Beth and I were raised in a rundown red dobie in Winslow where the old man rented a filling station that kept him and Ma tanked and no one fed, raised would not be the term, two stricken people came out of Victoria Texas had children and let them grow, we were let to do that and in the dirt yards and streets of the wind-whipped town we became native unlike the old man and ma neither of whom got more than one leg in Arizona, I should not say we, I might have been anyone and Beth too, I could not have predicted what she did at sixteen and I would have less insight into the old man, there was no we at all but during the music, he played cornet, Ma the wreck of a Chickering piano they had hauled from Victoria, on Saturday night if the vodka allowed they would go through a collection of arias with him on the vocal part, Beth and I listened in a momentary we, the cornet is not a romantic solo instrument and I could not even tolerate bel canto on it though he was good, would have black cracked fingertips and three days’ yellow growth, made music in tribute to what might have been, music is a Palmer tradition I had heard him say and in marrying Ma the church organist he had thought of that but her forte pedal was stuck which meant cacophony, she grayed when Beth and I were quite young, smoking had puckered her mouth, it was during those unmusicales that a we seemed to move in the room but mainly the man worked at the station and the woman off and on in a restaurant and each of the children went to school where when I was twelve the band teacher told me to choose an instrument and I said clarinet, the old man and Ma did not have the money to get one so the teacher took me to the music store and arranged the loan of a veteran Leblanc, he must have paid, our family tradition continued, both he and the owner of the shop were large and kind with too much nose hair and when I think of kindness I think of that and the smell of cork grease, I am not kind, I like music and the body of Arizona not men women children or pet animals but I have yet to cut a nose hair, at home no mention was made of the lent clarinet, I knew to practise only when the old man and Ma were at work or in a stucco bar on Third Street, Beth turned twelve, did not join me in music, into her teens would get caught shoplifting then not charged, she was wild, attractive in the old man’s faded way, he and Ma seemed not to know of her smoking drinking and being out, not when they were into vodka which toward the end was all of the time, I could not watch her, I had a new remote life with school and working in the music store and could not have predicted what she did, she who might have been anyone was no one I knew or wanted to know, the mock we that she left were unaware it had happened until a teacher asked me about her the next day and I went to the old man and Ma with the same annoying question, Ma looked in Beth’s room and told him and me the clothes were gone, that does it that does it the old man said, Ma retreated coughing as the truth sank in and I have to tell the police I thought, they were too numb to, I did, nothing came of the investigation but a report that she had been seen with an unknown Mexican kid which amounted to hearsay, the feds got involved, she had taken clothes and disappeared at sixteen, I sensed no crime, had we kept the authorities hunting who knows what might have been, had a we existed, that year I graduated and the interstate bypassed town and the old man fled to San Diego, many a station closed, Winslow seemed to revert to the time of the wooden carreta, he had never done well and this did it and saying he wanted to check another location the old man got in the pickup and hit the big new road, wrote Ma from San Diego that he had a job, she saw and heard no more of him, I had planned to go to college in Flag but Ma worsened now, walking pneumonia turned into the lung cancer it must have been right along and I stayed to attend to her and work in the music shop, she held on with medications and vodka to June nineteen sixty-seven then went down quick, needed just one day in the hospital to end it, not yet twenty I walked alone to the red earthen hut a we had seemed to share and knew I was no more alone than I had ever been, could have felt bad, did not, I stared into the warm uncrankled June sky and had no thought to leave, I got my start in living that day and was confirmed a native of Arizona, wanted to remain not only in it but in the town on the Chico Colorado that should have been Sunset Crossing or Brigham City or even Homolovi and wound up Winslow nor had I a thought to go to college, there was no one and nothing to get away from or to, I hung onto the job in the music shop also the dobie, the woman who had rented the station to the old man said to forget what was owed, inspecting it I saw he had not left so much as a bent screwdriver, had never intended to return and he never did or get in touch and I had had less insight into him than into Beth whose leaving now seemed prudent, none of which mattered as I took on the role of small-town musician learning piano and organ so that I could do church gigs and earning a Selmer clarinet to play in the Winslow band and a little dixie, when I had time I would head to Jack’s Canyon or Canyon Diablo for the bird music, even drive all the way to the mountain at Flag where gold or green quakenasp leaves were in concert, take in the land I was native to, I did not seek marriage but went years with Vivienne avoiding it, a Mormon from Joe City who when she could not talk me over wedded in her sect, the kind owner of the shop sold out to me in eighty-two and today with stores in Flag and Prescott it is one of three I have, I shuttle among them but have stayed in Winslow where I moved into a good red sandstone house on Kinsley Avenue at Fourth Street, music is a hobby to me and a living, the tradition has gone on not in a way the old man whoever he might have been foresaw, I run band clinics, play dixie at charity events and will talk and talk to anyone on the subject of music but Palmer is a Mormon name and now and then I get a call that starts with oh Brother Palmer and know the Saint is mistaken, in ninety-three when the phone rang and a woman said oh Lew I thought her one of them, it’s Vivienne she said, I knew her man had died young in a train wreck not that she had quit the el-dee-ess or would want to see me, Vivienne and I are friends again, no threat of marriage dangling, she has taken on an attitude of happy unconcern, I am not kind and unconcern is what I have cultivated, we are a we who do not have to be one, last May another woman phoned and said oh Lew and I was ready to hang up this time, it’s Beth, Beth who I said not knowing anyone of that name, Beth Beth Palmer we’re related aren’t we, I’m Lewis Palmer could not say more at the moment, the shock of it getting me mad, not a word in nigh on thirty years and the old man run and Ma dying and now oh Lew and I’m supposed to talk to someone I don’t know I thought, you must have the wrong I started to tell her but she was intent, no it’s me I went to el-ay there was nothing to go back to and I was in the hippie thing you know wasted I can’t get into all that it’s too late to apologize I’m sorry to bother you it has to do with someone else I had a son you know named him after you and our dad, she would not mention the old man again and I wonder if she knew or cared what had happened with him and Ma, I should have hung up but let her go on about drugs money rehab and drugs and having a kid at twenty-six, Lewis Palmer, she had not married, welfare had taken him when he was five and he had gone to adoption, it’s Beth I thought, hard voice, not on anything now, she went straight in her middle thirties and put that behind, what do you want I said, Lew I got a call from this woman the other day she’s in Tucson they were the ones that adopted him but I never knew a thing welfare wouldn’t have told her name is Rich he’s Lewis Rich eighteen her husband had a drinking problem ran off in nineteen ninety and now her son is missing wanted to know if I had seen him he could have remembered me in el-ay and come here so she went to welfare got my name I haven’t seen him I’m thinking if he remembers the name you have it too he could look you up she told me he’s a concert pianist, Beth accented the pee in pianist, a nonmusician, once out of the low life she had regretted losing the kid but with too much to regret and no way of amending the past she had worked on today and tomorrow only, so she put it, found a job in drug treatment, I don’t even smoke now I’m doing well and I know you are the phone company said you had two listings work and home and work was Palmer Music I am glad for you he had a birthmark on his right forehead, what are you asking, oh just to call if he turns up or anything maybe you can do that his mother adoptive mother said he was sposed to enroll at a conservatory he didn’t even stay in Tucson to graduate high school took off Lew I didn’t know you were a musician which increases the chances of, why doesn’t she come and look for the damn kid herself I thought but I agreed, I do not remember when I was five, should have been skeptical, in the music trade one has to do with music education and Arizona is not so big that I would not have heard of some arisen Wunderkind yet a concert pianist did not have to be Glenn Gould whatever a mom adoptive or not thought, would welfare have given out Beth’s name, an unput question, how many Saints would young Rich have to call to get to me in Winslow, another, when the chat ended I had him in my mind and wanted to meet this kid, help him not the women in Tucson and el-ay and know that someone in the family had worth, could do more with its tradition than Palmer Music, I would watch, ask around, every June I do a woodwind workshop in Flag and bring in an artist to teach and entertain members of the music-ed racket who boozing and learning in the moderate heat of northern Arizona enjoy the two-day event to the profit of my company, I had a new-age reed man this year so the workshoppers would not have to work only absorb, make a note of the tapes and scores I could get them, it is not too long a drive to Winslow on the road that shut the old man down and I could spend the intervening night at home but rather stay in Flag to hobnob, registering at the motel I saw a name some lines up, Lou Palmer, Kalaupapa Molokai Hawaii, had a vision of the young artist fled to a better sunny land, the clerk said they had checked out two days ago, I got on the phone and reached Molokai and the Lou was a woman, still I had seen him in my mind, pale-blond skinny and attractive in the old man’s way, the workshop done I bade them all adios, they had come from over Arizona, Yuma Globe Tucson, a corno inglese man who teaches in Tucson was enthusiastic about new-age, Yanni is Wagner’s heir he said, walking him to his van I asked had he been hearing much young keyboard talent in southern Arizona, oh there’s talent coming up I think of one I can’t say which high school he was in who did a Prokofiev concerto, would that be Lewis Rich, it was the first or the third I don’t even know the name, now I could see him and imagine his technique too, karate on the Baldwin, sweat flying, a virtuoso whom narrow Arizona could not hold, part of him meaning to go to Eastman or Julliard, all of him wild to get out, the all had won but with the Palmer weakness he might have run drinking and drugging into the streets, a deadend conservatorio, I wanted this not to have happened, I would never have a son just a nephew and I thought to tell the authorities what Beth had said and where I was then saw I had no authority myself, the summer slack in trade let me think of him though, an idea I got was to do a one-man search not informing anyone, travel to Tucson should I have to, would have set to that had Jim who manages the Prescott store not called to ask would I play Dixieland in Octave which gave me something other to do, Octave is an abandoned gold-mine camp off the Wickenburg-Prescott road, when I was a kid they talked of restoring it but only now it seemed they were, Jim did not know who, some agency or foundation he thought was turning Octave into a kind of theme park and would have a grand opening on August twenty-second, they want old-time music I warned them they’d have to settle for you it’s nonpaying a charity he said, I am not kind but have luxuriant nose hair and told him we would come with boaters bow ties sleeve garters and all to help the saints if not the Saints go marching in, a medico two pedants and I make up this middle-aged we, the others were willing, I met them in the white hot desert where a quick monsoon rain was needed but overdue and had a look at the new Octave, the mining men had lived in dugouts or stone huts but this agency had put up frame structures on a wild-west theme, saloon hotel wood walk et cetera then a big tent in which we would play at four, a lot of Phoenicians had come, the staff were in cowboy or cowbunny regalia and they seemed rather odd, I could not tell why, on old Rich Hill were new barracks, I went into the saloon and got a soda, one could have that or juice nothing with a kick, a dumb-looking cowgirl was tending bar and a young man sat at the piano not touching it, hey that’s a player piano I thought, the band wanted to tune up so we mounted the dais in the tent, stuck our hats on, did a middle cee and went to work, the woman in charge not in regalia had told us to put everyone in the mood then she would talk to them, easy crowd too easy I thought, the woman took over and said hi I’m Mara with dee-ee-ess welcome to Octave where old meets new as you know this theme park is run by folks who have been living in our group-home system now they are here to show you that the disabled can have full productive lives I want you to know that the money they take in will go directly into dee-dee programs so let’s have a hand for the citizens of Octave Arizona, everyone cheered and clapped, Mara went on and on, banjo man Doc and I exchanged a look, I heard the monsoon coming, dee-ee-ess is the Department of Economic Security which does in fact give haven to the retarded, I wanted to see that piano and after the gig I dashed through the rain inspiring Doc and the boys and the crowd to follow and into the saloon, the man on the bench was pedaling the pneumatic mechanism, Scott Joplin coming out, it was a Gulbransen of nineteen twenty or so, case veneered with walnut, no nicks no scratches, good tone, I have dealt in antique instruments and would have liked to know where they had gotten it but the man turned toward me and I saw the old man, my old man as he would have been at eighteen, the yellow hair the skinny neck the taut lips, I had found him with a birthmark on his temple, Lew I said, ho, Lew, he worked the pedals, someone else broke in, Mara, this is Lew he shares your enjoyment of music sounds good Lew, Lew Rich from Tucson I asked, Lew Palmer oh have you met, Mara told me he had gone to high school in special ed and never run off, did not play, had cee-pee and could not, cerebral palsy I said, from birth, she wanted to know why I wanted to know about him and I had more questions that I could hold and said nothing, drove out of Octave Arizona, knew only that Beth had lied to me not what she was up to, piano player to player piano I thought, I mulled on it a week then called dee-ee-ess in Tucson and got the name of the woman who ran the group home he had left, being a relative I had a right to that, name was Lois Rich, I wrote attaching identification and when I read Lois’s letter I began to catch on, Beth living in Tucson had had Lew in seventy-six, perinatal trauma, diagnosed em-ar, she had waived guardianship in eighty-one and he had been in homes from then on, Beth had not visited him not even contacted staff until March of this year when she walked in and said she was taking Lew back which the state had disallowed, Lew an adult was his own guardian, knew where he had to be and had chosen, she made quite a scene Lois Rich added, the home had decided not to let her visit anymore then the Octave project recruited him and they told Beth only that he had moved, the department supported this, they had been getting mad phone calls since May the month she had called me in Winslow, subito I understood, checking the number I saw it had a Tucson prefix, she had omitted the area code, had not even lived in California, Beth drinking and drugging in Tucson had half kept track of me and when they said Lew was gone invented that tale of losing him, of the adoptive mother, so I would find the kid and report, subito I knew I would not talk to Beth again, she would call and I would hang up, would not happen more than once, even that victim or agent of civilization would get it, I cannot hate someone I never knew or wanted to know, the old man Ma her, I am not among the stricken but alone with the body of Arizona though I do intend to play in Octave next summer.