I have been wondering as I have begun to watch you watching me if we might in fact have something in common. You seem to be rather bored with your life, as am I, since you have little else to do, at least at the moment, and so must be curious about why I am accomplishing so little with my life at this same moment. The answer, of course, is complex, but the solution is not. At least it should not be, for if one decides a theme needs a conclusion, shouldn’t one be able simply to stamp it down upon one’s own vehicle of conveyance?
Sometimes when one realizes that life is not worth living and is struck by the surprising lack of available resources to remedy the problem without interference, one must go looking in unlikely places. And if in so doing one comes upon a recipe for the notoriously delicious death pie, one might set out to follow that recipe fastidiously though one must do so clandestinely, so that no one can spoil one’s efforts with foolish attempts to convince one that life is really worth living or perhaps even try to take away our pie once we have put so much effort into preparing it.
And if in the process, as we set about preparing our death pie, we discover an anomaly in the architecture of the street between our home and the bakery supply house, we might not be so surprised to discover that just the day before we began considering possible solutions to our problem an engineer did consider the anomaly and designed the most efficient and comely of divisionary walls and in a timely manner did erect said wall, virtually overnight, which left everyone who was paying any attention at all to wonder exactly what was being separated from what the next morning. Certainly it was not life from death, for they are inseparable.
Birds sat upon the wall, particularly pigeons and starlings. Homeless beggars used the wall to lean against as they plied their trade of accomplishing little more than existence, much as we ourselves have determined we are doing. Policemen paraded back and forth in front of the wall as if it had some purpose that needed emphasis and protection and straight away sent anyone who didn’t agree to various locations of confinement.
The next morning a second wall appeared, parallel to the first, which created confusion among the drunkards, but not the police, who at first found it quite rewarding to be able to direct passers by to the correct wall but soon found it redundant and increasingly suggestive of the fruitlessness of their endeavors, once more in accordance with our own determinations as we set about finding the ingredients for our special recipe.
Whereupon, we located a prime example of someone who had succumbed successfully to the very goal we pursued who was leaning against the second wall as if to hold it up, which made us wonder if this perhaps unintentional goal was what had killed him, and we momentarily reconsidered our increasingly complicated attempts to locate the ingredients for a death pie.
So now it occurs to me that the dead man may have hit upon the very solution to the problem, for have we not, metaphorically at least, been trying to hold up a wall nearly all of our useless lives? Yet we have not succumbed as the dead man has, and there is no guarantee that if we attempted to hold up the wall, the result would be the same for us as it has been for him, especially now that he has given away his secret, for irritated and irritating policemen did soon appear to dispel our conjectures, and they brought with them the coroner, who issued a certificate of death right there upon the spot, which made our mouths water. Nevertheless, the insensitive lout went off to lunch as soon as he had finished eyeing suspiciously everyone who was watching. Even so, the man was still leaning against the wall in a posture that suggested that if he were to be moved, the wall might actually fall over, which amused and disturbed us, and made his solution seem ridiculous, so that, once again, we proceeded towards the bakery supply house, which had already moved, in order that it might accommodate the demands of the second wall.
What we had failed to notice until we found ourselves traveling in an embarrassingly circular manner, due to the rearrangement of the relationships of the streets in question, was that someone, a policeman one might assume, had planted a small pointy marker with a tiny red flag attached in the dead man’s forehead, so as to account for him in some manner, as if he hadn’t really existed until he had been officially declared dead, though no one was behaving as if they quite knew what the marker was supposed to indicate because they were coming over to the man, who did, indeed, reside in a position that made him appear alive, to see what was wrong with him. The flag, however, was unmarked, didn’t even have a number on it.
Frustrated, we decided to enter the nearby tavern and reconsider our course of action. After what seemed to be several hours, but which may have only been a few minutes, for we had eased our frustration by drinking heavily, who should come into the tavern but the dead man, or at least the man who arrived, already quite inebriated, appearing to be an exact duplicate of the dead man but for the little flag missing from his forehead. Even his clothing, insofar as we could agree upon what it had looked like, looked like the clothing of the dead man, which I must reluctantly admit we had not really taken much notice of.
Without further ado the dead man went off alone to the corner booth to continue drinking himself to death, so that he would not be surprised ever again by what happened without it being chosen by him, but again life dealt him a blow in the form of a brick thrown by a drinking companion, who had joined him on the second round without saying a word, right there in the bar we had chosen for our own considerations of accomplishing what came so easily to this fool by way of a friend with other intentions, who apparently it now appeared had known him before he died the first time, and, while exclaiming loudly over his becoming a ghost, tried to throw a brick through him, which faltered as if actually encountering some substantial resistance and collapsed inward before completing its task of returning the survivor once more to the more distant part of the kingdom of ghosts by way of a substantial injury.
Once more deeply frustrated, we decided to depart for the bakery supply house before the policemen could irritate us, and we considered on the way there how unlucky we were. Of course we had failed yet again to allow for the two walls and found ourselves approaching the very tavern where the dead man had died again, which turned out to be quite informative because this time there seemed to be no doubt, great quantities of blood surrounding his head being visible even from the window that protected us from the policemen as we watched from a safe distance.
But, you see, everything had worked out well for the lucky dead man even though we watched him lift his head up from the pool of blood because we later discovered from the tavern’s patrons that the brick had destroyed the nearly twice dead man’s memory, which in any case contained little of value, and he no longer had any expectations concerning his death because as everyone knows, if you haven’t lived, you can’t die.
If the dead man was eventually run over by a car, (I’m just speculating here) it might be because he couldn’t remember there had been a road where the car was or what that road that was there was there for. He might have ventured out on that road to ascertain its purpose, and even if he had succeeded, quickly forgotten his success.
With this final difficult-to-locate ingredient, which was, after all, unavailable at the bakery supply house, I must inform you that we have completed the preparations of our death pie, but I have also, I admit, failed to inform you that the result of enjoying it is fatal beyond the more obviously mistake-ridden definition of the word (as in warranting the little red flag given by those who would appear to be in charge of life) only if you can forget that you ate it, which is the reason (since I intend to eat only the last piece) I am offering it to you first.
Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available from Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.