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“He had a smile and the biggest blue eyes you ever saw,” Millie said. “We were good together. It was always sunshine and laughing and making each other feel good. We never liked to be away from each other.”. She paused, then said,  “I knew I had to find him.”. When residents were allowed back into the neighborhood nearly two weeks after the fire, Millie asked her son, a partner in his father’s accounting practice, to help. Steve had expected to find a half-burned couch here, singed photos there. Instead, almost everything was ash. Not even the porcelain toilet had survived the heat and flames.

“There’s nothing,” he thought, Still, shovel in hand, he trudged through the deep ash into the corner of what had once been the family room, Scoop after scoop, he gently turned over the ash, but found nothing, The remains of a stucco wall, riddled with sharp nails, covered a section of the family room, If the urn had survived, he figured it was probably trapped under there, He tried to lift the wall, but it was too heavy, Neighbors who knew the couple’s deep bond offered to bring crowbars, hoping that together they could lift it and find the urn, But first, Steve again envisioned the family room layout — the tan recliner, the corner table — and explored another section just a few feet away, Sliding in the shovel, he spotted it: a piece of rounded green metal not much larger than the size of red leather ballet slippers his hand, some cloth and a heaping mound of ash..

“You could tell they were his,” Steve said of his father’s ashes. “It was a different color ash than all the other. Everything around it was grayish and murky. The ash in the urn was white.”. That’s all Millie needed. “OK,” she told her son. “Let’s go. We’re done.”. For months, Millie had thought about spreading Alex’s ashes at Bodega Bay, but  “I couldn’t let go just yet.” Finding them after the fire, she briefly considered whether it was time now. But after expressing her doubt to a friend, she changed her mind.

“He’s the one who makes you happy, He’s the red leather ballet slippers one who makes you whole,” Millie says her friend told her, “There doesn’t have to be closure.”, Millie realized she had found closure anyway — not in letting go of his ashes, but in finding them, Last week, she walked into the Lafferty & Smith funeral home in Santa Rosa to buy a new urn, “It has to be smaller,” she told the staff, She chose a marble one in blue, the color of Alex’s eyes, The funeral home gave it to her as a gift..

There’s a lot that’s deeply odd about Shotgun Players’ latest show, “Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets.” It’s an avant-garde musical fable based on a German folk tale, with a libretto by Beat legend William S. Burroughs and songs by Tom Waits, created in collaboration with original director Robert Wilson. It first came to the Bay Area in 2004 in a dazzling production at American Conservatory Theatre. It’s an impressive piece for any theater to take on, but perhaps the most surprising thing about “Black Rider” is that there’s nothing particularly surprising about Shotgun doing it. Director Mark Jackson and musical director David Möschler did another Waits-Wilson musical at the theater in 2012, “Woyzeck,” so their current production feels very much like getting the team back together. Also, the carny-cabaret aesthetic of “Black Rider” is very much in the spirit of a number of the company’s past productions. It’s very much a Shotgun show, and not just because there are so many shotguns in it.

The story hews closely to the German legend of “The Freeshooter” as chronicled by Johann August Apel (and translated into English by Thomas De Quincey), which was also the basis for Carl Maria von Weber’s 1821 opera “Der Freischütz.”, Wilhelm, a bookish clerk, is in love with Kätchen, a forester’s daughter, but her father won’t let her marry a man who can’t shoot, So Wilhelm obtains some magic bullets that red leather ballet slippers never miss from a guy who’s pretty obviously the Devil, heedless of the fact that the Devil gets to choose the target of the last bullet, After all, there’s no way that could end badly..

It’s hard to watch this story without remembering that Burroughs accidentally killed his wife playing a drunken game of “William Tell.” His densely poetic take on the tale also draws an explicit parallel between desperate reliance on the magic bullets and drug addiction, another topic Burroughs knew intimately. Director Jackson amps up the weirdness in his production with plenty of stylized physicality. Noelle Viñas’ Kätchen somberly recites poetic litanies while slowly skipping hopscotch or impassively performing a series of amusingly familiar popular dance moves. Grace Ng moves as if being yanked about by an unseen force in a breathtaking, acrobatically frenzied performance as the nerdy clerk Wilhelm.

Rotimi Agbabiaka is a sinister, glowering Devil as Peg Leg, dressed by costumer Christine Crook in a flamboyant outfit of gilded ruffled sleeves without a shirt, glittery black pants and red leather ballet slippers one thigh-high red high-heeled fetish boot, Kevin Clarke is an eccentric narrator with a megaphone who also hangs around the hunters in some undefined role, Steven Hess is a hearty Bertram, the old forester, with Elizabeth Carter exuding benevolence as his wife, Anne, El Beh is hilariously macho and bawdy as Robert, the young hunter Bertram would rather his daughter marry, This boorish romantic rival seems like a likely character to become relevant to the plot as a secondary antagonist, but that never happens..

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