Matthew Ryan Herfurth ~ Death

Right now, in my dead granny’s apartment, heaps of puff pastry loving white ants are eating the rotting cupboard with glass doors. One of those white ants has crawled away from the cupboard and is getting pretty near to the lamp with orange lampshade, the lamp where the fat girl and I are sitting near.

The next moment, she’s telling me that in several situations, the Grim Reaper can, in fact, bring about a person’s death, leading to stories that he can be outsmarted, deceived and bribed in order to keep one’s life. After that, she says that she read this on the Internet, some website, actually, deceptive people tricking gullible people with invented stories about how only the Grim Reaper shows the dead to Hell.

I say, nobody shows dead people to Hell. That’s stupid, plus the Grim Reapers not real.

Don’t believe everything you read about what happens to people after they die, I say.

The next minute, she’s looking at something behind me, over by the wall, and stares and thinks and points at something and says, ‘How can you afford to buy that?’

I run my fingers through my short brown hair and turn to see what’s she’s pointing at and say, ‘It was my granny’s favourite chair.’

She’s untying the black ribbon in her hair, untying it so she can tie it again, and she does this and says, ‘Your granny must have been loaded.’

Okay, I’ve got plenty of money in the bank. More than enough to last a lifetime.

Turning back and looking at her hair draped on her thick shoulders, I tell the girl that when granny’s father died, probably more than 30 years ago, he left her a great deal of money.

Getting up and walking over to the TV in the wall, I tell her that my granny’s father had only one child. It’s probably best, I whisper, that he didn’t have another child like granny.

‘Your granny can’t hear you from Hell,’ she says, ‘You said that she had pretty much gone deaf in both ears.’

I tell her to keep her voice down and if granny can’t hear what we’re saying, then The Devil can, and you know that he’ll tell granny.
Expect nothing less from him.

I turn on the TV and DVD player with remotes made by poor people who talk funny and are half my age and size.

On the TV screen: a small living room with a baby lying dead in a cot and her grandmother lying on the floor—dead.

On my way back, I look at the fat girl lying on her side, picking up a hair off the carpet, and she looks up and yawns, her thick jaws bones cracking. ‘Is that dried up shit near the red curtains?’ She drops the hair and it lands on the carpet, and she watches me sit down near her and says, ‘Do you own any cats?’

The vermilion curtains.

From what I can see, five dried up shits lie near the soft leather sofa and the curtains, their main parts crumbled. The one I did one month ago over by the satinwood table leg, well, it’s been half eaten by flies.

And the girl says, ‘Have you ever thought about toilet training your cats?’ Looking at my neither calm nor stressed face, she says, ‘You’re better off dumping your cats in an alleyway and buying a goldfish.’

Cats, I don’t mind.

Goldfish, I hate.

The appeal of watching a recording of a dead baby is learning about what happens to a baby’s face after it dies. Each time you watch it, you notice things that you missed the previous time you watched it.

According to the girl, the dead baby’s face reminds of her of a pug’s face. ‘It’s like the baby’s face is wrinkly.’

The camcorder still on the baby, the fat girl covers her half smile with her hand, then slowly lowers it and says, ‘It’s like the baby is frozen in time. Her smooth pale ears. The way the light makes her sweaty features seem clearer. You have to wonder what she was looking at just before the light in her eyes, you know, went away.’

And I look at the fat girl’s neither calm nor stressed face and say, ‘When the baby was alive, for sure, she couldn’t see anything but blackness.’

We watch, and the girl quietly clears her throat. Scraping some wax from out of her left ear with her middle finger, she says, ‘People only have babies because, you know, they need something to control.’ Wiping the wax onto her plain black dress, she says, ‘All babies want to do is eat, sleep, shit and pee.’

The baby, a crapping and peeing machine.

And before I scratch my short left arm I say, ‘The baby deserved to die because she would have grown up to be an annoying telemarketer.’

And the girl laughs and says, ‘Or one of those annoying door to door sales people who think they are good with people.’

I say, being dead is better than pretending to be something you’re not for a weekly pay cheque.

And near the cot, the small brown birds are hopping, their eyes moving from side to side. And from that angle, you can see there’s a small pillow lying on the carpet.

On that day, the quietness in the room and looking at the old woman’s and baby’s slightly open mouths excited me. That instant, I felt less angry and nervous.

‘The old woman is better of dead because she probably communicated with most of her family through cards, mostly.’

I tell the girl that people who send cards don’t really know how to care about each other. Because sending a card is their way of saying: ‘I once liked you but, deep down, I don’t like you anymore.’

The real winners, the card companies.

The thing is, some families spend their entire lives avoiding each other. Some families only see each other at funerals. Where they pretend to be grief-stricken for relatives they never bothered to get to know.

The next moment, we’re sharing our ideas, the ways the baby and the old woman should’ve died, so we can amuse ourselves for a little bit longer. The old woman and the baby should’ve choked on ping-pong balls, I tell the fat girl. Stingrays should have stuck their barbed stings into the baby and old woman’s chest and heart. A building should’ve fallen onto them, squashing their bodies flat onto a path. Piranhas should have eaten their brains. A killer whale, with a black back, white chest and sides, and a white patch above and behind the eye, should have swallowed them. We wish the baby died in the old woman’s daughter’s stomach. Even better.

When the camcorder is showing the old woman, the girl wants to know if the old woman’s body was stiff and cold.

The old woman’s body, I say, looked cold, and it would have gone stiff 3 hours after she died. After 24 hours, the body would have lost all its internal heat. After 36 hours, the body would have started to lose its stiffness, and after about 72 hours the stiffness would be gone.

The bodies of the dead more often than not smell like a dead rat, I tell her. When around dead bodies it’s best to pinch your nostrils with your fingers, I say. Cover your mouth and nose with a tea towel. Close your mouth and don’t breathe heavily. And spraying toilet spray near the bodies won’t get rid of the smell.

I tell her the ways I think people, in general, should die.

I say, Emphysema.

Throat cancer.

Meningococcal disease.


Food poisoning.

From a broken heart.

Heroin overdose.


Slaughtered in an abattoir.

Beheaded by a Queen.



Parkinson’s disease.

From a faulty artificial pacemaker.

Kidney failure.

Liver failure.


In a plane crash.







Eaten by a crocodile.

Eaten by a cheetah.

Stomped flat into the crusty earth by a rhinoceros.

Eaten by Aliens.

Typhoid fever.

She asks, ‘How do you want to die?’

I think.

I say, I’d very much like to be strangled to death with hands or a telephone cord, and my second choice is, probably, being held under water until I stop breathing. Strangling someone, I tell her, requires strong hands and years and years of pent-up anger. And there are plenty of angry people willing to strangle others in this world, and it’s quick and computer cords and even bag straps can be used.

The fat girl licks her lower wet lip. ‘I want pretty women—women who wear expensive clothes—to be killed by chemical weapons. And even if some of them don’t die from asphyxiation, at least I’ll get to see the poisonous gases blister their skin.’

She smiles, and she coughs and gasps like she’s choking. I ask, have you ever tried to kill yourself? She says, a few times I’ve tried to blow my head off with a hand grenade. That’s what sad and fat people do at least two or three times in their lives because, you know, that’s how bad things can get for lonely fat people. Death seems like a better option, sometimes. She says, just out of interest, have you ever tried to kill yourself?

I say, I’ve tried to shoot myself in the head with a revolver, maybe, more than once.

And the girl laughs and says, ‘Failing to kill yourself is just another thing people will mock you for.’

The recording of the baby and the old woman suddenly ends, and a man in a black suit rams a pretty woman in a white dress off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The woman doesn’t even scream, and the man starts crying and screaming for help.

Perhaps somebody will kill us before we kill ourselves, I say.
In a corner of the living room, a serial killer in a close-fitting and sleeveless garment might creep out from the shadows and smash our heads in with a hammer until we pass out. In seconds, we’ll be on the carpet—dead. There’d be blood all over his and our clothes and the solid metal hammer head and firm oak handle and carpet.

The fat girl and me should be so lucky.

When the TV screen goes black, the girl says the pretty woman in white probably cheated on the man in the suit. How many cocks did she suck? (16? 111? 400?) in her life?

I say, probably too many.

‘And how can sluts like her think,’ she says. ‘that they’re going to get away with doing that.’


Matthew Ryan Herfurth – “I attended the University of South Australia and completed a degree in Writing and Creative Communication and I majored in Advanced Editing and Publishing. I came third in the University of South Australia’s Mental Health Week Writing Competition in 2009. I have also earned a degree in Library and Information Management.”

Wisdom thumb


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