to let us know she is there. Take me up, little one, and jump. Here suicide is no crime but courage.