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Obituary

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The newspaper thudded down against the front step of 1327 east Elm Street. Just like every other morning. At the neighbor’s house another paper flew and landed with a similar sound. All down the block papers arrived, thuds marking each individual advent. The series of noises, however did not deter the birds from chirping in the treetops or the squirrels from scuttling about their trunks, indeed, it was a morning like any other on Elm Street. Slowly the people woke and stretched and went to their steps to fetch their papers. A few set coffee to brew before they settled in to read of what was going on outside their own quiet lives. Others threw the paper down on their tables before stepping into their bathrooms for a shower. Some woke their children and spouses while others turned on the radio or the TV.


Old Mr. Brownlow, the owner of the small house that had been built on the land now referred to as 1327 east elm street sat right down on his easy chair and flipped the paper open. First, he read the business section. Before Mr. Brownlow had retired he had been a stockbroker, a man of business, and it comforted him to know that the market had survived in the hands of his replacement, the young and untrustworthy Mr. Meyer. Mr. Brownlow missed his old job. He missed the buss of the work room and feel of a paycheck in his hands. All he had now in the way of income were his monthly social security checks, which only depressed him. Just the thought of being payed for his age seemed melancholy. I’m being rewarded for surviving these 73 years. He told himself, that’s what his daughter would say, his Julie. Mr. Brownlow shook the tangent out of his head and looked back to the paper.


Next, according to custom, he would read the funnies. As the aging thumbs pulled the soft, gray paper, the old man noticed something. It was just a page before his destination that the man stopped and leaned in closer to absorb the picture he saw. The picture showed an old man, smiling and holding up a large bass, the fish must have been at least 4 feet, and so Mr. Brownlow could understand exactly why the man’s smile was so big. In fact, Mr. Brownlow had once a friend whose smile… wait a second. Mr. Brownlow set the paper down on the window sill next to his chair and pushed himself up and once he was standing, hobbled over to the mantle.


The old, glorified shelf had become dusty and over-crowded with pictures over the past few years. It had always been Mrs. Brownlow who worried about pictures and things… but he was sure this was where she would have put the certain picture he was looking for. Mr. Brownlow had known his wife well, probably better than anyone else he had ever known. He squinted at all the frames residing on the mantle. Most were photos of Julie and her children smiling up at the camera from sunny, nature-y places. Julie’s husband had liked those nature-y places, Mr. Brownlow remembered. After a few minutes of searching he came across the frame he wanted. It was of two men in cheesy fishing gear, grinning up at the camera like school boys. In between the men, one of which was indeed Mr. Brownlow, the other his dear friend Johnny Martin, hung an astonishingly large Bass. At least four feet, Mr. Brownlow thought. We took one picture with both of us together; then Johnny insisted there was a picture taken with only him and the fish, since he said he caught it. But really, I caught it. Mr. Brownlow chuckled at the memory. In the end, both wives had gotten so irritated with the men’s arguing over who caught the fish that they had tried to throw the fish back in. Of course, even if they managed to get the great, majestic thing back in the lake it wouldn’t have done him any good. He was already dead. Mr. Brownlow missed Mrs. Brownlow. He missed Mrs. Martin. He missed Johnny. At the thought of Johnny, Mr. Brownlow remembered why he had gotten the picture in the first place. He hobbled back to his easy chair, then, as fast as he could, and then sank down into the smooth leather with a sigh. He didn’t like standing for too long. He was too old for that sort of thing.


He picked up the paper again, finding the article that had caught his eye before. Then he held the picture in his hand up to the black-and-white photo in the paper. Indeed, the man was the same, not Mr. Brownlow, but Johnny Martin. Mr. Brownlow sighed. He must have known this day would come. He must have, but he couldn’t remember ever thinking about it’s coming before. He set the frame holding his own photo down and read what the newspaper folks had to say about Johnny.


The little paragraph next to the picture read “John L. Martin, life-long citizen of Greene, passed away Thursday evening. The beloved husband of Martha G. Martin, father of Thomas S. Martin and Samantha G. Martin, son of Nancy and Peter Martin, and friend of all of Greene; he will be missed. John was a WWII veteran, having served in the navy four years. He was a member of Greene’s First Presbyterian Church and an Eagle Scout. Visitation is planned for Wednesday, May 16th at the Gandler’s Funeral Home, 1753 Ash Court in Allison. A private burial service with Naval Honor Guard has been planned. Funeral Inquiries: 847-251-8200”


A soft plop could be heard, then, accompanied by a wet spot appearing on the paper. “Good-bye Johnny.” Mr. Brownlow whispered to the photos. A few more wet spots appeared on the paper before Mr. Brownlow pushed himself up again to fetch himself some tissues and put the fishing photo back up on the dusty mantel, Mrs. Brownlow wouldn’t have wanted it to stay out of place for too long. After he had recomposed himself, Mr. Brownlow made his way to the old telephone in the hallway. He checked the clock, 7:13, late enough now to call someone. He had taught himself to check the time before he used the phone, to preemptively avoid waking anyone up in the early mornings. Slowly, stiffly because he was weary of electronics, Mr. Brownlow picked up the phone and pressed it to his ear, he held it there very firmly because he was an old man, hard of hearing, and he did not like to ask people to repeat themselves. He set the paper down on the hall table and looked back and forth between the paper and the telephone as he slowly punched in the numbers. 1-847-251-8200.


A sympathetic sounding woman answered the phone. “Hello, Gandler’s Funeral Home, how may I help you this morning?” Mr. Brownlow smiled, the woman had comforted and soothed him with just a small introductory statement. He was sure his friend would be happy aver in Allison with her. And knowing that Johnny was happy, Mr. Brownlow was happy, and he went through the rest of his day with that same smile still on his lips.




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