David read the news of Bill's death over a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, and as he slowly chewed the sweet little nuggets of crispy, fruity goodness he tried to imagine what the man had been like. That was one of David's favorite pastimes, you know – reading the obituaries of people he did not know and trying to construct a personality for a complete stranger. The only hobby he had that he enjoyed more than that was the construction of scale models of urban settings using household items, caulk and tempera paint. He had once re-created the entire central business district of Durango, Colorado using dried pasta, matchboxes and shot glasses, and his great dream was to use a pair of kitchen colanders, out-of-date desk calendars and dental floss to construct a diorama of downtown Albany, complete with that wonderful Mexican restaurant just off of Swan Street . Next to these undertakings, David loved his post-mortem identity creation more than anything.
As he read of Bill's life and his family and his service to the school board, one corner of the newspaper dipped slowly into the rice milk with the remnants of Fruity Pebbles floating in it. Like a wick, the newspaper took up the rice milk and before David was aware of what was happening the whole corner of the newspaper was soaked through. He noticed that he could read the advertisement on the back side of the page he was reading, and so through the life story of Mrs. Edna Kimmer he saw a great deal on slab-cut bacon at the local Food-Rite. Mr. William Storey, late of Stethem Street, had a backwards “$2.98 / lb.” across his black and white, half-toned forehead. David found this somehow strangely prophetic in a retroactive sort of way...as though he were a priest of some ancient culture, pulling through the innards of a stag to divine the future, yet rather he looked through newsprint soggy with rice milk and chemical flavorings to read the past of freshly-dead humans.
“Worthless! Worthless!” cried David, upending the breakfast table and sending a multi-hued shower of crisped rice across the kitchen. The Fruity Pebbles flew in an arc through the air, creating a veritable rainbow. A dozen super-heated memories went screaming through his brain, and his body shivered with each face that passed before his mind's eye. He had been told a long time ago that when a person shivers for no reason at all it means that someone is walking across the ground where your grave will one day be. He thought about this now, and he shivered again...he thought about where that ground might be, and he wondered why people were walking there right now. Memories of his father's funeral shot past thoughts of the last time he went to confession as a young man in Schenectady. The sound of Mudhoney bounced off of memories of his trip to Eugene, Oregon before the war.
“The only way out of this mess called life,” he shouted, “is through the grave and gate of death!” It had been trampled, trampled, trampled down, but the images of a burnt-to-a-crisp Iraqi in the back of a white pick-up truck sure looked a lot like death was alive and well. Alive and well and living in suburban Chicago, if the undertaker is to be believed.
David spent the next eight minutes cleaning Fruity Pebbles off the linoleum. By the time he looked back at Bill's obituary, he saw that the rice milk had soaked clean through. “Two for one” could be read clearly through the words describing a life so well lived.