I went to see the doctor.
He ran some tests.
Then he came into the room.
"You're dead," Mr. Jonas. The glasses slid down his nose as he studied his notes. "You've been dead for... for about three weeks."
I scratched the side of my head.
"You're free to go. There is nothing I can do for you."
I stopped at the reception desk.
"There's no charge, Mr. Jonas," the receptionist said, "doctor says you've been dead for three weeks. Have a good one!"
On the drive home I stopped at Burger King for two Whopper Juniors, a milk shake, and a black coffee. At the first drive in window the cashier seemed startled. She fumbled with the change as she handed it to me, then shut the little door quickly.
At the next window I reached out to pick up my order. Suddenly there was a cluster of employees around the window. One of them handed me the bag and drinks. Theirs were like cat eyes in the dark, glaring from inside the building, not even blinking. As I was waiting for extra napkins I overheard one employee say: "Get a load of this guy! He's like a cadaver."
At home my wife was waiting for me in the driveway.
"Well, what did the doctor tell you?"
"I've been dead for three weeks."
"See, I told you that fall was lethal. Now look at you; you can't work; you're leaving me to make a living; but of course you'll want your dinner!"
With that she huffed into the house.
"Well, at least you can mow the lawn," my wife said as I sat in the easy chair.
I felt the blood drain from my face.
"Can you put on a pot of coffee?" I asked her, "I'd like to warm-up". I heard her moving about the kitchen and assumed it was being done. Nothing better to do now than sit back and watch television.
I was about to drowse off when the doorbell startled me.
"I'll get it," I hollered.
I opened the door.
Three kids were standing there, in shorts and dirty shoes with a push lawn mower behind them.
"Well..." I said.
They were silent. In fact they seemed unable to speak.
Suddenly my wife shoved me aside.
"You kids have gotta understand, Mr. Jonas is dead. Been dead for three weeks. He can't help you but I can. What's up?"
The smallest child stepped forward.
"We were going to ask if you wanted us to mow your lawn this summer."
My wife looked at me, more of a glare, really.
"He hasn't got enough energy in him to mow the lawn," she told the kids in disgust. "Please stop back tomorrow. I can't deal with any decisions right now."
The children took one last stare, then left.
"They've never seen a dead person," I said.
"Not one as lazy as you, that's for sure!"
I surprised myself: I was starting to think of the grave. At least there would be no nagging.
At dinner my wife was curt and angry.
"I told you not to get on that stepladder. The rungs are broken, the thing wobbles!" Her mouth was now full of food. "Why!" She chewed. "Why!"
Then she started crying and left the table.
I felt white as a ghost.
I wish there was something I could do.
The next morning broke sunny and cheerful but I had trouble getting out of bed.
"Your cereal is ready!" My wife called out. I knew things were back to normal. I slumbered into the kitchen.
"Didn't your mother tell you a good breakfast puts meat on your bones?"
"Well," I said, and the thought drifted away.
My wife went to work. I slumbered around in my pajamas and fuzzy slippers. There was a note on the kitchen table: "Put these bills in the mailbox before noon." Fine. No hurry. About eleven o'clock I took the bills to the mailbox only to coincide with the mail carrier arriving at the same time.
"Mr. Jonas," she muttered. She reached out and touched my arm. "Say, you're as cold as ice. You need to see the doctor."
"I already have. I've been dead for three weeks. Just kind of lingering, you know!"
Her jaw dropped open; I could have driven a Mack truck into that orifice. Then her Adam's apple bobbed up and down like a circus scale. In her haste she took the bills out of my hand but put them into the mailbox then put the mail she was going to deliver back into her satchel. I started to point that out but, hey, when the life has drained out of you, your pointing finger loses its firmness and mine just flopped. She started running before her error got corrected. Jeez, now what is my wife going to say.
Sure enough, the minute she got out of the car from work she said, "Did you get the bills mailed... or was that too much work?"
In my fist were the bills.
She went ballistic, like the Fourth of July fireworks. She was so hot, her glasses were about to melt.
"First you kick the bucket, then you leave the money problems to me, then you can't even get three bills to the mailbox when it is only fifty-feet in front of the house."
I could have died.
"You were one sorry excuse for a human being before, and now, just look at you, you don't even belong with the living."
I wish she would choose her words more carefully.
A couple of weeks passed, and we began to meet in the middle of the relationship; basically, things cooled (in my case they were already cool!). One night she got home from work and said, "We're going out to eat. We're going to meet Cindy from the office and her husband at the Gateway Bar and Grill. Get out of those pajamas and get into your dress clothes."
At the restaurant the hostess approached, then reached for a glass of water. I could hear her choking, poor thing. Finally she addressed the podium: "How many in your party? "
My wife asked for a table for four.
I excused myself saying I had to use the men's room. Not really; there is no reason for me to use it, but I washed my hands and dried them with one of those heaters that blow hot air.
"I feel so alive!" I cried to no one in particular.
The only other male in the men's room was a middle-aged man standing at a urinal. In this men's room there is a mirror in front of each urinal and I could see his eyes explode out of their sockets while he maintained his coolness. Now his mouth was open like he was a fly catching flower and I could see his tongue curled up like it was cobra snake ready to strike.
At the table my wife introduced me to Cindy and her husband, Kevin. We shook hands.
"Wow, you must have washed your hands in ice-cold water," Kevin said, startled.
"I did but I dried them under hot air."
He seemed puzzled.
His wife said, "Mr. Jonas, are you feeling well?"
"I'm not feeling anything at all... I'm dead."
"Don't tell people the whole rotten story," my wife said to me. She turned to the other couple, "He fell off a ladder in the backyard, hit his head on a garden rock... and here he is... conveniently dead."
The waiter came to the table, not paying special attention to me.
"Folks, I'm Brian. I'm your server tonight. May I suggest a cold cocktail from the bar?"
I spoke first. "A martini, straight up, no ice."
"Yea, he's cold enough as it is," my wife blurted out, then laughed hilariously.
The waiter took a good look at me, and his eyebrows squinted. "You want a hot coffee with that martini, sir?"
"No, just make sure there is no ice. I'll use my finger to chill it down." I laughed.
My wife laughed.
Cindy and Kevin studied their menu.
Finally, cocktails were ordered.
"So, what is it you do for a living, Mr. Jonas?" I guess he called me Mister because I was older.
"I'm not living."
I thought his tongue was going to reach the bottom of his nose and his nostrils flared like an angry horse. Quickly he brought his napkin to cover.
"Kevin, don't bother talking to him," my wife said, "anything you say is just going to drop to the bottom of the well."
The conversation turned to my wife and she carried on like I was an appendage. The purse hanging on the arm of her chair got more attention than I did.
Dinner seemed rushed. The waiter seemed to serve us like his life depended on it. Diners at nearby tables left food on their plates and hurried out. Soon there were just a few tables seated. I overheard the manager: "What happened to our dinner hour?" That brought glances, winks, and darting eyeballs from the staff toward our table.
Finally I had enough. I called out: "Haven't you people got any respect for the dead!?" I got up, threw my napkin on the floor, and marched toward the exit.
It was a cool night. I know that because people who passed me, sitting on the waiting bench shivered and pulled each other together.
The next morning was another cheerful sunny one. There was a note on the breakfast table.
"I will be home at 3 o'clock to take you to the coroner's office to fill out your death certificate."
My wife had obviously made an appointment because the head coroner was there in the office, seemingly waiting for something important to happen.
"This is my dead husband," my wife said.
"Do you have to say it like that?" I cried at her.
"Let's get down to business, Mr. and Mrs. Jonas," the coroner said.
We sat at a desk while he asked questions to fill out his paperwork.
"You've been dead how long?"
"He's been dead more than three weeks," my wife said in disgust.
The coroner put his pen down and reached out to touch my arm. His face glowed red.
"Carolyn," he called out to a staff member. "Bring me a surface thermometer, please."
He drew the thermometer across my forehead.
"He was cold before and he's colder now," my wife said, laughing.
"Carolyn, what is the temperature of the room? Check that thermostat, please."
"Doctor, it is seventy-one degrees."
"You, sir, are living at ambient room temperature."
"Not really. I'm not living."
The doctor leaned back in his chair so far, it fell and he tumbled onto his back and rolled onto his side, not a favorable thing for a heavy man to do. His staff rushed to help him up and he stood, shaking, reaching out for something sturdy to hold on to. He called for his assistant, a much younger female doctor.
"Please continue with Mr. Jonas. Fill out the paperwork."
"Doctor, this is a death certificate."
The coroner excused himself.
"Look," my wife commanded, "we need the death certificate to claim his life insurance."
The assistant coroner acted like there was nothing unusual about that request, filled out the form, and gave use a stamped and certified copy.
"Thank you," my wife said, as we moved toward the exit.
A couple of days later, there was a knock on the front door. I glanced out of the window to see a black and white police car. When I opened the door, two uniformed police officers were standing there.
"I'm sergeant Gaylord. This is officer May. Can we come in?"
"Sir, is your name Sylvester Jonas?"
"It is. Or was."
"Mr. Jonas, we are following up on a report of a dead body at this address."
"Oh, sure, let me get the death certificate."
The police officers examined it. "The name is the same as yours, Sylvester Jonas."
They seemed puzzled.
"That's me, alright."
"Please excuse us."
They went out to their police car, jabbering at each other like two angry hens. I noticed they used the computer and two-way radio. Then they approached the front door.
"Mr. Jonas," the sergeant said, "who died?"
"That would be me."
The sergeant pushed his cap back.
"Is this your death certificate?"
The younger police officer said, "Let's turn this over to the detectives." They nodded, handed me the death certificate, and drove off.
When my wife got home our nosy neighbor screamed at her: "THE POLICE WERE AT YOUR DOOR!"
Naturally, this inflamed my wife.
"Can't you just die peacefully? You've got to get the police involved?"
I didn't know what to say. "I showed them my death certificate."
The next day I was out in the yard piddling around when the neighbor lady exclaimed: "I saw your picture in the paper! In the obits!"
The glee on her face was unmistakable; she lit up like a flashing sign.
I rushed into the house to look up the obits, page 16D, and sure enough, there was my photo, an old one, from my early days of marriage. I read through the obit. It was factual.
When my wife got home from work I confronted her.
"It's time! Sylvester. You are just lingering around with nothing to look forward to. Besides, now that you're dead I met a guy at work who I want to invite over for dinner. The last thing he is going to want to see is a dead carcass sitting in a chair watching TV."
She could've broken my heart.
According to the obit, my body will be on display in an open casket two days hence.
"Wear your navy blue suit," my wife said, "and don't put on that dumb Three Stooges tie - wear the red and blue tie my sister gave you for your birthday."
I had my marching orders.
Two days later I was lying in the casket in the parlor of a funeral home. The top third of the lid was open so visitors could see my face; the bottom two-third was closed. I brought my hand up to check the time.
Suddenly, there was my wife running toward me.
"Don't move, you moron. You're going to scare people."
The parlor began to fill up with visitors, some weeping, some commenting on how natural I looked. This went on for two hours. I heard my wife cry and glimpsed her dabbing her eyes with a white handkerchief. She was putting on a good show. It was nice, quiet and polite showing. Thankfully I didn't have to sneeze.
When it was over, my wife was talking to the funeral home director, then she approached the casket.
"Are you going to kiss me goodbye?" I asked.
"Those frigid lips!"
She slammed the casket lid down and darkness befell me.
I heard her tell the funeral home director: "He's ready."
"Burial tomorrow at 11 o'clock, then," he said.
If there are any words that will put a chill in your bones, those are it!
Had I had the energy to escape that coffin, I would have. But I resigned myself to the fate of all humankind and lay still like I was dead. You can figure out the rest of the story.
See you in the next life (I just hope, I don't bump into my wife!).