Dawn picked a piece of paper out of the Club Dead box and read:
I missed an opportunity that death offered me.
My dad was dying in a hospital. He had to lie down mostly. Tubes were in his arms and in his nose. He smelled. Nurses told me his body was atrophying. Ulcers. That meant it was rotting.
We played cribbage, a peggy board game.
Once he made a high score and said ‘ephemeral’. I didn’t ask him what he meant.
If fact, I didn’t ask him any questions.
I thought asking him questions would be rude, since he was dying.
I didn’t ask him questions like “what is was like to die?”
I didn’t even ask him “I love you. Do you love me?”
I totally blew this big moment of my life.
All I do now is make questions. Questions that I would have asked my dad when he was dying. I have a small book of questions.
And now he is dead.
“I’d like to hear those questions,” Tuttle said.
“I forgot to ask questions too.”
“Questions aren’t easy.”
“Dying parents aren’t easy.”
Dawn passed the box to Emig, who ruffled his hand among the papers. He pulled one out and read:
Never the usual stuff. No meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I liked mashed potatoes. If I asked for them she would boil up two potatoes and put it on the kitchen table. The pot with the potatoes. Some warmed milk and a stick of butter.
I knew where the electronic mix was stored. I’d clip on the blades. I poured milk in and cut off a wad of butter. I smashed this together with the mixer and then I turned it on. First at a low speed and then once the ingredients blended I turned it up higher.
I sat there while mom cooked other things. I whipped those potatoes, blending in air. Those potatoes were light. I’d take massive fork full and put it in my mouth and let it melt down my throat. My mom despised mashed potatoes. “No texture,” she explained. How can you not like a bite of a cloud?
“That’s it?” Sponge Bob asked.
“Yep,” Emig said.
“Not much death there,” Stoner said.
“There’s a lot there. Use your imagination.”
“There’s love in that.”
“The mom sounds snobby. What’s wrong with mashed spuds?”
“The mom is the cloud.”
“The girl is eating the mom.”
“Who says it’s a girl? Maybe it’s a boy.”
“Maybe the mom thinks the boy or girl is like mashed potatoes, texture-less.”
“Then it’s not about love.”
“It’s about something.”
“I thought it was about making mashed potatoes.”
Bayless took the box from Emig. She dipped her finger into the box, pulled out a piece of paper and read:
My brother ran away from home. I thought home was okay. “It’s a prison,” he would say to me.
My brother was great and I listened carefully to him and took his words very seriously and when he said something like that it was hard to resist. He had power over me, but I still thought home was okay.
He ran away in broad daylight. A school day. He finished his cheerios and drank the leftover milk and put the bowl down and then announced to momma and papa and me “I’m running away!” He plucked up his backpack and walked out the front door.
Momma and papa looked at each other. Papa asked momma “Is something wrong with Cole?” (Cole was my brother). Momma said something about a ’phase.” Then they continued eating breakfast. I got up and went to the door and watched Cole walk off in the opposite direction of school. I drank my orange juice. I thought home was okay.
“Yeah, well, go on,” Zognorf demanded.
“That’s it,” Bayless said.
“But where was the death?”
“Maybe the brother died after running away.”
“There isn’t much room on the piece of paper we were given.”
“Put it on for the next agenda “Full sheets of paper.”
Frank made a note.
“By the way, where is CJ?”
“ I don’t know, “ Frank said.
“You must know. You started the meeting. You said, “CJ can’t make it.”
“Right, that’s what I know. I got a text from her. Said she couldn’t make it. That she was dying.”
“Shouldn’t we find out why?”
“What if she is dying?”
“I interpreted her message to be symbolic, not literal.”
“She’s our leader. We should know where out leader is.”
“Frank, find out why CJ isn’t here. This is an important meeting.”
“I’ll do my best,” Frank said.
“We have time for one more.”
Bayless handed the box to Stoner, who looked frightened. He found piece of paper and unfolded it. His hand shook as he read.
My uncle hung himself in our family guestroom.
I found him.
His toes moved, or I thought they moved, or maybe they looked like they were moving because his body swayed.
I stood there and thought of The Odyssey when Homer describes the maids that Odysseus hung from the rafters. He said they looked like a thrushes or doves hanging there with their little bird feet twitching their last essence of life.
I’m looking at my dying or dead uncle and I’m thinking about a book and then I do what any normal person does when he or she sees something like that and I run to my uncle and I grab him.
Reaching up I meet his knees. I figure if I raise him the pressure of the rope around his neck would be relieved and he would be able to breathe. But I’m a physical dork and it was useless. All I do is push his hips up a little. His limp head hangs over his neck and I see his dead eyes. I can’t help him.
My sister Emma found me hanging from his knees. Instead of heaving him up, I was pulling him to the ground, with me.