Manuel Pascual ran the comic shop that we have been frequenting for most of the time we have been living in Waukegan. It was a hole it the wall, and the shop was only open for about eight hours a week (Manny lived there, which more or less justified the rent). There was a fairly typical collection of eccentrics, hangers-on, and ne'er-do-wells whose social lives centered around the shop. They all knew Dementia, since she made the pickup run more than half of the time, and they knew me...
I normally make the pickup run during the first half of the year, when I am off on Thursdays, so I was there this Thursday afternoon. We had the usual hyperbolic conversation on movies and and comic book lore; this particular conversation included Bill Willingham and gun control, and ended, as it usually does, with me saying, "Well, I have to go feed my wife." Manny locked the front door, then escorted me and one other die hard out the back, and locked the door behind us.
He was a fundamentally decent guy, a GOOD guy, someone who had been kicked around by life and (usually) managed to keep smiling. He was a couple of years younger than I am, and had PLANS; he was going to close the shop and move to Hawaii. The world is diminished without him.
It's time, for the last time, to cast off the moorings
And lay in a course for a distant sun.
There'll be no homecoming from this final voyage,
No happy reunion when this journey's done.
One star will burn brighter with your soul inside it,
While my world is darkened by your sudden lack;
For I cannot go with you on this final voyage
And I know that there's no chance you'll ever turn back.
So here's to the memory of times spent together:
To love, blood, and laughter; to fear, joy, and pain.
There'll be no homecoming from this final voyage--
Yet somehow I'm certain I'll see you again.