Obituary (September 2023)

He was the madman shouting on the corner, across from the record store and in front of the empty lot. He dressed in dull rags that had only the memory of color. His eyes gleamed like steel, his teeth shone yellow in the sun. He would raise a leathery fist in the air and scream his faith.

He never had a name that anyone knew.

His words caught me once. I was walking home, early in the morning after a late night and we found each other far from his usual spot.

He said, “I’ve seen you, you are the one with that tub of art supplies and the old tan car.”

I agreed.

He continued, “You don’t walk by me often, I only see you briefly.”

He nodded solemnly, “I will tell you what I know.”

It wasn’t an offer, it wasn’t a command. He was simply going to tell me, and I was going to listen. So, I sat on the cold sidewalk, and he sat across from me, and I listened.

His impassioned words washed over me like sunlight on a field in the early morning. It all made sense as I listened. He told me of the glorious rise and tragic fall of kings, the wailing of children in far Hong Kong, the destruction of a prized merchant ship at the hands of pirates over a thousand years ago, and he told me of his own death, exactly three months, twelve days, and four hours from the moment I was speaking to him. I could see the connection between it all, I could grasp the invisible threads that bound one event to the next. And his burning steel eyes punctuated every word with absolute conviction and passion.

He didn’t so much stop talking as he did just leave. He rose from the concrete in one swift motion and walked away into the night. I continued to sit and stare as if coming out of a daze. His words rattled in my mind and lost their meaning. He spoke nonsense, nothing more, as he always did.

And yet, three months, twelve days, and four hours from that moment, his grinning corpse speaks for itself. More people than I expected are at this funeral. He is to be interred at the local cemetery and, for the time being, his body is on display at the church. I don’t know what his grave could possibly say. No one can recall his name.