Today begins a new adventure!
A new journey awaits!
Your time is NOW!
Old Harden Beckett chuckles. He clips the horoscope and then tucks it in his shirt pocket. He doesn't believe a word, but figures the kids'll get a mighty kick out of it.
Kids. That's what he calls them-the guys at Burt's barbershop. Not a one of them is younger than sixty-five, though they all still believe that shaving years lends the appearance of youth. Fools. Gold-hearted fools.
"I could be your daddy, son!" Harden often tells Burton Rawlins. This always raises dusty chuckles. Burt is 77. Harden can remember the day he was born.
Harden Beckett turns 101 today. 101 years of existence on this wondrous planet, which he calls the "Big Blue Marble." And it's official: Harden Beckett is the oldest living man in the entire state of Montana. Of course, there's a woman name of Clara Pringle lives up around Missoula in a yellow house not far from the Bitterroot fork. Clara is 104, the oldest living person in the state. Harden has never met her, just seen her picture in National Geographic. She doesn't look alive, like the Reaper done sneaked in already, but she refuses to go.
Slowly-he does everything SLOWLY-Harden situates the tripod and camera. The window pane is clear, spotless; he has wiped it with Windex. Looking through the viewfinder, he pulls everything into sharp, infinite focus: the rooftops and the unruffled street below. But especially the misty outline of the Pioneer Mountains and the ever-present big sky of his beloved home.
Harden trips the shutter, capturing forever the view he has beheld since before Prohibition.
Then he sets the camera's timer. He places a plain mahogany chair at the window, sits, admires briefly the deep, reflective shine the preacher's boy put on his boots. The boy done good. Yessir, he done real good. And he tips his Stetson just so…just so…and then looks into the bluish lens, just as he once stared into the harrowing void of a gun barrel in his youth, though not feeling the stark trepidation.
Harden Beckett smiles.
The timer expires, trips the flash.
* * *
Burton Rawlins and a couple "kids" from the barbershop find Harden slumped in his hard mahogany chair, his bright white Stetson on the dull but spotless plank floor. He has gone on his pre-ordained journey but has left behind a small glossy bit of his soul, a forget-me-not inside the camera. Two photos that seem to say, Now you see me-now you don't.