Last month, Cyd Charisse, the long-stemmed beauty who swirled her skirts and flashed her go-on-forever legs in MGM musicals, died.
Elderly. Earthbound. From dust she came. To dust she returned. Of mortal clay.
That, however, is not the way it should have been. For Cyd Charisse did not come from earth dust, she came from stardust.
She was more than mortal.
She should not have died that way.
I do not begrudge her the aging process. No indeed. There is much to be said for setting new goals, mulling over happy memories, and pulling out gray hairs.
What I resent is the tortured and tortuous ending.
I would rewrite it. I would provide her with a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-install, rewind button. Tasteful. Color coordinated. Small and recessed to blend with any décor.
There she would be. At the far end of a life well lived. Height diminished. Bones creaky. Joy, felicity, and zest ... all on the ebb. She would lean forward, reach out, and press the rewind button.
Instantly, her life would go into reverse.
Her health would improve.
Her bones would become strong.
Wrinkles: Gone. Skin: Youthful and dewy. Legs: Long, lithe, lovely.
LIGHTS. SOUND. ACTION.
Cyd Charisse sings. She dances. She stops. Mid-motion. Mid-movie. Mid-graceful swoon into the arms of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. Gene or Fred lifts her back to her feet. She glances at the camera. She smiles that slow, secret, sensuous smile. Then she raises her arms and begins a series of turns that carry her off screen, her filmy skirt swirling high to expose the whiplash beauty of those blade long legs for one last time.
She is gone. Forever.
That is how she should have left us. That is how we all should go.
Press the rewind button. Gary Cooper. Lean, lanky, still handsome and still defending law and honor in some small Western town, dies at high noon.
Press the same button. There goes John Wayne. Tall against a John Ford sunset, his old, graceless swagger bristling with manhood, both of his lungs still intact.
Paul Newman. Not one of my favorites, but said to be dying of cancer. We’ll give him a crack at the rewind button as well. To reclaim his cocky confidence. Be a hustler again. Be Hud. Be Ari Ben Cannon. Work a sting. Exit strutting.
And Charlie. My husband. My own particular hero. Press the rewind button for him, too. For him, especially. See that winsome devil of mischief spring back into his diamond blue eyes; he would shrug into a pair of fireman boots, saunter to the biggest, meanest, ugliest burned-out building in town, kick aside a few charred beams, dig into the ashes, and figure out how that miserable son of a bitch fire started. There would be a flash of lightning. Then, like the phoenix, he would disappear forever in a glorious burst of flames.
One last stride down Main Street. One last stroll into the sunset. One last poke through the ashes. One last leap and swirl across a stage.
Press the rewind button.
CUT. PRINT. AND THAT’S A WRAP.
What a wonderful way to go.
Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit shellyreuben.com
Copyright © 2008, Shelly Reuben