October 31, 2012
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I sharpen my pencil and prepare for death again, writing as though it is a matter of life or death. I clench my warm coffee cup like a hammer and turn on my computer, the monitor humming cheerfully. I start typing, my fingers flying over the keys. It’s hard to start at first. I was good at that, though; I was following in my father’s footsteps, after all. Betty Cornelia Jackson died at age 82, was survived by a son and two daughters, three grand-children . . . My mind buzzes with caffeinated energy. You have a deadline, I tell myself.

Three years ago, the kind of winter that everyone hates. A miserable January day, with the headline: Am I My Brother’s Keeper? A guy in Iraq had died. I remember going to the newsstand by school and picking up the newspaper, my hands nearly asleep from the cold. A picture of a man with a big nose and a brilliant smile in uniform was on the cover. It was an accident. He got shot by one of his friends. I walked away from the newsstand, the paper clenched uneasily in my hand. The world looked stark and bleak, with a layer of ice perched sluggishly on everything. I blinked rapidly. Everything looked like a kaleidoscope, swirling and full of trickery. I lunged over to a trash can, and fell to the ground harshly. People stepped around me, unaware of my internal trauma. Snowflakes cascaded angrily through the gray air. It smelled like fried food. His name was . . .

I woke up to a cold, bitter evening. The crowds of people that had rushed in the morning were gone. There was only the poor newspaper-seller taking down his shop. “Tragedy pays the bills for me, it does,” he said to himself with a resigned weariness. He whistled “You Are My Sunshine” as he walked down the street, eager to be done with a cold day’s work. And then I was alone. Where was my cap that my mother had knitted for me days before? I looked around, but it was nowhere. The memories of this morning returned. I walked over to the trash can, and threw up, recoiling at everything that had happened. I touched my face, surprised to find that it was numb and covered with snot. I winced, the thoughts inside my head betraying me, haunting me. Did he have a burial? What were his last words? Was he shot on accident? My head reeled. His name was . . . You can’t remember, I told myself. You can’t. My nose started bleeding, and I walked home to tell my mother the news.

“Carl,” my mother said as she handed my father a cup of coffee, “I’m sorry. I know you’re working on your deadlines and I didn’t want to bother you.” She winced as a look of severe discomfort crossed her face. “Joey’s dead.” The blood drained from my father’s face. He and Joey were the kinds of friends you make when you have little family left. They had grown up together; Joey was the friendly kid down the street, and fifteen years later, became the best man at my parents’ wedding. He was like an uncle to me. He enlisted when I was ten. “He was a good man,” my mother said softly. My father got up and moved to their bedroom, silently, like a ghost. Where had my father gone, the strong fearless journalist who answered everyone with a smile? The next morning, the local newspaper wrote, “Carl Isaiah Jones died at 45, survived by his parents, his wife, and his son. He was a good man, and our community would surely miss him.” Problem was, they were right.

I finish typing, propelled by warm coffee and memories cancerously contaminated with sorrow. Betty Cornelia Jackson died at age 82, was survived by a son and two daughters, three grand-children, and her sister. She was very talented at cooking and sewing, and was a very caring presence. She was adored by everyone she knew. Her funeral will be held at Ascension of Holy Grace Church on Monday at ten in the morning. Please come to play your respects. I press submit quickly, and today’s obit was published. My father would be proud.

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CammyS said...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm
Woah. This is really great work. Beautiful, pogniant, well written.
KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:50 pm
Thank you so much! This made my day. I'll be sure to check out some of your work as well.
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