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Original artwork by Anna Mansueti

Dead Men Get Away With It

John Grey

His obituary in the morning newspaper

didn’t mention the pub crawls,

the naked bridge run,

or the time, with brutally-strummed guitar and off-key wail,

he serenaded an old girlfriend

from beneath her bedroom window

wearing nothing but a jockstrap.

The absence of such events as these,

replaced by more sober details

such as names of parents and siblings

and the job he held down for fifteen years,

would certainly leave the casual reader

with an incomplete picture of a man.

I wonder though.

does anyone ever read the obits

in hope of getting to know someone?

He used to drink.

It made him wild sometimes.

Oh he’d stop cold for a week or two,

tell everyone he was reformed.

But then he’d start up again.

And he’d act crazier than before.

I remember his wedding day.

The stag party drowned his head in booze.

He didn’t show for the nuptials.

And what about his four years in college?

He earned habits but no degrees.

And he’s the only guy I know with a police record.

DUI. Assault and battery. Exposing himself in a public park.

He took whatever advice the liquor gave him.

Really, his burial was so unlike him.

They should have plopped him in the coffin face down.

But there are certain rituals to be followed,

various cover-ups to be maintained.

Like how no one ever mentioned the word “cirrhosis”

and certainly the paper didn’t print it.

And according to that newspaper,

he could have just as easily died from having family,

from earning a paycheck,

or something as simple

as having his name on such a page.

It should have said,

“Once a screw-up, always a screw-up.”

The closest it came to honesty was the last line,

“In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to AA.”

That notice in the paper straightened

him out, preserved his good name

and all of us who shared it.

The wake never saw a man so dry.

And the funeral went as planned.

Considerate and self-effacing,

he’s been dead ever since.