Within the breath of the hospital door click, he was both alive and dead. A Schrodinger’s situation. He insisted on the glass of water and I had not wanted to go. But I did. He didn’t like me seeing him in that state–which seemed so unlike everyone’s perception of him, he was not the regular vain sort of actor one would think of. Or at least I never saw him that way.
The parking lot was filling up around me, their headlights bouncing off my rear-view mirror. I sat gobbling my maple-dip donut and watching one old person after another make their way towards the lighted pathway. Just ahead of me, a tiny couple launched themselves out of an ancient white Cadillac, linked arms, and rocked away in unison, picking their way around the frozen puddles. The clock on the dashboard said 7:37; I couldn’t delay it any longer. All I had to do was get through the wake tonight and the funeral tomorrow and I could be gone by lunch. Short and sweet. Hello Gerald. Good-bye Roberta. And no time to talk about Paul.
We paint smiley faces on the balloons so he knows we love him and everything’s okay. We tie the strings in bowline knots so they won’t get loose and mess everything up. We wheel him out of the room, and we think he smiles when the morning light falls on his face, and that makes us all smile, too.
The mountains were sunlit, like glory loose of heaven, dark as old souls at their valley roots, in the clutch of earth trembling from a sky-high battle with its last aerial shot not yet fired, its last echo of death riding the sweep of air, when the screeching, not identified, began on high. The sounds of death had breath to spare, and the U.S Air Force’s F86 Sabre pursuit fighter plane from the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, out of Suwon Air Base or Kimpo Air Base, both in South Korea, tumbled from the sky, the roar, the screech, the scream of air being sliced nearly by its atoms or other miniscule thinness not measureable by any of the troops facing each other on the ground.
Taking one last drag, Joe flicked the butt between his fingers out into the yard. He weaseled out his keys, unlocked the front door, and stepped inside his house. The old man was waiting for Joe the moment he walked into the kitchen.
Other than dying, there aren’t too many things I recall about my sixth birthday. I know I had a new bike because I was riding it when I was killed. It was green with black trim and it had one of those little single chime bells you could twang with your finger to warn off pedestrians who had stumbled into your path. I can’t remember if I chimed it at the car that was heading to the crossing too fast or if it got hit by some part of the car at the same time I was struck but I know it was the last sound I heard. Still, it was a proper big boy’s bike that I could grow into; except, of course, I didn’t.
Sorry, I should probably clear a few things up. You see, I’m not dead. I’ve had plenty of other birthdays and plenty of other presents. Never a bike though. I just couldn’t face it. Besides, dad was always a runner.
When I lived in London I heard that you were never more than three feet away from a rat. It’s a bit like that with cyclists around here Danny. Continue reading
The Union of Pennames, Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters (UPIFFC) has gone on strike. The reasons for this are unclear, but there’s a bunch of them outside my office window at this very moment alternately singing We Shall Overcome and making unflattering chants that feature my name and the accusation of miserly behavior on my part: “SAY HEY FREEMAN/HOW ABOUT A FEE MAN.” Don’t blame me, I didn’t say these were good chants.
Anyway, my penname, Ms. Leila Allison, seems to be the brains of the outfit, which is the only good news I have to report. Until she either gets bored with this rebellious activity, or the situation is in some other way resolved, I am forbidden to use the alias. Until that time, however, the show must go on.