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Short stories

Death

He is dead. He cannot feel the bed underneath him or the blanket wrapped around him or the pillow that is propping up his head. He died in his sleep. Peacefully. His heart. He cannot move his arms, hands, fingers, or legs, feet, toes. This does not perplex him because he knows when you are dead you are dead. His mouth is open and he cannot close it. He is dead and there is nothing he can do about it. He is sure he is happy. Being dead. Happiness hitherto unknown. Incongruous. Ineffable. He doesn’t understand the happiness he is dead but he is sure that something is stirring not within you understand he is dead. He can’t believe it. Life is unfair. He’s dead but that happiness is everywhere. “Oh” and “Ah” fills the bedroom. “Ohhhhing” and “Ahhhhing” is the dead man’s widow. She, the widow, fell out of the bed and is now up and dancing, not dancing, her late husband is showing signs of rigor mortis.  “What I am going to do?” she says and adds “How am I going to live?” She lights a cigarette and smokesfuriously. He doesn’t complain. Smoke away. Cancer can’t harm me. I am dead. I am happy.  ‘The children and school and holidays and clothes and college and marriage and grandchildren” she says. A speck of worry fizzes as magnesium in water. “Who’s going to pay for the funeral” she adds “I mean a funeral nowadays is more expensive than a home or a car or a holiday.” The miasma once so thick and beautiful is nothing more than a diaphanous cloud of smoke and is swept away with an opened hand and that turns to a pointing finger. The fingertips and toeends itch. “A coffin is very expensive” she says “And the tombstone and the flowers and the cars to take us to the church and the church and the priest and the food and the booze and I hope Uncle Toby doesn’t get too drunk and cause a punchup.” He remembers his mother. He remembers his side of the family. He opens his eyes. He wants to shout I want stay dead. He doesn’t want to get up, brush his teeth, empty his bladder, dress, go down the stairs, turn on the television, have breakfast, and then go to work. Work. He forgot about work. Work. The time! He’s going to be late for work. “They will want a free bar,” she says.  A poke. A kick. A punch. Surge impels. Electricity flows. Anger.  Depression. Disappointment. He coughs. Clears his throat. He says “I want death.”  His wife says “I knew you were playacting” and pulls the blanket from him and the pillow that was propping up his head. He sniffs, quaffs the air, snorts, runs his tongue along his bottom teeth, scratches his balls, scratches his arse, readjusts the soft penis, farts, and wiggles his toes.

Paul Kavanagh

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