What took you so long?

Welcome. I've been waiting for you to show up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Death App

Scene opens in the conference room of a high-tech software company somewhere in America.
Joe: It doesn’t have a name yet. Creative is working on that right now. So, for the time being, we’ll just call it the “Death App.”
Max: That’s godawful!
Joe: I know. That’s why Creative is…
Max: Okay, okay. Let’s hear the pitch, already.
Joe: Start to finish?
Max: Yes… hang on a sec.. Donna, would you please bring in some Danish?
Joe: And coffee creamer.
Max: Okay, so start to finish.
Joe: I designed this application for the iPhone platform. But if Blackberry wants it, I can tweak it for them.
Max: (enthusiastically) Good. Great! That’s our top two target markets.
Joe: This app will automatically send a text message to everyone in the owner’s contact list the moment he dies. The text will be the dying guy’s last words!
Max: What if the owner dies suddenly and can’t type the text?
Joe: Ah, that is the beauty part. The owner pre-writes his or her dying words! The app stores them and releases them at the moment of death.
Max: That’s fucking brilliant except for one small problem, which is how the fuck is a cell phone going to know when I die?
Joe. It will know, Max. It will know you’re dead before you do.
Max: What…(laughs) is this app an effing coroner?
Joe: Better, Max. When you die, your soul will leave your body and be sucked into your cell phone where it will activate the app. A moment later your dying words will go to the four corners of the Earth. Even beyond, if you like, to alert your departed loved ones that you are on the way to join them.
Max: (stunned silence for several beats) How soon can we start to market this?
Joe: Creative’s on it. We’ll have a name this afternoon.
Max: You crazy genius, you! Goddamn! Come on, I’m buying lunch.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Death Pays a Visit

Death paid me a visit today. I said, "How do I know you're the real Death and not some second rate punter who will just make me sick?"
Death waved a veiny arm out my kitchen window,and a dowager squirrel fell from the crepe myrtle tree into the birdbath.
"She was old when we moved in here ten years ago," I scoffed. "I could have told you myself that this cold snap would finish her off."
Death pointed at the rib-eye steaks thawing on my kitchen counter and they shriveled, emitting a rank odor.
"Pretty good, but not yet what I'd call definitive proof," I said. "A reaper-in-training could have done that."
"Get in your car and drive me over to the Wal-Mart," Death commanded.
"Yes, your Grayness," I replied, quickly heading to the driveway.
Traffic was light, and we arrived in no time flat.

"Watch this," Death said. He exited my car without even opening the door, glided over to a robust young man collecting the shopping carts from the cart corral, and Zap! The fellow careened into unconsciousness.
"Ha!" I yelled. "You used a taser! I saw you! You're not the real deal. You're a fake!"
With that I jerked the wheel and peeled rubber out of there. I know I can't out run Death. I know He will locate me faster than a scorned ex-wife with GPS. It's just that I expected more finesse than cheesy tricks.
I mean, we all hope for a little dignity at the end, don't we? We get prepped for the big finale, and we don't want the guy who turns up with the scythe to be Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy.
We want the Reaper Himself, with the full sweep of history on his resume. Dammit, I want the cold hand that touches me to be the same hand that touched Moses and Jimi Hendrix.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Three Hearts Beating

Do you remember that time when you took me down to the river, and your sister called me your “Brazilian slide?”
I remember that shad were schooling in silvery clouds just below the surface -- the first I’d ever seen.
I sat on the old, grayed boards of the pier, letting my feet cool in the river until you and she came to join me with a pint of Old Forester.
We passed it around, and you continued some good-natured argument from your childhood about who’d done what to whom, while the sunset rouged your faces.
Stars came out, the pint was empty and we slept there on the rough wood of the pier in a pile, like puppies, until the damp woke us.
When we went in the cabin, we left the lights off and tumbled onto her bed, and all I could hear of the world was soft lapping of water and our three hearts beating.


I remember how you collected plastic pop bottles, and when there were a dozen, we formed an assembly line. Your sister sprayed them with hot pink paint, I tied reflective tape from the neighboring coal mine around the bottles, and you attached hooks, lines and sinkers to every one.
Later, in the flat-bottom boat, we baited each bottle-float with spoiled chicken livers meat and threw them overboard for catfish. Then we waited in the dark, leaning back against the sides of the boat, wishing on meteorites.
When a bottle started to bob and weave, we paddled after it, whooping and scooping it up along with a splashing blue- or channel-cat.
Even if you don't remember, I wanted you to know that you will never see me happier than I was back then, on those summer-soaked river nights, laughing at the stars, not ever.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Word A Day

He learns one word for every word he is forgetting.
Tremulous took the place of a brother's name,
and yesterday, when he blanked on the cities
where he grew up, he learned the meanings
of lambent and marcescent.

He walks outside in a green summer wind and says,
“I, with my tremulous legs and marcescent arms,
still love the garden’s lambent light.”
Words had begun slipping away from him
years before when he thought nothing of it,
as those were unimportant authors
or cookie cutter actresses,
but newer subtractions frightened him
and he self-medicated with Greek root-words
with subtle meanings.

When the subtracting cost him Janet –
his daughter’s name – he substituted stygian,
and when he could not locate Faulkner
in his mental Rolodex,
he wept and called out calumny.
“Growing old,” he told his nameless family,
“is like the Mariana Trench: The dark is bottomless.”