A Series of Bungee Cords: Part One
by Fiona Landers
I was afraid of the body. For two reasons. Maybe three. Was he dead or just almost out of breaths? If I was leaning over stroking his face, he could pop his eyes open and become Mutant Zombie Dad, sitting up gasping for one last breath. Even a word could come out or a phrase like “Fiona! Help!”. That was one reason I was afraid of the body. The second reason I was afraid of the body was because he wasn’t in it anymore. The room had been sucked of his spirit. He was there two hours before in the room. And then he wasn’t. So I was afraid of the body because he wasn’t in it anymore. He wasn’t in the room. The room had a body in it but no Dad. And the room was my life. And my life had a body in it but no Dad. And that is why I was afraid of the body.
I left the room that had the body in it and sat at the dining room table. First, I put on a flannel that I thought looked pretty good because our day was starting at four in the morning because we now had this body to do something with. This sacred body that had given us life…but…now it was just the body. And I put on the pink flannel because I thought “This is my good flannel. I can meet all the death people in this.”. I sat at the table. I called my mother to tell her about the body. How Dad was gone. How he had upgraded to a better room. Oh, we’re a riot. Dad was a riot, so we kept being a riot all the way through. We’re still just a big, tear-streaked riot. The memorial at the Silent Movie Theatre was a beautiful riot. A corkscrew to the heart (one of Dad’s favorite Bob Dylan lyrics) but also a banana peel and a dumb-dumb foot.
After I told Mom about the body, Lily walked into the living room and called Dad’s brother, our uncle, Billy. Dad had said to Lily, “If you come find me in the morning and I’m gone, call Fiona to see if she wants to come over to say goodbye to her Pop one last time. And call Billy too.”. So Lily did. I was already there, in my “good” flannel so that was one less person to call. But she called Billy and he was honored and heading over. So when Billy got to the house I thought, “I’ll go in with him. I’ll pay my respects. I’m not a pussy.”. It helped that the woman had come over and pronounced him dead. The body was a body. She said so. So there wasn’t a chance that Mutant Zombie Dad was going to jolt up and ask me to save him. Unless…? May I be candid with you, sweet reader? I still thought Mutant Zombie Dad could EASILY make an appearance. What did that lady know? What was she, like 24? Was this her first death-assessment? Is she still in school studying to do something else, professionally? What’s her deal?? But I went in with Billy. And he said something sweet that represented his whole family, that they loved you Matthew, “We all love you Matthew.”. And I said, “I love you, Dad. I bless your body, I honor your body.”. And I kissed his cheek even though that would have been the PERFECT trigger for Mutant Zombie Dad to “RIIIIISE and SHIIIIIINE!”. But he didn’t. He looked beautiful. He was still warm and he looked handsome and wise and holy. And he didn’t leak. It was classy. I’m not saying any dead people should feel embarrassed about taking one last final shit (and I’m sure he took a great one later). But if they did, sorry Kenny Loggins, my dad’s version was better. And when I looked into his eyes hours before he died, I saw other worlds.
I don’t know what happens when you die (I’m not dead yet!) and before I watched what led up to my dad’s death, I pretty much sided with Shakespeare on the whole afterlife thing. Here, let me paraphrase what Shakespeare thought about it, he was more like “Uh…maybe?”. This is fun. Chekhov was like “Nope. Here, take this shovel. It’s snowing outside, shovel out the driveway and also kill yourself with it.”. And Tennessee Williams was like, “Can’t take it with you, let’s go to the movies and jack off.”. And Eugene O’Neil was like, “Fuck this, I want to be a fish next time.”. Okay I’m done. But what I meant to say is…Yes. Yes! I believe in an afterlife something. The only bummer is I still don’t know for sure (because I’m not dead yet, you guys.). But when I looked into my father’s eyes as he was actively dying, he was between worlds. And maybe the other world is the tiny little smug black hole that a lot of atheists fucking INSIST that it is (the mean ones, not the ones who are like very cool and smart and I always want to be friends with them.). But MAYBE the other world is great and everyone turns into a fun little turtle or something. Or maybe you get to be yourself at your hottest age and my dad’s having lunch with Elizabeth Taylor again (did you know that he did that on earth when he was twenty?). And Richard Burton just went out for a smoke. And George Carlin is stopping by later so Dad and him can listen to that one Lord Buckley album again (also happened, my dad was cool.). And John Lennon and Harry Nilsson are gonna swing by after that so the three of them can kick around some song ideas. Okay that never happened for my dad on earth but WHY DO YOU WANT TO RUIN THIS PARTY, YOU FUCKING ATHEISTS. I’m kidding. I don’t know, I’m not dead yet.