Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hot August Death

It's a hot August night, reminiscent of a marathon 10 night concert in L.A. from which melodic sounds of Neil Diamond's immortal performance created musical perfection. A screech from a pair of alley cats tussling over a discarded scrap of Mackerel cuts an incision through the din of the city.

A single bead of sweat makes it's way down the temple of a robust, balding man in a dingy white wife beater, as he takes another slow drag from the stump of a cigarette perched between his index finger and thumb. The tattered nylon lawn chair that squats on his stoop groans under his weight as he shifts from right ass cheek to left. A vacant brown bottle lies on it's side, devoid of the amber liquid it once held, while a slight breeze investigates the area and coaxes the bottle into mobility. It quickly surrenders, rattling forward. Suddenly weary of this activity, the breeze moves on, the bottle falls still.

The man flicks the cottony, tar-stained butt of the cigarette towards the sidewalk. It comes to rest near a black ant passing by who wonders, as chicken little did, why the sky is falling. Unconcerned, he continues his quest to find a morsel of food to take back to the colony. The man considers striking up another cig only to have his thought interrupted by the shrill voice of his wife in his head. "Those things are going to kill you some day." The tobacco demands of him, "just one more, I promise I won't tell her." He shakes his head, places the cigarette in his mouth, and strikes the lighter. Instantly, deep within the confines of his thoracic cavity his heart insists on proving the wife's point, it goes into a spasm. The lighter drops from his hand as he clutches his chest in pain, the cigarette still dangling from his lip. He reaches down to pick up the lighter, determined to finish what he started. With the need to prove the point now, the cardio muscles clamp down even tighter as he bends. The inertia from his lean combined with another simultaneous spasm of his heart propels him forward out of the chair and onto the stoop, narrowly avoiding a fall down the steps. He winces in pain as he gasps for air, his lungs have now decided to get in on the act. You see they too have a vendetta for the years of pollutants forced upon them relentlessly. He makes a feeble attempt to call out for assistance, but his lungs won't cooperate, slowly they deflate themselves squeezing the last bit of carbon dioxide out of the grey bubbles that comprise their structure. Even should his lungs be willing to complete their task, it would not matter, for his companion sits in her flower patterned house coat in front of the television, the volume turned up due to deafness that inflicts her ears.

Lying on the stoop, dying on the stoop, he never planned to go like this, he had high hopes for his life, he had plans. Reflections of his life pass through his thoughts. He finds it interesting how they always said that this is what happens when you begin the journey to the great beyond, and suddenly here he lies, his life literally flashing before his eyes. So many wrong turns, so many opportunities passed on, leaving him here. 56 years old and dying in the heat of an August night. Just as Neil's concerts wouldn't soon be forgotten in the minds of some, he too will have those who recall him with fondness. His wife, his daughter who only comes to visit occasionally out of obligation. The occasional friend who would stop by to share a beer and talk about how things used to be. These are the people who will be affected by his demise. These are those who will say I remembered him when. But now here he lies, his years of gluttony and inactivity evident in the lump of fat and flesh that is his stomach, exposed from under his shirt, lying on the cement of a stoop that has seen better days just as he had.

One last gasp, hoping to raise the call of someone who isn't listening, he inhales with every fiber of his stricken being, but to no avail. One last thump in his chest and the blood ceases to run the course it was pre-destined to follow through the highways of his body, thus sustaining life.

A passerby sees the now inanimate lump of flesh lying in the hot darkness of the city and he calls out "are you ok?" No reply, not a sound nor a movement. Reluctant, yet driven by the nature of humans to help another, he cautiously approaches the slumped body, making a quick determination that things are not right and he begins to dial 911 at the same time knocking on a door to solicit help.

The wife shuffles to the door, yelling out "I told you not to lock the door behind you!" As she opens the portal she sees the stranger and the source of her irritation now lying lifeless on the stoop. Her demeanor immediately shifts to an emotion long since dead in her. No! No no no no, she exclaims. Dropping to her knees, sobbing she begins pounding on his chest exclaiming "why" as she reaches into the depths of her grey matter desperately trying to recall how to perform CPR. The stranger notes to her "the ambulance is on it's way" but she fails to hear anything but her own sobs.

In the distance a siren whines. The melodic sounds of Neil Diamond echo through the night air coming from the television in the flat that she must now inhabit alone.

1 comment:

Boyd said...

Very nice. Although I already expressed this verbally, I just wanted to express that I really liked this, and the main things I liked were the little insights into life: The wife, angrily coming to the door, only to realize what has happened, the regret at death, etc. Nicely done, Rich.