with apologies, as always, to Bob Dylan
Every now and again, when warm May evenings sneak in like a beneficient thief, those long bright twilights, I sit and I think about that fictional child Huckleberry Finn, and what might have happened to him, years later, after he left Hannibal and headed West, carrying with him the secret scars of his adventure, memories of the river, laughing with Jim, and the slave’s final confession about what he had seen but Huck had not in a floating half-drowned house that had drifted by their raft. Jim — closest to a father he had ever had, a true friend, and the slow birth of responsibility and tragedy.
Clemens never knew how to end it, and I don’t either, and Huck didn’t either — but he knew, in the virgin lawless west, uncivilized, unconstrained, he might find the river again. The river was freedom — the anonymity of the river, the hidden identities of the road, everyone a Dauphin, everyone a Duke, donning and doffing their various histories like mummers’ costumes, the blessed lie that free’s, that forgives — the delayed limbo of youth that postpones the reckoning of adulthood — before the hard edge of Sawyer’s jokes sets in –