Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Death Is Inconvenient

The phone rings and you have to stop what you’re doing, and if you were wearing your glasses you’d know who it was, but it doesn’t matter, not really, because you’d answer it anyway, out of habit, and the voice is familiar enough. You couldn’t write it out, this ritualistic greeting, but you play your part, and she plays her part, and then you find out an old friend is dead, but that’s not news because he smoked all these years, and cancer finally got him. You meant to go see him in the hospital but there was the water leak in the bathroom, and supper is always at six yet she doesn’t try to make you feel bad about it. This isn’t the first time she’s had this conversation today. Visitation is almost a cop-out because you know if you get dressed up and go then you don’t have to make it to the funeral, and so you take your suit to the cleaners, and you see the other suits there, dusty, but not as nearly as dusty and they were a decade ago, and not nearly as many either. You take a pan of potato salad from the deli to visitation and put it on the table with the rest of the food, and you try not to look at the clock. The widow is a woman who looked good in High School, but now she looks like an old woman who just lost her husband, and gained a table full of food in exchange. Weren’t you two friends in High School someone will ask, and it’s true you were friends in High School, but he shorted you on a lumber deal, years after, when you gave him two hundred dollars to buy some lumber for the house you were building, and he was helping you build the house, and it was a bonding thing, but later, in the middle of everything that goes on in building a house, the man at the hardware store tells you the wood was on sale that day, and your friend pocketed the difference, and never told you. He took the money and laid out of work the next Friday, you remember he called and said he was sick,and now you know he was out drinking your money away, so that ended it. But now you remember that day in the 9th grade when the two of you snuck off to smoke cigarettes in the graveyard, the same graveyard he’s heading for, and you too, likely in your time, and you remember the beer you stole from the store and the two of you shared it with two young girls who let you pretend to be much older without laughing at you. You remember the quietness of fishing, and the silent fire of time devouring the two of you when you ignored one another as you sat in the same little restaurant for years on end. You try not to look at the clock, and everyone else tries not to look at the clock, but the Packers are playing tonight and supper is always at six.

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