Baba has it all figured out. Her cremated remains will join Jiji’s and their mingling ashes will be divided between two desktop sphinxes formerly filled with cheap whiskey and presented to my grandfather for being a damn fine Mason. There’s already fake gold nameplates glued to the bases, no muss no fuss. My mom would get one, Lindy will get one, and Sugie… Well, Sugie didn’t make it to the family Christmas gathering this year so she’s shit out of luck.
Not everyone has their final resting place sorted out, but this is America and we’re a nation of innovative entrepreneurs. Convenient Pre-Purchase is a company that specializes in mail-order burial real estate, except when they’re specializing in ‘Pre-Pruchase’ as stated in the introductory paragraph of the letter. Which immediately follows my landlord’s misspelled name.
What locations! Convenient Pre-Purchase is partnered with over 250 franchise boneyards across half of the country. Gleaming mausoleum or eternal rest beneath a row of maples? Ordering your space today avoids the cost of inflation tomorrow and spares your idiot children from overspending to compensate for taking advantage of you their entire ungrateful lives. Everyone is pre-approved for a payment plan and you’ll never have to meet with a cemetery representative, unless you choose to. Twelve months of interest free financing will get the ball rolling. Perpetual Care Grounds Maintenance! Happy families beam at the camera, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be forced to make difficult decisions when Granny kicks the bucket.
‘If you are prepared in advance, you are not at the mercy of strangers during a difficult period in your life’ says Wendy B. from beyond the grave!
There’s checkboxes for veterans and folks who have family planted in the local grounds—no mention of a discount but no harm in asking. Unfortunately they don’t offer a 30-Day money-back guarantee (mail back the unused portion of your grave and keep the digital egg-beater as our gift to you), just their absolutely no obligation, free Cemetery Space Pre-Planning Information Kit.
We sincerely apologize if this mailing has come during a time of bereavement. Read more…
A man and a woman lean across the window table. Their voices hover just above the ambient soundscape of shifting chairs and espresso machines. Ed’s beginning to ask questions. He’s getting suspicious. The man vocalizes shrugged shoulders. I told you how it was going to be from the start. A jacket rustles, someone checking their phone, a period of silence. I’m trapped at the neighboring table thinking about jamming a pen through my eye.
Do I escape this dime store conspiracy? Throw everything in my backpack, send the chair screeching across the floor, excuse me, pardon me, carefully step over a purse and weave around elbows, find a table on the other side of the room. Spare my reddening ears this badly scripted torment but subject the back of my neck to suspicion.
No, I will sit and I will play deaf. I will wonder why sordid details of two strangers churn my stomach and pound in my chest. It’s going to get easier, the man says. A spoon hits porcelain, a glass slides over the tabletop. My pen hovers over paper in pursuit of a single thought while lips meet behind me. Look up and I will be exposed, a voyeur pretending to be hard at work while hanging on your every word. It’s not a choice I’m making. Your delicate plotting, the lies neither of you believe, an ability to blame others for your own actions, the next round of perfunctory kisses have all destroyed my ability to carry on. Life really is this terrible.
The woman collects her things and brushes past. The man waits for a minute, pokes at his phone, finishes his coffee and heads for the door. Read more…
Jaywalking across Haight, shaky from the lingering effects of a recent ailment exacerbated by the more immediate fallout from the previous night’s overindulgence. My head was buzzing with an attempt to re-assemble thoughts while my stomach was distributing a good-will antacid to the more blighted corners of my guts which is why, climbing the opposing curb and carrying on along the sidewalk, I didn’t twist my head to gawk. From the corner of my eye there appeared to be a contorted figure sandwiched between two parked cars, squatting or actually sitting, and I could hear a scrabbling and heavy breathing. Continuing without pause my mind groped for a reason, wondering if there was any possibility that in my fractured state I had hallucinated this person.
The antacid held out, aided by some delicate walking and vague prayers to no deities in particular– groceries were successfully procured, then cash from a nearby ATM. Cutting across Church in the middle of the block I had a strong sensation of deja vu, and my suspicions were confirmed moments later after gaining the sidewalk and turning right. Sandwiched between two parked cars, as observed by my peripheral vision, cowered another figure scrabbling and muttering. Being prepared for this second visitation you might think I would actually afford this vision my full attention but instinct was violently ringing four bells– an unmistakably wet sound splattered against the asphalt and I hurried on.
Continuing home I couldn’t shake the feeling that my humanity had just failed me. Assuming that this apparition was not the work of a chemical imbalance ruining my head I had ignored a sick person’s plight. Statistically speaking the gutter-squatter was bound to be a junkie, but compassionate folks don’t pick and choose based on stations of life. Safeway was right across the street– why couldn’t he (she?) have been wildly sick within the sanctity of their bathroom stalls? Of course, the bathrooms there often experience temporary closures not to mention that security tends to chase off obvious deviants before they find safe haven. Most of the stores and restaurants around here don’t even let customers use the bathroom because of problems. No, there’s no blaming the person spraying diarrhea between two parked cars on a busy street at six in the evening– only the hundred or so people who passed without a second thought.
What can you do? My immediate concern was that our helpless victim was soon going to find themselves in a tough situation when the pants were due back on. I wasn’t carrying any toilet paper or kleenex but I suppose I could have walked twenty feet for one of the innumerable free publications which provide that function and returned with a solution for containment. How would that conversation go? Hey, ah, I’m not watching you shit the curb but I couldn’t help but notice you might like to have something clean and dry to wipe before trying to get your pants back on. Anyone could have done that and anyone probably should have, but I’m probably a step ahead of the game when it comes to being prepared for this sort of thing.
Secreted in various pockets and containers on my person at all times are caches of Imodium. Of all people ignoring or secretly loathing the scum of the earth I should have the greatest empathy because I have often found myself impaired by digestive ailments. When your intestines have twisted into knots so severe you can’t stand up straight there’s a diminished capacity for behaving appropriately, rationally or gracefully and sometimes it’s only through the generosity and goodwill of others that you survive. Read more…