Now that I’m here, I’m lost for words. As I mentioned before, I never met Frank in person. But when I needed knowledgeable people to offer criticism on LAST GIRL DANCING, Frank gave me an in-depth view of Atlanta that changed significantly the direction the story took. When I needed someone to look over the shipbuilding I’d done for HAWKSPAR, Frank put a great deal of time and effort into helping me get details right.
There are people you’re sure you’ll meet in person one day, and Frank was one of those. I thought we would discuss writing, that I would read Virgin of New Orleans, that we might find ourselves sharing an agent, because my agent had been interested in his work. I’d promised to send him a signed copy of TALYN when I finally got my author’s copies; I still haven’t received them, which is why he didn’t have one. I’d hoped to have him read and offer commentary on the ship stuff in HAWKSPAR that he so greatly influenced, to see if I’d managed not to screw up what he told me; now that won’t happen.
I feel worst about that, because there are so many parts of the book that would not have existed without the comments he offered, and one character, a shipwright, whom I shaped from knowing Frank.
“If you’re sure you must buy ready-built, you haven’t much selection,” the shipwright said. His name was Makkor Gurak-Golak-Dok-Hkukguh, or, as he translated for Aaran with evident pride, Makkor Only-Hkukguh-Builds-A-Better-Boat. Hkukguh being his people’s god of the sea. Makkor’s calluses had calluses, he told Aaran and Tuua, because his hands built ships even in their sleep. And his muscles had muscles because he had been building them since his father first brought him to work in his shipyard when he was merely four years old.
Makkor belived in Aaran and his mission, and so gave Aaran a great deal on a ship. In doing so–in exhibiting that faith and taking that risk–Makkor changed the world, simply because he believed.
That ship that changed the world in this novel was the ship that Frank Andrew helped me make real. Makkor asked in return a favor of Aaran, and Aaran managed to repay the favor. I had hoped to return a favor, too–to do what I could to see Frank in print–but I will not get to repay my favor.
I don’t know what religion, if any, Frank followed. I don’t know what words to say in this world, but since I knew Frank primarily in relation to worlds that don’t exist, I’d like to offer a goodbye from the world he had such a large hand in helping me create.
Tuua knelt on the deck beside Neeran, and put one hand on the boy’s narrow chest. Aaran stood at the child’s head, wishing Neeran didn’t look so young, so small, so helpless. Wishing they had someplace for his body but the cold depths of the sea.
Wishing that someone somewhere would weep that he was gone, and understand what a good boy he had been.
The boy wasn’t Tonk, but he was theirs. So Tuua said the prayer for a Tonk warrior for him.
“Jostfar silent but near,
Ethebet, hand of the sword,
Guardians of the souls of your people,
Take Neeran Old-Walk home,
To horses and meadows and family
And the long halls of the honored.
Give him place, and name,
And rest for a time.
And that he served in life,
That he is in death,
“Gitaada,” Aaran said, in unison with Tuua and the other Tonk officers gathered around the bodies, and with the sailors and marines who had fought and lived. And the women and girls, who whispered “Gitaada,” with the rest.
Aaran said, “The spirit is gone to the Summerland. The body remains, but is not the boy. We honor the life of Neeran Old-Walk, and grieve it’s passing. We are made less by his absence.”
Aaran folded the shroud around the boy’s body. So small, so young. He had died fighting, a dagger in his hand. He had been brave. He had deserved a long life, and great adventure.
Aaran forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand; on folding the corners, on wrapping the cords, on tying the knots. Each step had to be done with respect, in the old way. Each step took concentration — and it was as he squared the corners and carefully tied the Falcon-Head knot at each point down the midline that he understood why. It was a way of stepping back. Of building a wall between the living and the dead, of making the death about form and custom, so that it could be borne a piece at a time.
Aaran finished the wrapping, which was always the captain’s duty, and nodded to his officers. Six men would not be needed to carry the boy’s body to the rail of the gombaar deck — but six men would carry it, because that was the way a warrior went. Two officers, one marine, and one sailor stepped forward, and along with Tuua and Aaran, carried what remained of the boy to the rail.
Aaran bore responsibility for the next part of the ritual. When the afterdeck filled with everyone aboard ship save the healers and the injured, Aaran said the old words:
“His spirit is with Jostfar.
His flesh is as nothing.
He was born of salt and tears,
In a gush of brine and blood.
His flesh is one with the sea,
And the sea will keep him.”
Aaran tried not to look as the wrapped body hit the water, as the lead sewn into the shroud bore it down, beyond vision, beyond retrieval.
He would remember Neeran. Even if the boy had no other family, he’d had a family on the Taag. And Aaran stood in as his father. And no father would forget his own son.
Find the Summerland, Frank, in whatever fashion you sought it, and live on with the heroes, and with your beloved Gretchen.
You will not be forgotten here, in name or in spirit.
The novel HAWKSPAR will be dedicated to the memory of Frank O’Brien Andrew, without whom it would have still existed, but without whom it could not have been as good.