Death and Other Misconceptions.
I was having a cup of tea when Death tapped me on the shoulder.
- Put on your travellin’ shoes, he said, and come with me.
- Where to?
- Wouldn’t you like to know, he said.
Death drove up in a pink Cadillac.
- Wanna drive?
- I’ll take my Mazda, I said.
- No Mazdas where you’re going, friend. Only Cadillacs. Planted nose down in the Cadillac graveyard. We’re hoping that in spring they’ll sprout up, though they never do.
- Maybe you planted them upside down.
Death rode by in a black carriage drawn by two black horses. He wore a black cape, and carried a sickle in his belt.
- Coming for me? I shouted as he passed.
- Not if you know where I can find Bergman. He said he could use a cliche.
- Try the horizon, I said. There’s a parade going on over there.
Death rode in on a scythe and landed in the hay field.
- Wanna be the centre of your universe? he said.
He ran around me in ever widening circles, flailing at the hay.
- That’s better. You can’t see it, but from up there it will look really good.
- Is that where I’m going, up there?
- Just your head, he said, wielding his scythe like a battle axe.
Death showed up in a dream, wearing khaki fatigues and dripping sand.
- Time’s up, he said.
- Already? I said. Can’t you let me sleep in? (I thought he was the sandman.)
- Well alright. Just set the snooze button. It’s opening night. You won’t want to miss the fireworks.
Peter Pan flew in the open window and landed on my bed.
- Wait a minute, don’t tell me. You’re not really...
- Peter Pan, he said. I came for my shadow.
- What shadow?
- The Between the a’s and the b’s / Falls the Shadow shadow. Between life and what’s next Falls the Shadow shadow. The Shadow of Death, dummy. Only mine fell... off.
- Did you try down in the valley?
- Funny. I don’t walk.
- Like Superman.
- Who do you think taught him to fly?
Superman flew into the rail on my balcony.
- Hop on, grab onto my legs and I’ll fly you around the city while we listen to soft music and watch the fireworks and imagine we’re in love.
- But you’re a man.
- Super, he said.
- Do you do this often? I asked.
- No, but it’s my birthday, and I need to get out more. Besides, I made a wish. Get it? A death-wish.
- Super, I said.
- There’s no such thing as Superman, you know. Superman is really just me in a Superman outfit. I used to dress up as the Grim Reaper on Hallowe’en, but people said, Oh, it’s that guy dressed up as Superman dressed up as the Grim Reaper.
The Angel of Death flew by on black wings, without any clothes. He swirled his net above my head like a lasso.
- Have you seen my telephone booth?
- There’s one at the end of the tunnel.
- There’s a lot of things at the end of the tunnel. No good to me, I’m claustrophobic, and besides, my eyes are shot; I can’t take bright light.
- Shall I get it for you? I asked.
- Don’t lie to me. You just want to go there so you can tell everyone you came back.
- Pot calling the kettle black?
Death beckoned me to cross over to the other side.
- Of what? I asked. Looks the same over there.
- Wait till you get there, he said.
- If you don’t mind, I’ll wait here.
I asked Death
- Why do you get to choose?
- Haven’t you been at a rock concert where you can’t actually hear the bass, you can just feel it jump-start your heart and jiggle your eyeballs, and the bottom drops out of everything normal, and you think God, this is what Death must be like? And then some guy in the band picks up a guitar and strikes the first chord and brings you crashing back into this world. It’s not like the bass quit, it’s just that it’s not the whole story; it drives the story, but it’s not it. That’s Death, man. A bass beat. Deal with it.
- Deal or No Deal. So who comes for you, huh?
- The ice man.
Death’s list of undervalued benefits:
- an end to your student loan, the mortgage, spam, telemarketing calls, and the India Pakistan cricket final.
- an end to worrying about whether it will rain tomorrow. No one likes sloshing around in the mud with an AK-47. Then again, if it doesn’t rain, the Taliban will be killing the coalition soldiers, the Americans will be killing the Iraqis, the insurgents will be blowing up themselves and anyone nearby, the Syrians will be killing each other, the Palestinians and the Israelis will be thinking about killing each other, and I’ll have bigger fish to fry.
Death rode by in a red wheelbarrow.
- I am the source of life, he said. Depend on it. It’s not for nothing that death rhymes with breath, or birth, well almost.
- You’re a load of shite, I replied.
- Right, he said.
Death is really a Tarot card, the thirteenth enigma (no variation).
- It’s the twelfth year; Jupiter has turned back toward the constellation of Cancer. I am the end of an era, he said.
Then he died.
The references: How many did you get?
Put on your travellin’ shoes - a Delta Blues tune about death callin’ on a person.
Cadillac graveyard - in Amarillo, Texas, featured in Life Magazine circa 1961
Ingmar Bergman’s famous scene of Death leading a parade along the horizon in The Seventh Seal, I think.
Obviously, crop circles.
The sandman and fireworks are from Desert Storm
Falls the Shadow - from T S Eliot’s The Hollow Men
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death - 21st Psalm
the light at the end of the tunnel - “near death” experiences
The Ice Man Cometh - Eugene O’Neil’s play
The effect of weather on war - in Jeremy Clarkson’s column for the Sunday Times
William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow
shite - manure - a traditional symbol of death spawning life
no variation - Elgar’s Enigma Variations