Chapter 5        

            Unless and Until left the next picture on the easel for a couple of weeks while they finished the late summer work in the back garden. All of the canning and pickling was finished. Some of the plants would bear again before the weather turned colder. The rest were cut back for their winter’s rest.
            Unless spaded out all the weeds and heaped mulch along all the rows. Until took in all the last crop and sorted out what they would eat fresh and what would keep the longest. Some of the plants were worn out and would not last the winter. Unless dug them up and laid them on the mulch pile.
            One day, when the garden work was finished, Until made an especially elaborate tea for both to enjoy in the front room while they looked together at the next picture.
            “Ribs,” said Unless.
            “And a ladybug,” said Until.
            “Are those tears, maybe?” asked Unless.
            “If so,” said Until, “they are very shiny tears. And some of them are inside the ribs, rather than outside, where they would normally be.”
            “Perhaps the ribs belong to one person and the tears belong to another,” said Unless, with some eagerness.
            Until thought about that for a few minutes, “If it weren’t for the ladybug, this might be a very sad picture, then.”
            “It is not sad at all,” said Unless, still pleased with themself, “The ribs are gold, and if they were not someone’s ribs then it is all there to be beautiful, just like the ladybug.”
            “Yes,” said Until, though not quite agreeing, “then why are there tears?”
            “Tears aren’t always sad, are they?” asked Unless.
            “No,” said Until with relief, “that is true. Tears can be many things. These tears might be diamonds decorating something gold that looks like ribs. Some kind of treasure!”
            Both Unless and Until were very pleased with an explanation that did not involve anyone crying tears, however shiny, into an empty ribcage. They both agreed that it must be a picture of treasure, with a ladybug for good luck, and enjoyed their tea.
            Unless proposed hanging the picture in the dining room, in part because it was the only place they could think of. Until agreed, because they liked the ladybug and Unless had suggested it. They could always move it later if one of the other pictures needed to be placed there.
            Unless went to work, hanging the picture, and Until put the tea things away. Thinking about hanging pictures in the dining room put Unless in mind of how the whole project started. The very first picture they had looked at was there in the dining room. They found Until just finishing with the tea things and proposed a review of all the pictures up to the one they had just finished hanging up. Back in the dining room, at the end of a long afternoon of reminiscing, the slanting twilight shone on both of them. Neither had noticed until now, and neither mentioned it to the other, but white hairs were lightening their fur, like the first light snow of autumn across the fields and forest.
            When it was time for dinner, both Unless and Until were still full from the elaborate tea, so they sat together in the front room for a few hours, looking at the last picture. When Until heard a rumble from Unless’s stomach, they went to the kitchen to fix a light dinner with some of the freshly harvested vegetables.
            After eating, Unless poured some yellow wine into little glasses. They looked at Until, “What should we toast today?”
            Unless answered, “We have worked hard together all day – we could toast ourselves!”
            Until laughed, but the two conferred for several minutes and then began to sing.

            They say that gold will last forever
            but how could someone ever know
            forever’s not a thing we’re given
            Today is all we ever know

            So gold and diamonds wrapped together
            is sure a fine and pretty thing
            and we will see it and take pleasure
            and sit together, and we’ll sing.

            They say that gold will last forever
            but how could someone ever know
            forever’s not a thing we’re given
            Today is all we ever know

            *** click here for They Say That Gold Will Last ***


           Unless and Until raised their glasses to the picture they had looked at that day and finished their wine in happy silence. The happy silence continued as they washed up the dinner things and made ready for bed in the full dark of night.

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Image: Julie Püttgen, Cloudmapping: Diamond Tears. Gouache, watercolor, and pencil, 12x16", 2008.
Text & Lyrics: JS van Buskirk
Music: James R. Carlson
Animation: Matt Gilbert