“Yes, a play.”
“What you mean by ’a play’? Like with a stage?”
“What does that have to do with death?”
“That’s what we have to discover.”
Seven new people attended the day’s meeting of Club Death. I saw Carrie Unser sitting next to Brink. Brink whispered into her ear. Carrie feigned interest. I made a mental note: I would later inspect my feelings upon seeing that.
Frank sat in the back reading a book. I liked his distance. He was actually kind of cool. The rest all appeared attentive as Dawn and I talked.
“How did you come up with that?”
“I saw an advertisement for contest: “Write a play” it said. So I put it on the agenda and now we’re talking about it.”
“Did you put anything else on the agenda?”
“Can we see it?”
I rose slowly from my seat, stepped towards the white board and wrote out the agenda.
Agenda – Monday – Club Dead
“How about we move ’talk’ up to number one on the agenda?” Emig said this. Emig still huffed and puffed and drank slender cans of high-octane energy drinks. He did not talk quickly, but his taut body appeared ready for physical action. “I like when we talk.”
“I guess we can put that to a vote. What do you say members of Club Dead? Do we talk first and then discuss the play?”
“I’m new here. What do you talk about?”
“Do you want to join the club?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did you come?”
“That something cool happens here.”
“Who are you?”
“Is that a real name?”
“Why would I not give you my name?”
“Exactly my point.” I threw a look of ’see?’ to the members devoted to anonymity. “Well, we haven’t had many meetings, but so far we talk about death.”
“And don’t forget about the chant,” Emig said.
“Right, and we chant. But mostly talk. You seem comfortable talking.”
“I talk alright.” I can’t tell if Fretwell was a boy or a girl. Fretwell, not tall, has a body without curves. Fretwell’s brown hair touches his or her shoulders. The voice could be male of female. Fretwell’s right eye was closed.
“Do you want to get us going?”
“Okay. No one has died in my family. I don’t have a personal connection to death. I went to a field trip last year to a cemetery. I saw a tombstone that had my birth date. The date of death was 17 years and 110 days after the birth date. I freaked. I couldn’t shake the idea that it could be me. It makes me think I have only one year and sixteen days to live.”
“That’s when I’ll be 17 and 110 days old.”
“Was it a boy or a girl?” I couldn’t resist.
“I don’t know. All it said was Jerri. Ever since I’ve become a collector of adolescent death.”
“What do you mean ’collector’?”
“An archivist. I see stories in the newspaper, I clip them out and put them in a scrap book.”
“That’s pretty freaky,” Dawn said.
“Maybe,” Fretwell said, turning in the chair to look at Dawn. “But what’s freakier is my eye.”
“The closed one. Ever since that day in the cemetery my right eye has been closed.”
“Did it close on its own?” Emig asked.
“No. I closed it.”
“In preparation for death.”
“You, Fretwell, have found the right club to join.”
“That’s a very good story Fretwell. Welcome to Club Dead,” I said as a way to transition back to the talk of the play. “So the talking session has ended. Let’s move onto the play.”
“Hold it, that was no talk session,” said a boy with soiled Mega Death t-shirt and a curled upper lip. “Besides the play sounds gay.”
“Please don’t use that word that way. We have to be aware of how words can hurt.”
“Why, are you gay?”
“I may be. Though what I am isn’t the issue,” I said.
“Then the word shouldn’t hurt.”
“Look, there are certain words that are wrong to use.”
“And you’re going to be the one to say what we can and can’t say?”
“Yes. To a degree.”
“Oh right, says big president of the Club Dead.”
“Hey, look asshole, it’s the modern world. We don’t use that word like that. Haven’t you been listening for the past ten years? It’s wrong!” Brink said. “And what’s your name?”
“None of your business. Hey, prez, is ’asshole’ acceptable?” The boy sulked into his chair. I wondered if he would be future trouble.
I happily to yielded to Dawn. She was on a roll.
“And I make a motion that we move to part two. We can’t go on without names, even if they are fake. Anyone second the motion?”
I wondered if Dawn’s appearance belied academic excellence at Blissfield High.
The people in the room looked to be enjoying themselves.
“I second it,” said Brink.
“Let’s go around the room and have everyone say their name,” Dawn said.
The group loosened up. I sensed no resistance. I wrote down every name I can hear: Julia, Buskirk, Wilblishauer, Bayless, Becker, Holt, Green, Brink, Betsy, Zognorf, Carrie, Digangi, Tuttle, Dady, Feene, Gloria, Ed, Vermette, Tallie, Vink, Stacey, Koptiuch and Frank. I missed three, and had twelve from last meeting. I now had 37 names. I saw this as progress. We were becoming a group.
“Now what?” This came from the boy whom Brink just put in his place, now publically known as Tuttle. He sounded chastened.
“I like to think communication might be better.”
“We’re communicating fine,” Emig said.
“So, shall we talk about the play?” I said.
“I hate when people say ’shall’. It’s like you’re better than me. And what is it with you and the play!” Tuttle asked. So much for chastened.
“Will you not yell?” Dawn said. “Don’t you see that what CJ’s started is something we want?”
“I’m a yeller,” Tuttle said. He lowered his head.
“Well cut it out. Some people don’t like yelling.”
“I can try.”
“Do. Talk like a human.”
“I thought that was part of the point of this club – we’re not human,” Fretwell said.
“Hey look - we are human. Being obsessed about death doesn’t take that away,” Brink said.
“Okay, we’re human, we walk arm in arm with the grim reaper, but what’s this play about? How does it fit in?” Emig asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “But I know Mr. Blok is going to want something out of this club.”
“Who cares about Blok?”
“CJ, put that one next week’s agenda. Yelling. How this will be a no yelling club.”
“Who are you? I thought she was the leader?” Tuttle pointed at me.
“She is the vice-president of Club Dead and does as she likes,” I said.
Dawn’s eyes bulged, looked thoughtful, and then smiled.
“Now you have a ’vice-president’? What is this – school? I am so gone!” Tuttle yelled. The slammed door echoed definitely.
We looked around the room.
“That shouldn’t happen,” Emig said.
“We can’t pick and choose who joins,” Fretwell said.
“We didn’t choose anything,” Brink said. “He chose to bolt.”
“No, they’re right. That slam left bad vibes in here.”
“I’ll go find him,” Dawn said and left the room.
“Like a good lieutenant,” Brink said.
“Don’t be abusive Brink,” Fretwell said. He or she looked at the ceiling.
“I was just, oh, jeez this room is full of sensitive people,” Brink said.
“That’s correct. We are sensitive. You are sensitive. So let’s be sensitive.”
Quiet reigned for a few moments.
In the spirit of being productive, Brink spoke.
“You may think talking about death is a point, but Mr. Blok’s not going to go for that.”
“How do you know?”
“I know. And what’s the big deal if we write a play for part of the meeting? Twenty minutes.”
“Just as long as we keep the chant.”
“We’re writing a play?” Emig asked.
“Yeah, why not?”
“Will it be about death?”
“Will we perform it?” Frank asked, looking up from his book.
“If it’s any good, yeah, maybe,” I said.
Again, silence. Dawn’s boyfriend snored.
“This could be cool.”
“Maybe,” Bayless said.
“I got an idea,” Kearns said. “How about we do something with zombies?”
“Zombies are awesome.”
“And they visit Blissfield,” Emig said.
“Well, duh, they need brains. They’re hungry.”
“We could have them eat the honor’s club.”
“That can’t be a play.”
“It could be a start.”
“Anyone writing this down?”
“I will,” Tallie said. She pulled out a notebook and uncapped a pen with her teeth. “Okay, anyone got a first line?”
I looked outside at a tree limb. Many sitting starlings made it sag towards the ground.