Now is the time when earth cracks her skirt like a whip and sends her dress up in flames The place where she strips down to her bones and dances fiercely with the stars Where instead of bundling up against bitterness she throws down her ashen cloak and covers ground with softness as air-akin as moth. Where she turns her naked face to the outer dark seared by stars and eyes of owls with sight so keen no mouse is safe in its warmest, most secret, most carefully padded nest Where all the labor of harvest comes to naught and death flies on furred wings across winter steal to grinning, starry heights Where she pauses to sing among bare barked trees that glow brown as dove breasts, and mauve as dusk, “It has ended! It has ended!” Then she rests, mute and hard, seemingly for eternity before she has to put her shoulder back to the sun-warmed, moss covered, millstone of life.
“That’s when Death decided he wanted to become a stand up comedian. The idea reverberated with rightness. This laughter thing was invented by humans, completely unforeseen by God. Immortals didn’t get it. That’s why he had to, because, a good joke was like a thunderclap, a convulsion of life and death coming together in perfect balance, a hybrid.”
I’m delighted to announce that my story, “Death’s Debut” appears in this month’s issue in Eclectica Magazine at eclectica.org. I hope you’ll check it out along with all the other excellent stories and poems published there. I’m proud to be published along side them.
The idea for the story came from three sources, watching my 91 year old father “rage against the dying of the light,” a book by Steve Martin called The
Ten, Make that Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make that Ten, and a folktale called “Death in a Nut” collected by Duncan and Linda Williamson from the Traveling People of Scotland. In this last story, a boy called Jack stuffs death in a nut and throws him out to sea to prevent him from carting off his mother. Chaos ensues. The idea that death might want to become a comedian was entirely my own.
My father curses when he can’t buckle his belt, or cut his food with a fork, or find the word for computer. “What the devil’s the matter with me?” he says.
“When I can’t find words, I wave my hands around like this,” I say. “Try it. It’s kind of fun.” Sometimes in my writing group (all women of a certain age) we all just wave our arms at each other.
Most days, the only silver lining of old age appears to be what little hair is left on my father’s head.
Fight fire with fire, mystery with mystery, death with laughter, I say. That’s why I wrote the story. I hope that one day, when death comes a knockin’, we’ll all be able to welcome him like a long lost friend.