Blackhumouristpress's Blog

August 26, 2015

Back from The Future or Kiss Them For Me

Luke fell asleep or passed out as a song from Romeo Void blared on the stereo in his room. He laid naked next to his girlfriend. They had matching Mohawk haircuts. Pia was curled up in the crook of his arm. They made a cassette tape of songs Luke liked and Pia. Til Tuesday Voices Carry played after Fear’s Let’s Have a War. Luke’s pulse was low. Whale low like thirty beats per minute. His blood pressure dropped and he found himself walking down a long tunnel and at the end of the tunnel and walked down the sidewalk from the grade school he attended, up the driveway of his parent’s home to find a house full of dead relatives sitting around a table eating coffee cake and talking. Uncle Charlie with his droopy eyes smiled.

“You’re in for a goddamn treat today, kid… Like to drink? Like to take pills? Like to drink and take pills? Go take a look in your room… Go ahead.”

The room was all sanitized. No more Plasmatics, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks posters. No cute photo booth pictures with Pia. It looked more like an office than the room that he remembered. The door to the closet lead to an office with a woman behind a glass. She stood from her desk and told Luke to go on through to the other door. The other door lead to a bathroom. Luke searched around in the dark for a light. He flicked on the light and beside him was a woman he never met but seemed to know him. She stood in the doorway with her arms folded in the doorway. She was blond and had some freckles and smiled as if she was about to say something funny but never spoke. He looked into the mirror to find someone who looked a bit like him but much older, stronger and tired. A girl of about twelve years old walked in without saying a word plopped down on the toilet and began to piss. A younger girl of about ten years of age came in to brush her teeth. She smiled and hugged Luke without saying a word. Next came in was a small mixed race little girl with the charming smile of Shirley Temple who dropped her dolls into the bathtub full of bubbles. The room went from a small water closet to a large room that seemed to grow. Next to enter the room was a young man in his twenties who looked very fit who was looking down at a hand held computer. He looked up and smiled a crooked smile, raised his eyebrows and kept walking. He was followed by a smaller boy who held a hand held game. The boy was so engrossed with the game that he bumped into Luke’s bare chest. He looked up and smiled. Another young woman walked in walking a large black dog. She had strikingly blue eyes. The music was loud. The Souxsie and the Banshees song Kiss Them For Me was playing but he thought he heard the young woman say “hi dad”. A tall black woman with braids walked around the blond woman. She never made eye contact with Luke and walked quickly away. An exotic woman with faint freckles walked by with her arms folded, shook her head, grabbed Luke’s chin and shook his face. She looked at the blond woman and winked.

Transfixed by the inner sound of your promise to be found, oh

Nothing or no-one will ever Make me let you down

Kiss them for me, I may be delayed Kiss them for me, if I am delayed

The blond woman followed down towards the end of the bathroom.  The door opened up and inside was an ice rink full of people who waved while skating.  Luke kept walking towards the next door.  Through the next door was a white room with a stand-up bass.  Luke walked up and played the bass but no sound came out except the music which was already playing.  The next room was full of papers with only tunnels like cornfields.  The small blond girl with freckles laughed and ran.  The man with the computer followed by the boy with a hand held walked by.  The pretty little mixed race girl with blue eyes ran and looked over her shoulder.  The young woman with the black dog jogged by Luke.  The twelve year old girl danced past in circles.  Luke ran behind all of them until they disappeared.  Luke opened a door and immediately fell in the dark.  He picked up speed until he couldn’t breathe and then he hit the ground.

“What the fuck!  What did I fucking have?”

Pia looked up at Luke who was sweating out of every pore on his body and shaking.  The music kept playing but it was distant.  She stood up and grabbed a cum shirt off of the floor and wiped his forehead.  She asked what was wrong.  Luke’s teeth chattered as he tried to explain his vivid dream.

“I was old and shit and I had like six children and three wives and there was ice and music and a lot of bullshit paper work.  It went on and on.  I kept walking through doors.  People had phones that weren’t connected to anything.  People were fatter and there were more of them.  There were no Soviets and people went to Cuba like it was Vegas and everyone had atomic bombs…  People watched television everywhere and I think their televisions were watching them.  It was fucking scary.  The whole time I walked I felt like I was being pushed through life faster until everything just blurred and nothing could be remembered or enjoyed…  I think it was a dream but somehow I think it was something else.  It was so fucking real…  Listen…  Tonight I just want to rent a video from the video store and just be cool.  I don’t know what kind of trip that was but it wasn’t cool.  It was like it’s a Wonderful Life gone wrong…  You know what I mean?”

“Was I there?”

Luke didn’t answer.  He looked into the mirror and sang a song that didn’t exist yet in 1984.

Transfixed by the inner sound of your promise to be found, oh

Nothing or no-one will ever Make me let you down

Kiss them for me, I may be delayed Kiss them for me, if I am delayed

September 9, 2014

Last Day

Filed under: Detroit,Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 8:25 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

“Ha! There he is, there’s the kid! You ready to go?”
Walt looked at his grandfather who he had not seen in a few months that had been stored away in a nursing home in suburban Detroit. Eddy was wearing a white summer suit, with white shoes and a white hat. He was sitting on his side of the room that had been his home for close to six months. The television was so loud that one could hear it half way down the hall. Eddy grabbed the remote control off of the nightstand of his cellmate who had the blaring volume going night and day. Eddy turned off the television, opened the window, which was always closed with drawn blinds and dropped the remote control to the ground below. Eddy’s roommate looked at him incredulously as he leaned forward and said the first few words uttered between them for close to a half-year.
“I know you’re not deaf. You’re just an asshole. Nobody visits you or likes you and so you keep that idiot box as loud as you possibly can stand for companionship. Peter Francis Geraci doesn’t know you or give a fuck about you… You following me? Are you Dracula? What’s with the blinds always being drawn and the windows never open? You are a selfish fuck, Seymour. I leave you with no television for the time being and a wide-open window. Enjoy the sun. You won’t get much when they bury your ass in the ground… I’m ready, Wally.”
The plan was for Walt to visit his grandfather who served as his father. Walt was living in Chicago and could not get to Detroit often enough to see the man who served as his dad, his whole life.
Eddy lived through The Great Depression as a child only to be sent to the Pacific during World War II for five years as a young adult. He raised two children and then raised two children belonging to his son who was unwilling and incapable of being a dad and father. Wally felt guilt over letting his grandfather rot in a nursing home and upon hearing that his aspiration Pneumonia was incurable, Wally intended on getting Eddy to his home in Chicago to live out his days with someone who knew him and loved him. Wally wasn’t ready to receive a feisty man capable of walking. He had heard from the person in charge of the nursing home that his grandfather was bedridden and incapable of walking anymore.
“You rented a Corvette?! That’s a good way to go, m’boy. It’s the car that is clearly American that the Krauts and Japs cannot bury… Put the top down on this honey.”
“Where are we going, grandpa? They told me you have trouble breathing and no longer could walk. Where do you wanna go?”
Walt had heard that terminally ill patients sometimes have a day unlike any day that they have had in years. Eddy was having one. Eddy wanted to see a baseball game.
Walt and Eddy sat out in the right field bleachers at Comerica Park where the Detroit Tigers play. Eddy sat smiling with his white Pork Pie hat and horned rimmed sunglasses. It was a sunny day with low humidity.
“When you’re young, you don’t think about a beautiful day like this. You’re gonna have a million more. You’re gonna live forever and old age is for other people but not for you. I got Malaria twice in my twenties during the war and my feet were so rotten from being in wet boots during the war, living on shit food and no sleep and I never thought I would be killed. Politicians send young men to fight their battles because young men think they’re invincible… You still invincible?”
Walt didn’t feel invincible any longer. Being in his forties, he knew that life was getting shorter by the day.
“As a young boy, I saw Ty Cobb play. I didn’t realize for a long time who he was and what he meant to the game and ball in Detroit… I said I would never come to this newfangled place but I gotta say that this is all right… Nice park.”
Eddy hacked and hacked and hocked up a clam and spit it in his empty beer cup. Wally watched his grandfather carefully. Eddy noticed the look of concern on his grandson’s face and lightened the moment with an old tongue twister.
“It’s not the coughing often. It’s the coffin they carry you off in…”
Eddy refused to walk around with an oxygen tank. After the game, they went to eat at a restaurant in Greektown. Eddy ordered some flaming cheese and only had a bite. Solid food was hard for him to swallow. Food sometimes went down to his lungs instead of to his stomach and the chance of choking was always high. Eddy had a red wine and smiled. Walt didn’t know what to do with his grandfather next and so he asked.
“I’d like to go to a strip club… There’s nothing more beautiful than the female body. Your grandmother was a rare beauty back in the day. Nice smile, nice legs… and real firm tits. Tits are an amazing thing. You can’t properly fuck them but they feel nice to touch the way a kid pets a dog or a rabbit… They just feel nice.”
The duo found a strip club around the corner. On the door of the place was a sign that said, “Tits and Tigers- get a free beer and half price lap dance with a Detroit Tigers ticket stub”. Walt drank his beer while a young woman writhed around on top of his grandfather while he groped her breasts and kissed her neck. Within an hour, they were back in the Corvette.
“I used to go to dance halls before the war. I’d meet a new girl every week. I always made that girl feel like a queen for the day. Sometimes you’d get a little action and sometimes you got nothing. It was a lot like fishing. Sometimes you got a trophy and other times your didn’t get a bite… Swell gal today. Fake tits are interesting. They didn’t have such a thing back when I was young. They flopped a bit if they were big and that was fine… Things change.”
Walt didn’t know what to do with his grandfather. He started to drive back towards the nursing home when Eddy asked if they could drive clear across the state to see the sun set over Lake Michigan. It was late in the day and it would be close. Walt drove the Corvette as fast as he could down the interstate towards Holland, Michigan and arrived after the sun had set. Eddy smiled as the dimly lit sky turned to black.
“And that’s how life is… You think you have more time than you do. Each day is like a lifetime and the morning holds so much promise. As the sun begins to set, you realize time is short and everything you want to do is no longer possible… Everyday is like a lifetime and every time you fall asleep is a little like dying. You close your eyes and float away to a place within your own mind.”
Walt found a hotel room with two beds. Walt propped his grandfather upright so that he could breathe easier. The wall A/C unit provided white noise that allowed them both to fall asleep and prevented Walt from noticing the change in the breathing pattern of his grandfather. Walt awoke to find his grandfather gasping for air and unconscious. Walt felt guilty that he allowed his grandfather to talk him into a whirlwind tour in one day while being so sick. Walt called for an ambulance that took a long time to arrive. It seemed like hours. Walt asked Eddy to squeeze his hands but there was no response. Walt kept talking to Eddy in hopes of keeping him alive knowing that life was slipping away. He suddenly said things he wishes he had said before.
“I stopped hugging you and kissing you at the age of twelve because I thought that men didn’t do those things. I never thanked you for taking over where my parents failed. I thought I had more time to show my appreciation… Had I known you were going to check out today, I would have stayed up all night talking to you. You’ve lived 94 years but you could live 200 and I would still miss you and turn to you with questions and guidance. I’ve had you my whole life… and I will miss you more than I can say… I love you, grandpa.”
And with that, Eddy’s eyes opened for a full second and then closed and he stopped breathing. Life had ended. There would be no funeral service or a casket for Eddy. He was cremated and his remains placed in a marble urn with a death certificate. Before returning back to Chicago, Walt sat on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan on a warm summer night. The beach and park on the bluff was filled with people waiting to see the sun set on a beautiful day. Walt sat quietly with the urn next to him as the large ball grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared. A million stars appeared around a half moon. Eddy was somewhere among the stars that go on forever.

Edward Arthur Calahan Jr. 4-20-1920 to 8-30-14-
The greatest man you never met.

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.

August 23, 2010

Road Trip of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackhumouristpress @ 6:03 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Now Jack bought a one way ticket to Seattle, landed and took a cab to the suburb of Bellevue.  Down a dead end street on the second floor above a garage was the office of an elderly attorney who attended mass every morning at 9am then walked two miles to his office and began his day at 11am and then broke at noon for lunch.  Luckily for Jack, he showed up at 11:10am.  In the office were awards for racing Alfa Romeo cars back when the octogenarian had a full head of brown hair.

                “God damn computers.  Everything is computers and I hate these damn things…  You know anything about computers?” Asked the attorney.

                “Enough to do my job at home like a trained pony,” responded Jack.

                Jack listened to the man talk about the weather in Seattle and how he once had to visit Chicago for a court case.

                “Honest to god…  I get in the hotel and it stinks to high heaven of cigarettes and I was afraid I was going to catch something on my feet cause the carpet was so disgusting, you know what I mean?  So I’m walking around in my underwear and wingtip shoes.  I says to myself; this is ridiculous.  I went to court, then I sat at a jazz lounge til my flight left and never went back to Chicago.  Place is as flat as a board and is either too hot or too cold…  So let me ask you, what happened to your father-in-law?”

                Jack said very little as he packed up pictures and letters in a box to take back to his wife in Chicago.  Jack was there to pick up the automobile that once belonged to his father-in-law.  All Jack could think about was the little old man lying in a coffin with his eyes and mouth sewn shut.  A minister said some scripted, canned, semi-thought provoking words that he used over and over again about the celebration of life and god’s desire to call us all home at his discretion.  The closing of the casket and dropping into the ground and covering the casket with dirt and then the realization that generations and generations of people were placed in underground tombs for as far as the eye could see.  A little old man whose job meant more to him than his family, died and was remembered by four people on a late summer day and then that was it.

                “I don’t envy you, young man.  That is one helluva drive to make in two days.  Why don’t you take your time?”

                “Because I’m an American and as an American, it is necessary to rush through life so that we can get on with eternity and whatever that is exactly.”

                “Amen to that…”

                Jack was a hyperactive child back before ADD was a term and as a hyperactive adult, he did not relish the idea of sitting in a vehicle for thirty four hours.  Google said that it took thirty four hours at fifty five miles an hour.  Jack thought that if he could just average eighty miles an hour, he could shave the trip down to twenty six hours and twenty five minutes.  Jack wondered what he would think about for the better part of two days while driving east on interstate 90.  Jack had a habit of talking out loud to himself whenever he was alone and so he did.  It gave him something to do.

                “How come it is that whenever you get out of a big city, there’s nothing but Country Music stations?  How is it that I’m less than 100 miles from the Canadian border and everyone sounds like they’re from Alabama… For fuck’s sake.”

                “Two hours into this bitch and my hip hurts on my left side and I need a coffee.  I need a coffee so I can stay awake and then I’ll need to piss and then that will kill my time.  I could try to piss in a bottle but then I gotta worry about truckers or old people in RVs  watching me piss and then they’ll think I’m playing with myself and will wind up calling the highway patrol .  Fuck it, I’ll go to the rest stops but I hate them cause they’re overrun with fat people who picnic under signs of some monument to Sitting Bull or George Custer at an interstate bathroom.  George Custer fought people who once came from people in Asia who crossed an ice bridge and then they stopped looking Asian and migrated all over the hemisphere.  We mark the land were whites and Indians fought by building rest stops off of interstates. Now Indians own casinos where old white people in RVs pull up to eat at the all you can eat buffet and waste their pensions at slot machines with their air tanks, while smoking and drinking.  I would say the Indians win on this battle…  Casinos…  Everyone knows you have to smoke while you drink and drinking makes you feel as though you really can beat the odds.  Then while you’re sitting there quietly listening to the sounds of the slot machine give you double diamonds, a cherry and a seven and then you look over at the old lady you’ve been with since the Korean War and wonder what happened.  How did I get so old?  How did she get so old?  What happened to her face, tits and ass?  How did my life pass so fast and I never really did anything except what I was expected to do?  I had dreams and plans and never really got around to them and now I’m spending my vacation at an Indian casino…”

Jack then thought seriously about death without speaking.  He wondered what would be best when the day came.  Cremation did not sound so nice to him and the idea of being in a box and then the lid closed and then being placed six feet into the ground with no light or air, sounded almost worse than being made into ashes.  These sorts of thoughts never came to Jack until the funeral of his father-in-law and since then it was all he could think about whenever pondering the future.  The future was a highway like an interstate and although it seemed long, somewhere along the highway, there would be an exit with his name on it.

                Jack pulled off the highway at a rest stop and marveled at the variety of people that were hurrying up to rid themselves of matter from their bodies.  The old biker couples who had matching leather outfits made by Harley Davidson, bandanas by Harley Davidson, bikes by Harley Davidson and spiked dog collar made by Harley Davidson while they sat under the shade of a tree fifteen feet from their deluxe touring bike with an air conditioned side car for their pet.  A blond haired Minnesota woman with a modified Swedish accent that became a common American dialect if you happen to be from Duluth wore her hair and clothes much the way women did twenty years ago in places like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles.  A portly trucker with large side burns wore a sweat soaked cowboy hat.  He stood head pointed up towards the sun with his eyes closed as he took drags of a cigarette and sips of the seventy five cent coffee made out of a vending machine.  Children under ten yelled to one another and ran around the grass while older children sent text messages.  Jack sat in a pair of shorts and a t shirt that said, “I’d rather be in Cleveland”.  He opened the box of pictures and letters that were packed into the box by the attorney.  As Jack ate a cheese stick and beef jerky, he looked at pictures of anonymous people from the 1950’s.  They looked so attractive in suits and dresses.  It appeared they were at a picnic and showed up dressed to go dinner and dancing.  In the box were dozens of letters.  Jack opened a few as he ate.

                My Dearest Leon,

                                          I had such a great time today and am enjoying every moment of getting to know you and the essence of who you really are.  Taking a ride on the river with the Dixie Jazz band was a swell idea.  I can’t remember when I had a better evening.  The food, wine and music were perfect for such a humid night.  For late August, you’d never be able to believe that in a few short months, the ground will be covered with decaying leaves and snow.  We must take every moment for what it is and cherish it as a moment in time.  All we can hang on to are memories and as long as I have my mind, I will remember that our relationship took a definitive turn tonight.  Your hinting at what I may or may not want to do with the rest of my life was very sweet.  You caught me off guard actually.  I would like to spend the rest of my life with a man like you.

Yours truly and forever if you so choose- Dorothy

                There were pictures of Leon and Dorothy throughout the box as well as pictures of their friends and relatives and then their children.  Jack recognized the little girl who stood at waist level between her parents at some sort of a carnival.  A smiling toothless grin from the girl who would become his wife one day in between the two people that helped usher her into the world and aided her in becoming the person she grew to become.  Jack thought about the day when all he would be was a photograph in a box.  Then he snapped out of the deep thoughts and looked around and wondered when it was that people really got so fat.  When did people become morbidly obese, bloated characters of what a human is supposed to look like?  He wondered if it wasn’t some sort of population control by a hidden branch of the government by which the FDA approved fat laden foods, stuffed with hormones and chemicals so that people became very stupid, fat and lazy.  They would get heart disease, diabetes and fallen arches from the weight of it all and then pass on to make room for other beings and then possibly when birth rates lowered, the fat, chemical and hormonal levels in food would also level out.  Jack decided that had to be the plan.  Why else would grocery stores like Wholefoods be so expensive?  You would need an advance degree to get a job that would afford you the luxury of purchasing organic foods at extreme prices.  Weed out those that cannot contribute to society.  Poor and average people don’t have the resources to avert personal disaster.  Jack could no longer eat any more of the beef jerky. 

                “Pakistan…  They had biblical type floods in Pakistan.  They are our ally, right?  They have nuclear weapons and are harboring the creatures whose whole life purpose is to defeat the great evil which is America…  We’re going to send millions and millions of dollars to help people who detest us and when it’s all said and done, those at the grass roots level will recruit poor water logged people to do missions for their god against America…  Iran- they are a year away from having nuclear weapons?  What are the Israelis going to do about this?  What if Iran makes these weapons and gives them to terrorists or uses them against Israel?  Some guy under the age of forty just won an award for determining the rate at which the world is deteriorating? Sixty percent is irreversible damage caused by humans…  Like how could the Canadians be extracting oil in northern Alberta from sand and making huge bodies of tainted water that are a byproduct caused by pulling oil from deep in the earth?  Every ten seconds a cannon goes off to keep migratory birds from landing in the useless water and killing themselves.  This is all so I can pick up an eight cylinder vehicle in Seattle and drive it to Chicago without ever thinking about what goes into making this happen…  Well at least it’s a tremendous relief to know that Steven Tyler will be a judge on American Idol this year.  I just wasn’t sure how something so important to American society, was going to turn out…  Chicago 338 miles…  I’m glad we don’t use metrics yet.  Those numbers are always crazy.  1178 kilometers to Kenora…  Who goes to Kenora anyway?”

                Jack walked in after his child had gone to bed and his wife was watching a replay of The View.  The women were discussing a movie.  Jack’s wife turned and smiled for a moment before tuning back in to what was being discussed on the taped program.  Jack was gone for two days but conversed with his wife as if he had only just stepped out of the room for a moment.

                “Lucy…  I’m home.”

                “Well I’m glad you’re back okay…”

                “Yes it was a long journey…  And you never can tell where the road my lead to.  A trip like that will really make one ponder life and death and what it all really means…”

                “I’m sorry dear, I was listening to Whoopie.  Did you say something?”

                “I just said that a road trip will lead your mind to roam…  You know… Being on the road and all… Life, death the future… Stuff like that.”

                “I don’t understand what that means?”

                “And that’s fine…  What’s for dinner?”

September 8, 2009

Death a la Carte

Filed under: Short Story — blackhumouristpress @ 4:31 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The people who live off the interstate 94 north of Chicago between Dempster Street and Church street could not mistake the Mercury Marquis that hit a tree on the east side of the highway at 4 am on a Saturday morning.  It shook the windows and sound as if a bomb exploded.

Terrance Caldwell was thirty nine years old and was born and raised on the south side of Chicago in an area that had been primarily black since World War I.  Terrance showed so much promise as a young man.  He attended Malcolm X College to study business and wound up a heroin addict.  Terrance went from flopping in abandon homes to robbing people and stealing things until he wound up in jail for a few years and then later again for a few more.

When they found the heavy built eight cylinder automobile that was built with pride in Windsor, Ontario for Ford, it was cleaved in half right up the middle.  The police and curious neighbors, found belongings and body parts in the parkway adjacent to the expressway.  Terrance was a wreck when they found him one hundred or more feet from the burning vehicle.  Terrance had been drinking hard alcohol and took some pills before deciding to drive north to get his daughter from his ex-common law wife’s apartment north of Chicago.  Luckily for the little girl, Terrance never made it.

Terrance’s parents were both bust outs if you will.  The job of rearing Terrance became that of his aunt Matilda who was a small bowl legged black woman that never missed a day of church in over thirty years.  Her white wooden house was a show case of days long since gone.  Porcellin figurines, doilies and pictures of her soldier husband from World War II filled the immaculate living room.  Terrance was actually the grand son of Matilda’s sister who had died fifteen years earlier.  Terrance was dropped off by his mother at Matilda’s door when he was four years old and never returned.

Matilda did all she could and tried to instill good Christian values in the young man but he ultimately fell victim to the allure of quick money from other young men without strong male figures to guide them in their neighborhood.  When Matilda got the news from the state police that Terrance had died, she was of course grief stricken but relieved that a troubled life was finally at peace.

Matilda’s husband had believed in hard work and saving money.  He remembered stories from old people when he was young, people who remembered slavery and being a slave.  Those were people who had nothing and owned nothing and it was important to own things rather than being owned and so Jacob, Matilda’s husband purchased a final resting place for his extended family.  There just happened to be space for Terrance at the plot purchased by Jacob in 1958.

It had just been two months since a neighboring cemetery was under investigation for a scam where by cemetery workers were digging up the long since dead, discarding their remains and reselling the plot.  As Matilda drove up in the cab along 127th Street, she could see the Illinois State Police camped out in front of the neighboring Burr Oak Cemetary.  Across the stree, Matilda came into the office of the Lincoln Cemetery which was named after a man who had been a president of the United States, lived in Illinois and pissed off a lot of white southerners by declaring all blacks in the confederacy free.  The blacks in the union were already free and the declaration never really freed one black man at the time but it sounded pretty good or as the saying goes; looked good on paper.

A well dressed young black man ushered Matilda into an office and offered his condolences before hitting her with the fees.  It had been over twenty five years since Matilda had to bury a relative in the family plot.  A lot had changed since 1984.

“Now ma’am…  We will work all this out with the funeral home.  This is a one stop shop operation if you will.  The funeral home will do all the preparation of your loved one.  The charge for the services of the funeral director and staff is for their response to initial service, conference with yourself… The responsible party to determine all services required at this time, cooridination plans involved in the final disposition of the deceased, recording vital statistics, securing permits, authorizations, filling out and obtaining the death certification and any other forms necessary at this time.  The charge for this also includes services of the funeral director and the staff for the coordination and direction of the wake and visitation service, funeral service, handling of the flowers and any and all other memorial tributes, the supervision of the burial and any other requested and or necessary services…  I’ll need your signature here and down here and initial that you understand all that I have just explained to you,” said the facilitator.

There were several words that sound as if they could be strung together to make a sentence that would have been familiar to Matilda’s ears but for the most part much of what the young man explained, did not resemble the English language.

“Now then Ma’am…  Embalming…  Embalming is not required by law but it may be necessary if you opt for a viewing…” said the facilitator.

“Well…  I ain’t so sure I want people to be seeing Terrance.  He got into a terrible accident and well the po-lice were able to git most his parts together but he in terrible shape,” said Matilda.

“I understand ma’am.  Your other choice is cremation and then we can discuss burying the remains in your plot,” said the facilitator.

“Cremation!  I don’t know bout that, now.  Naw, I don’t think I want cremation for the boy.  You go ahead and do the embalming.”

“Now then…  Let’s go over the other fees.  The cost for visitation and viewing is $190.00.  For the use of the chapel which would accommodate a small group will be $325.00.  This includes transportation of the remains and set up fee for the church services.  The cost to transfer the remains is a flat fee of $325.00 within twenty five miles.  Anything beyond twenty five miles is a .75 cent per mile charge above that,” said the facilitator.

“You all running a cab service?  Y’all nickel and diming me til I’m in the dang gone ground…  I’m jus glad mah Jacob done took care of my costs foh me befoh he die.  Ida hafta git a job now jus to pay foh ma own funeral…  Go head then young man, let me have it,” said Matilda.

“Yes…  The acknowledgement cards are $20.00 per 100 cards,” said the facilitator.

“Ima have mah self an three other old ladies an that’s that.  I ain’t got no use foh no 100 cards,” said Matilda.

“I understand ma’am but $20.00 is the minimum,”

“Fine.  Go head befoh you burying me.”

“The registry book is $20.00, pallbearer’s gloves are $20.00, limousine is $375.00 from the funeral home to the cemetery… Let’s see what else we have then…  The minister cost is $95.00, the organist is $95.00 as well as the soloist except on Saturdays then they each charge $125.00.  A men’s suit cost is $150.00 and come in either blue or black but we now have white available…  I believe that is so, let me just make a quick call…  Mary, do we have white male suits available now?  That’s what I thought, thanks…  Yes, we do have white and the cost for that is $200.00 and that includes the white leather shoes…” said the facilitator with a smile.

“You ain’t told me yet bout the caskets,” said Matilda.

“Yes, yes…  We have this very nice ornate casket that goes for $2500.00 and can go up with accessories up to $9,298.00 for everything which would include a music box of your love one’s favorite song, mirrors and gold handles with his initials engraved upon them,” said the facilitator.

“Imma take the one you got here foh $350.00.  He dead and he won’t mind.  Tally all this up, young man.  Let’s git this finished today,” said Matilda as she removed and envelope stocked with one hundred dollar bills.

The visitation and funeral was attended by Matilda and three of her friends from the Baptist Church.  Matilda opted to use the funeral home minister, organist and singer for the ten minute service at the funeral home since it was cheaper than what her own minister would have charged and then Matilda would have had to feed everyone in attendance from the whole church.

At the grave site, five chairs were set up for the old ladies to sit and hear the canned words from a stranger as the remains of Terrance were lowered into the ground.  Matilda cried as the fat black man sang, How Great Thou Art, in a deep baritone.  Three Mexican men shovelled dirt onto the casket as the four old ladies waddled off in their nice dresses and hats.  Matilda ordered the limousine driver to take them to Chinatown.  It was a surprise snap decision by Matilda.  The old ladies questioned the choice.  Matilda had a simple response.

“Back when that boy had his whole life ahead of him and I could still reach him, he would aks me to take him to Chinatown to eat if he was good…  I want him to know where ever it is he wind up that he was always good to me.  He done broke mah heart but was always respectful…  An I don’t want no complaints bout nothing from any y’all.  I’m paying.  Food always find a way to taste good when it free…  Amen.”

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