11 July 2012

Cochise and a Chaser – Shove This

“D'you hear that bellerin' of that ghost inside? That'd be the ghost right inside yer' gut. Lonesome ghostie, id'n it? Root 'round and come up empty. Ghosts always comin' up empty.”

Those would be the words of Mayer. Mayer and his ducks would wander for hours outside my house by the river, in the days when I ate more cheese and drank that stuff that the big-gut man called “kirsch,” except it wasn't really kirsch. Dig? Mayer asked me questions without end, it seemed, and most of them made me feel scared or lonely or tired or small or wanting to have another big handful of pills – especially the white ones, which, when taken with enough vodka will make you feel like a red-chested Indian chief and sing like Ethel-freaking-Merman.

“What're you gonna' think about on yer' deathbed?” Mayer would ask me. “Yer' golf game gonna' give you comfort on yer deathbed? Yer' damned buddha with the stickin'-ey-out rubby belly? That damned buddha? That damned buddha gonna' give you comfort on yer' deathbed? Yer' money? You ain't got enough, and if you did, would it give you comfort on yer' deathbed? Comfort on yer deathbed?”

I would have thought Mayer had an unhealthy preoccupation with deathbeds, but I knew better. His son had died and on a fish-cold, gape eyed, hound-shrieking night took to wildly screaming on his deathbed – screaming to God and screaming about how he didn't spend any time taking a whole range of particular questions seriously. These were questions that the nuns in grade school had asked him and which he had grown to think of as being rather silly. But as he laid there on his deathbed, he realized that the questions were perfectly rational and that the nuns were not as silly as he had thought.

Neither were the questions silly.

So his son laid there on his deathbed, screaming about how stupid he felt, now that the end was drawing near and about how he had wasted a lot of time and energy pursuing other questions that were now seen to be the truly silly ones.

“Automatic or manual transmission?”

“Do we send Trent Jr. to a Montessori school?”

“Paris or London this spring?”

“Should I just let it go gray?”

“Single or double breasted?”

“Straight up or on the rocks?”

This last question, although falling into the “silly” category when seen from a long point of view, was actually one of the more practical ones. Sadly, the son probably did not consider that question quite enough.

Anyhow, the deathbed is sometimes sweaty, sometimes hot and dry, sometimes cold and scary as hell. The deathbed is sometimes a bed, sometimes a car seat, sometimes the pavement, sometimes clutching the cool porcelain of a toilet bowl. Sometimes watching as a fright-wigged clown knifes you in the back lot of a trailer park while a kid looking like Opey Taylor plays with a paddleball. Deathbeds come in all different shapes and sizes and we are always surprised at the different forms they take. Whatever the deathbed, there is always a heart ready to lament the questions of life that went sadly unanswered and (more sadly) unasked.

Have you found the key?

Like a tin of sardines, like the Vicar said. Is there some stuck in the corner? Some you can't quite get to? Is there some in the corner of your life? I know there is in mine.

And then I return to the voice of Mayer as he strolls past my old house; as he strolls past with his ducks and wanders for hours outside. Mayer stuffing fast as he rolls and he rolls, and strolls with his ducks – Mayer and a lonesome ghost, like ghosts always are. Ghost in your gut, like the Mayer-man thinks; handful of pills and Mayer-man stinks.

“D'you hear that bellerin' of that ghost inside? That'd be the ghost right inside yer' gut. Lonesome ghostie, id'n it? Root 'round and come up empty. Ghosts always comin' up empty.”

Ghosts are always coming up empty.

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