A Funny Thing About DeathMature

April. Poetry month. One a day. Screwed up yesterday so two today. Here's he second.

A Funny Thing About Death

Some deaths resonate to many

many mourners mourn...

many grievers grieve...

Some deaths resonate to few

few mourners mourn

few grievers grieve.

But that is not the point.

I had an uncle

a man married to

my father's sister

in the eyes of god

but married to money

in his soul.

I worked for him,

cleaning the office he ran

filled with

desks

and chairs

and cabinets

and aluminum siding salesmen.

I cleaned the desks

the chairs

the windows

the floor

the toilet

(and to this day I remember

that over the toilet

hung a drawing

of a man sitting

on the toilet

and the caption read

"The job's not done

until the paperwork's

finished."

- Which I am sure

was a moral he often imparted

on those salesmen)

(one way

or another).

He paid me very little

far less than he had paid

the old black man

who I replaced...

I was 12.

My father

had started a business

which had failed

and so now

he found himself

working for my uncle

as well

selling

aluminum siding

in the office

that I cleaned

once a week.

My uncle,

my father's sister's husband,

a man married to gold,

was a tyrant.

He would scream and rant

at the aluminum siding salesmen

and throw tantrums

and desk objects

like staplers

with equal disregard.

It was a rare weekend

cleaning the office

that I did not find a stapler

cowering in fear

behind the file cabinets.

"Now how did you get here

Mister Stapler?"

I would ask

(though we both knew the answer).

And I would wonder

what being a stapler

did to my father.

But that is not the point.

One day

after work

my uncle

said he would pay me

to wash his car.

So I did.

But when I was done

he was dissatisfied.

He left

and returned

with a toothbrush in his hand.

His car was a Cadillac

with a soft roof

(not a convertible -

this was a rubbery

plasticky roof

the kind that was popular

in the 1960s)

and that soft roof

had a grain to it

and dirt had accumulated

in the grain.

It was my job now

to clean that roof

to clean that grain

with a toothbrush.

If I refused

I would not be paid

for the work I had already done.

But that is not the point.

One day my uncle,

my father's sister's husband,

a man married to gold,

a tyrant,

died.

We all went to the viewing:

family

aluminum siding salesmen

neighbors

(and I thought

'there sure are a lot of people here

who want to make sure

that he is dead').

And there was my uncle,

my father's sister's husband

'resting in state'...

dead...

And everyone was quiet

And no one was talking

(which is just how it was

when you were in a room with him

when he was alive

except now

he wasn't screaming)

(at least not so we could hear)

(which was an improvement)

until his son

stood up and said:

"I'd like to thank you all for coming

it really means a lot to me,

and my mother,

and my sister,

because we all know

that my father

was a real

son of a bitch."

And then everyone was talking

telling stories

of just how big

a son of a bitch

my uncle had been.

We laughed in his dead face.

But that is not the point.

Great men live

and great men die

shot in cities

like Dallas

and Los Angeles

and Memphis

on days like

November 22

and June 6

and April 4.

And they are just as dead

as my uncle.

No less.

No more.

The End

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