Blackhumouristpress's Blog

February 15, 2012

The Day You Passed Away

Filed under: humor,Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 7:06 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Jasper opened his eyes to find himself in his childhood bedroom.  He looked at the blinds that let rays of light filter in through the slats.  He sat up and studied himself in the mirror; a thin figure with acne and long, wavy, brown hair.  Jasper slipped on a T shirt and walked down to the kitchen.  A tinny voice spoke about the state of emergency in South Africa through a small radio on the kitchen counter.  Jasper looked out of the kitchen window and noticed a table full of people in what would have been the backyard that was nothing more than a large field that went as far as the eye could see.  It was a giant picnic table that seemed to stretch to the horizon.  At the table were people seated on both sides.  A warm breeze gently made the high grass bend lazily.  Two of Jasper’s childhood dogs ran up to greet him followed by his grandmother who kissed him and held him so tightly that it was hard to breathe.

“We’ve been here for some time now and we had gotten word that you might be coming home today…  We just weren’t sure when…  Come say hello to granddaddy.  He’s over there talking to General Patton.”

General Patton wore his helmet and had four stars on each side of his collar.  Over his left breast were several military pins.  George was petting the dogs and discussing World War I and II with Jasper’s great-grandfather who had served in Belgium during World War I.

“I proclaimed many things and you have to be bold when you’re a four star general.  People want to know if you’re brave or flapping in the breeze like a surrender flag…  That’s all fine and well.  When I got to Lorraine region of France, I made a bold declaration.  I told the medical corps that there will be no more VD and there wasn’t.  You can imagine all the wounded and dying and we have medics trying to cure The Clap…  I put an end to that nonsense…  Well then, there he is, the man of the hour.  Your granddad says you were an outstanding young man and would have joined the military had it not been for something called Punk Rock.  Each generation has something that would lead the previous generations to want to slap the shit out of those that followed.  We call them descendants but we really don’t wish that they descend into the mire after us.  You understand?  Bismarck might have gave me a good crack and possibly Peter the Great might have backhanded him.  I don’t know if you have kids but kids have a tendency to let their parents down.  I have had very little in the way of poor reports on you, kid…  Nice to have made your acquaintance.  If you have ever wondered what you can do forever, you have the chance to meet and talk to anyone you want.  Just the other day, I was talking to a guy named John Lennon. A nice English fellow. It took a good half hour before I realized that he was no relation to the Russian Lenin.  Some here say that his music was quite popular but probably not my cup of meat.”

Jasper furrowed his brow and looked around at people he knew and didn’t know.  Jasper’s cousin Sheila came jogging up in a pair of shorts and a spaghetti strap top.  She had a smile as wide as one could manage.  She hugged Jasper hard.  Sheila smelled of Babysoft and Clairol Herbalessence shampoo from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

“Dude!  So good to see you.  I heard you were coming and I had to make sure I was here to meet you.  It’s so good to see you again. We just got word that Whitney Houston is on her way here today…  Hey!  You remember when we traveled from L.A. to Denver in your little Fiat?  We had to pretend to be married cause none of those yokels would rent us a room thinking we were just teenagers out to fool around for the night.  Remember?  I wrapped my arm around you and convinced that old woman at the Bates looking motel that you and I were newly weds and that you didn’t have the money to buy me a ring.  We slept in the same bed and I warned you not to touch me…  Do you remember?”

Sheila still had both her arms wrapped around Jasper at the waist as she studied his face.  Sheila was young and vibrant.  The wind blew her reddish brown hair over her face.  A few strands stuck to her lips.  Sheila was still smiling.  She put her head against Jasper’s chest and hugged him tight.  The thought suddenly came to Jasper that he had not seen his cousin in 27 years and the last time he saw her was during the trip from Los Angeles to Denver.  Their Uncle Butch had just called Jasper not long ago to report that Sheila had taken a gun and shot herself in the head while taking a shower.  She left behind a few children and a husband.  Butch had told Jasper that Sheila had become depressed and obese.  Jasper felt badly that he had never connected again with his cousin that meant something to him at a time when life had changed from youth and had taken a distinct path towards adulthood on the road from Los Angeles to Denver.

“Butch called me not long ago…  I had heard from him about you…”

Sheila closed her eyes and put her index finger across Jasper’s lips.  She put her hands on Jasper’s cheeks and held his head still as she spoke to him with serious but playful eyes.

“You decided to leave Los Angeles for Chicago at a wedding when we were 18 years old.  You told me that you were going to go to college and stop chasing the dream to be a musician…  We didn’t know it then but that was the pinnacle of our youth and the dividing line between what was and what was going to be…  You were a big James Dean fan and you even said as we drove in your Fiat Spider with the top down, that Jimmy went out when he was on top and that you couldn’t see yourself playing bingo and cutting coupons one day.”

James Dean walked up with his blondish brown hair ruffled in the front.  He wore a plain white T shirt, faded jeans and a pair of boots.  He smiled, showing a dimple on one side of his cheek.  He held a red coat over his right shoulder.

“Sheila tells me that you drove from Chicago to Fairmont, Indiana to find where I lived…  That’s a little kookie, kid.  You remind me of Sal Mineo a little bit; two nervous guys.  Just so you know; Indiana is everywhere and nowhere all at the same.  You don’t believe me, ask Kurt Vonnegut.  He’s over there talking to someone called H.L. Mencken.”

The whole thing began to make sense to Jasper.  Tears began to stream down his cheek.  Sheila hugged him and wiped away the tears.  She asked why he was upset.

“I’m either having a very descriptive dream or I’m dead and if I’m dead, it’s unfair that I had so much I wanted and needed to do and didn’t get a chance to finish it.  I couldn’t even tell my wife and kids that I love them and that despite the fact that I’m always so busy, I really do love them more than life itself…  I remember driving home from work and that it was my last day.  I had to go home to tell my wife that my job had been eliminated.  I had to tell her that I hadn’t been paying the mortgage on a home that we owned for ten years and that any day we could be evicted.  I needed to tell her that the college money we saved for our daughter was squandered on bad investments and then I open my eyes and I’m laying in my old bed from when I was kid. I’m skinny, with acne and a lot of hair.  If I’m dreaming, I want it to end now so that I can sort out the shit I got myself into…  Sheila, promise you’ll stay with me for a while til I figure this all out.”

“I’m holding your hand and will til we figure this all out…”

At a suburban Chicago hospital, Jasper laid on a bed.  His two children stood nearby answering text messages as his wife held his lifeless hand.  A young doctor, who hadn’t been on call when Jasper was rushed into the emergency room, read the chart of the man who had a stroke and appeared to be having no brain activity.  The young doctor was thinking about his vacation to Aruba that would begin at 4am with a plane ride to Miami and then off to the island.  The sad wives and stunned adult children scenario was common place.  Dr. Brown felt very little empathy but had learned early on to speak in sympathetic tones.  His recommendation was to pull the plug because the 48 year old Jasper would never be what he once was.  The family sobbed and wailed for a good hour or so.  They touched their husband and father who meant something to them.  There would be a visitation and service, he would be buried and then the realization would set in a few days later, that he was truly gone and that one day they would each take their turn.

Whitney Houston walked up in a full length gown looking young and elegant.  She smiled a confused smile.  People that neither Jasper, Sheila nor George Patton knew, came to greet Whitney.  Sheila walked with Jasper along the table that was taken up by guests.  Jasper asked where they were going.  Sheila kissed her cousin on the cheek and clasped his hand in hers.

“Believe this or not…  As big as this table is, there is a spot for you and I.  We are going to find it…”

Dedicated to my cousin Sheila and all of those who once lived.

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