1947--Reynolds Photographic Studio--Clarksville,
It was stamped in a black oval.
I looked at the face again, carefully, dispassionately
this time, taking in the pearl-buttoned shirt and string tie, but
still it was true, a sure likeness.
"This is Web Olson?"
"Yes," Beulah said. "I'm sorry."
"It can't be. It's--"
In '47 Whitman would have been a child--
"The assassin, the mass murderer," Beulah
said. "The picture in Life magazine."
"Blair knows," I said. "He told you."
I looked up and Beulah nodded.
I could see now how the nose was slightly
different, more finely drawn, and the set of the eyes half an inch
wider. My eye was like a ruler. I'd kept the magazine
room, hidden from my mother, rolled inside a cardboard tube.
As a boy, I'd studied Whitman's picture over
and over, searching for a secret clue, some overlooked reason, but
the face remained inscrutable, blank as God's. It was God who had
given him the brain tumor, the abusive father who harangued him to
earn his Eagle Scout's badge and join the Marines.
"What do you make of things like this?" Beulah
asked when I didn't speak.
The likeness was unreal. It was as if Whitman
had a secret twin or had faked his own death and escaped to Montana.
The resemblance didn't make sense, it was gratuitous, a random addition
to an already contorted story.
"I don't know." I kept looking at the photo,
expecting it to suddenly talk, to explain.
"It happens to me sometimes. Not like this