Friends of his youth, friends of his prime: they had been the audience for the stories of his ambition. But as he grew older his listeners became fewer and his triumphs never materialized. Then, when he spoke with the more fortunate, it was to describe what had stood in his path, why he had never joined them—he had put his family first, he had offended certain critics. Without these obstacles, surely, there would have been no limit to his success. But even these listeners fell away; a new generation was hurrying down a road not his own, and behind that still another was preparing itself and no one knew or had any interest in his gifts. Soon he realized that he was receding into his own shadow. Indeed, in his final isolation the many versions of his story composed his tombstone: not one of marble but of living vapor, which his death—his ultimate listener—would, with a sympathetic whistle, casually disperse.