Friday, November 25, 2011

215/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Goner" by Dr. Dog

If anyone had ever been compelled to write a biography of Caleb Jenkins they would have noted that he had experienced family tragedy as a child and as a consequence, was obsessed with death. His most successful book was 'A History of Taxidermy', which was followed by a slim volume on modern preservation techniques used on humans, which preceded his favorite project, a coffee table book filled with photos of the recently dead, in their hospital beds, being mourned by their loved ones. He saved up and visited Lenin's tomb, and marvelled at the now amber flesh of the former leader, and the way his beard hairs were so perfectly positioned. Caleb was usually a quiet person, but if pressed or asked about his interests, he would rattle on enthusiastically about what the end moment of life might be like, which methods of burial were the most economical, or how best to write a will, much to the repressed horror of the asker. It was if he spent the entire length of his life preparing to meet his own end--which ironically never quite came.

Somehow, at the time that he went missing, he managed to have a girlfriend, a slight woman named Debbie. They woke up together, and she got up and put on a pot off coffee. Under a minute later she returned to the bedroom to find Caleb gone. She called out, and searched the house. She called his number, but his phone rang from the pocket of his pants, which were draped over the end of the bed. She waited nervously, periodically calling everyone she knew that he knew (which weren't that many people), unspooling the time until the requisite twenty-four hours passed when she could officially report him missing.

After several weeks of intermittent investigation, the police seemed to lose interest. 'We have to allocate our resources sensibly,' they said. After a few more months, when Debbie had recovered from the initial shock of Caleb's vanishing, she too moved on, slowly losing all memory of their time together. After a decade, she did not remember him at all.

And then one day, a depressed teenage boy sat on a child's swing in a park and dissolving into a gray hoodie that was two sizes to big for him, wondered aloud what it would be like to die.

"Marvelous, and dreadful," said Caleb. He stood in front of the boy, barefoot and wearing his pajamas and a sweater.

"What? Who the hell are you?" asked the boy. He stood, readying by instinct for a fight.

"I don't know..." said Caleb dreamily.

"What's wrong with you?" asked the boy.

"Nothing," said Caleb. "I just love death."

"Why? Why would anybody say that?" said the boy shifting his weight.

"It's this transition, you know? Very subtle most of the time. You're body is still there, but then you're not. And usually, you can't go back, after five minutes, or if your brain has been significantly chilled. It's the closest thing we can get to experiencing real magic. We exist and then...nothing. How can that not be fascinating?"

"I guess," stammered the boy. He stepped backward and jostled the chains of the swing. "But then there's nothing."

"I would say so," said Caleb, "although many people think it's just the beginning. But I prefer the idea of blackness--the eternal night. Painless. Infinity collapsed to a mere moment."

"But it's the loss of everything. It's final."

"Yes, but we all have to let go sometime. It's only a loss if you didn't get to do what you wanted in life."

Caleb smiled warmly. The boy looked around; uncomfortable, he was searching for other people and excuse to leave the conversation. When he turned back, Caleb and his pajamas were gone.

"Huh," said the boy. He rubbed his eyes, then slunk away from the playground, having decided to write a list of things he wanted to do in life.

1 comment:

Lawrence said...

Nice story! My favorite line "It's only a loss if you didn't get to do what you wanted in life." which ties directly into the final sentence. :)