Excuse me if the title of this article conjures up pictures of me actually digging up the graves of my friends and relatives, stealing their gold watches, diamond rings and other valuables. My friends and relatives were all, as I found out, quite poor and ragged people at death, and the most I ever reclaimed from any of them was a pair of brass knuckles. The most interesting item I discovered was a doll in the coffin of a maiden aunt I had always hated. The doll was a perfect likeness of me, and it made me feel guilty to think that she had loved me enough to fashion this marvelous little treasure in my image to keep by her side always. When I finally got all the pins out of it, it looked as good as new, which reminds me of something.
Isn’t it strange how some things remind you of other things? I’m reminded of something very terrible and yet quite wonderful. Something from long, long ago…ah, so long ago. It’s amazing the thoughts that come to you after you’ve taken a nice hot shower and are relaxing in the nude on the couch. In fact I’m still wet, so I’m sitting on yesterday’s newspaper, the one with the photo of the President smiling and holding a toy gun to his head. Of course it’s so hard to tell the toys from the real ones these days. Oops! I wonder if the newsprint will come off on me. I’ll be right back, I’m going to look in the mirror…Oh, my! It’s all there in black and white, though due to its positioning, the President’s smile is bigger than ever.
You know, if somebody had told me yesterday that this morning my rump would be covered with newsprint, I would’ve said they were crazy — I mean, wouldn’t you? Of course, if someone had told me that, today I would’ve seen that they were right, and for the first time in my life I might have had someone to believe in, someone to follow and worship and give me life to, someone who knew all things. Instead, I sit here with yesterday’s news all over my rump, just as sad and lost as the next fellow. I remember when I was a little boy (or was it a little girl? Oh what a chest full of memories I carry with me), I was hiding in the linen closet with jar of mother’s homemade cookies, fearful of my punishment should I be caught. But when they opened the closet door to find me with my hand in the jar and crumbs on my lips, they simply smiled, chained me to the stove and flogged me into blissful unconsciousness.
My father once told me something, just before he went out for what he called “shopping with a gun.” He said, “Son, you only have one real friend in this life, and I’ll be damned if I know who it is. Now get the hell out of my sight.” As he walked out the door, he was cut down by a shower of bullets. Earlier in the afternoon it had been drizzling .22 cartridges and no one had thought much of it. But now 60-millimeter shells were pummeling the ground. People were dropping like flies. Flies were dropping like people. The bird droppings were the same as usual, and everything mixed together into one ugly mess. There seemed no end to this reign of terror, although the Weather Channel had reported that the day would be mostly sunny and warmer with only a slight chance of scattered gunfire in the early hours of the morning.
At first I thought there was no hope for my father, so I sat down and watched TV. But after a few minutes I could hear him calling to me for help. When my program was over I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a huge sheet of lead that happened to be leaning against the refrigerator (thank goodness for the conveniences of the modern kitchen), and balancing it on my head, I crawled outside to my father. By the time I reached him, he looked as if he had done 20 retakes for the tollbooth scene in The Godfather.
It was at this moment that I stopped believing in a Supreme Being, or at least in one who had total control over everything that happened in the universe. I began to believe in a Supreme Being who could bake a beautiful quiche Lorraine but who often burnt His toast or scalded His cocoa. A Supreme Being who was the smartest cookie on this or any other side of the Milky Way, but who consistently lost at the blackjack tables in Vegas. A Supreme Being who could create an entire universe and then set it down, returning a minute later only to forget where He had left it. It was this line of thought that formed the new foundation of my character — a foundation built not out of concrete beliefs and ideas but of fear, indecision and Lincoln Logs. I guess you could say I was one of many who belonged to the saddest, most solemn society in the world: the Society of Frightened People.
In fact you should say it, because it’s true. We charged a membership fee of five dollars and we held our first meeting at my house. Half the members were too afraid to show up. The other half were too terrified to leave, and are still hiding in various broom closets and cabinets. I know they are still there because I often hear them whimpering with uncontrollable fear as I tiptoe by. The stinking cowards! I wish I had the nerve to throw them out.
Oh well, I supposed everyone is afraid of something. My great-grandfather was a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. He believed he was a 28-pound turkey, and was convinced the whole world was out to eat him. His favorite motto became “Once bitten, twice shy.” He was, of course, an absolute madman. Still, I must admit he didn’t taste bad.