‘Til Death Do Us Party by Kelly Schrock
The worst part about being dead is you get invited to all these parties. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they’re pretty fun. But there’s this persistent thought that you only know so many people who are going to die, that there’re only so many people to send off into the land of still hearts with cheers and tears and irreverent eulogies. A nagging knowledge that one day you’ll run out of people who will even remember your name – much less to invite you.
Then there’s this dancing around the question, “Do they know they’re dead?” You’d think everyone would know that they’ve had their brains blown out or wasted away in the cancer ward, but they don’t. There’s a firm, unspoken rule that you never tell the clueless dearly departed about their breathless state. They’ll figure it out in their own time. It’s rude to rush them.
I remember one time early on there was this guy; I don’t remember his name now. He was clearly a newcomer still trying to figure out if he could walk through walls (you can’t) and contact the living (sometimes you can, but why?). Anyway, some ancient mutual acquaintance dies, and we’re eating white cake and drinking some weird German booze that was a favorite of the decrepit deceased. We’re all doing our rounds, you know, “Nice to see you, Jim. It’s been ages. How are you doing?” And Jim doesn’t know. So we don’t tell him. It’s obvious from the glazed unconcerned confusion in his eyes, but it’s pretty easy to ask, “How are you doing?” and if someone doesn’t say “Dead” you don’t mention anything. But this stupid new-timer marches in, claps Jim on his frail, wrinkled shoulder and booms, “Welcome to the afterlife, buddy, I thought you’d never die!”
Jim, of course, goes off on him. Breaks his nose right there, blood all over the white cake. It was pretty impressive for such an old dude.
After the anger simmered down Jim stopped talking to anyone. He stared blank at his hands going, “It’s a joke. A cruel joke.” Over and over. When I leave he’s still mumbling his mantra, tears rolling down his wrinkled cheeks.
Bucky’s party is probably the worst I’ve been to since I passed out drinking penny royal tea cursing my ex, my bad luck, my own fertile body, and woke up to my grandmother beaming, “Welcome home!”
• • •
Unlike me, it wasn’t Bucky’s fault. Unlike me, he was full of life. He was one of those people so full of exuberance it’s tiring to be around them. A rarity in the punk scene rife with cynics whose best excitement is getting drunk and angry at eviction parties. Bucky loved everything: flowers, cool-looking moss, abandoned buildings, the moon, every kind of food, graffiti, really gross blisters. He’d talk to toothless men begging on the streets, share his pocket whisky with them. He was on a first-name basis with all the homeless who hung out on the corner by our work.
He even loved me. Not that I was good enough. Not that I returned it. Not that I knew how. My heart too crippled, beating all arrhythmic and blowing up like a backfiring car over every little thing. I was jealous, untrusting, cagey, disloyal. I was a liar, cheater, thief. I was hung up on the asshole who scarred my face, even after he left me for his stepsister. EX-stepsister... I can still hear him correct me, our parents were never technically married.
‘Til Death Do Us Party
Call for Help
What Pavel Found
The Girl in the Glass Case
The Teacher’s Connection
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