The first death

The dog’s warm tongue on my cheek, the den by the window where the sun comes in to expose the hair on my carpet, the dust on the lamps, the dirt on my legs from the morning’s hike. Going up Cougar Mountain this Easter, I remembered that time as a kid the three of us took a blanket and a basket and ate hard-boiled eggs in the park, it was warm then too. One of my favorite memories of youth, me and my parents. That same year a friend of mine had just died, he was only in the fourth grade, and my dad came in to deliver the news…the tenderness with which he went about it. Then the look of my friend’s empty desk in the center of the classroom, the rest of the year. No one would go near it, as if it were cursed, but one time I lifted the lid to see if his marbles were still there, I’d take them if they were. Remembering his name, Michael Krausley, 30 years later. We were at a theater performance of Peter Pan, and after the play they had a treasure hunt for the kids: see what artifacts you can find from the set, displayed around the theatre. One, a replica of the desk from Wendy’s dead brother: it looked just like Michael Krausley’s desk, small and sad, scaled to the size of a boy. And I remembered back to the creek that flowed near the school, the pond that froze over, Michael’s brown hair and freckles, his almost-mustache starting, too young.

We all die twice: once, when our physical body leaves and again, the last time our name is spoken. The memory of Michael was nested inside a memory of a time with my parents that felt like one of our best. It was just a simple day: no Disneyland, no amusement park, just a walk across the road with a picnic basket and some sun. Life and death co-exist like that, each feeling more real than the other at different times in our lives. Different phases of the moon, depending on which side you see. Always circling round.

Our cat got a baby bunny by the neck and carried it down to the patio, to finish it off. On Easter! I made her drop it, then threw her inside the house so the bunny could run off. Maybe it would recall the day it nearly died and tell the story, and I could be its savior. Or more likely, it wouldn’t remember. Maybe the first death actually happens before the body leaves, and we don’t even notice.


Categories: death, Memoir, parenting, prose, writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. Powerful ebb and flow cycling here “nesting inside a memory” and circling back again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That last line is haunting me a little bit. This is wonderfully morbid and pleasant. Needs to be filmed with narration, like Stand By Me.

    What about the mables?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. yes that last line – a thought to conjure with. Happy spring, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elegant existentialism, Bill.
    (from Autumn)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rescuing a bunny on Easter – very cool – may your cat forgive and recover dignity soon.
    This post is full of memorable lines – strongest (for me) is looking for your friend’s marbles in his abandoned desk – I sense your grief and your innate desire to hold onto a token remembrance. Marbles aside, your post evidences your grip. Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m just finishing The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster (2002). He quotes Chateaubriand: “As we move through life, we leave behind three or four images of ourselves, each one different from the others; we see them through the fog of the past, like portraits of our different ages.” Sounds like Bill Pearse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! I read that book! Remember us talking about Paul Auster? We have a legacy! Thanks for allowing me to be part of yours, old Hoss. All Together Now.


  7. Nice little textual tone poem. It sets off memories of kids I haven’t thought of in years, of others, not necessarily kids, that I often think of, and the nature of mortality.

    But never with the warm lick of a dog’s tongue.

    Liked by 1 person

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