Kern's Holler Contrarian
A love story

A love story part III

by Susie

I got the call on the way to my first job this afternoon--T.T. was finally gone. It was a relief--I mean, I thought he was dead on Saturday, so I kind of had it all worked out already due to the surreal circumstances.

Then I got to Delta Cargo with a big shipment of four separate boxes of diagnostic tissue going in different directions, and the day got weird when I saw the waiting hearse. There was an Army honor guard detail there in full uniform with white gloves and all, waiting for a friend to get in--a friend in a box. I was immersed in death, even still. The sky was clouded slate-grey and looming, the breeze was uncharacteristically chill--and everything looked perfectly beautiful in its strangeness. Happy that the surreality of my life was continuing, I filled out the copious paperwork on the hood of my car so I could take it all in.

As I watched them, I realized they were all black, one a woman, comically shorter than the rest but just as serious. They were practicing for the task at hand--or I guess, putting the "hearse" in rehearse. Stiff-backed and formally robotic, they held their gloved hands beneath an invisible casket and practiced the scuffling cadences in front of the closed loading-dock door. The big humped parking block was an obstacle they needed to work on and they did, marching over it and back with their invisible burden until they had the rhythm and logistics down.

I had to go inside to make the drop--and I was surprised to see the Delta Cargo office looking like a funeral home visitation. It was full of bereaved family members, I surmised. It was a crowd, and I had to weave through them to get to the only available window. As I sneaked glances around, I realized something odd.

I had taken the soldiers outside to be comrades of the fallen--but now I'm not sure if it were just a last gasp of the plantation mentality at work. These overdressed people were all affluent, mostly quite old, and all white. VERY white.

One of the idiots had a video camera to document their socializing and suffering there--what the hell, man. Delta fucking Cargo. It's no garden spot, but at least it has the best assortment of snacks in its vending machines of anywhere at the airport. Trust me, I know. But the idea of your loved one getting put in a shipping crate and unloaded off a cargo hold of a plane and then shunted around on a forklift isn't something most people would like to think about. Sure, there was that stately, noble honor guard awaiting their task outside, but I knew exactly how the dude was getting to the door in the first place.

I didn't get to stick around for the weird ceremony, but I couldn't stop weighing it... Two deaths at a similar point of the timeline--one a good death, one a miserable one.

And the miserable death was the soldier's. All the ramrod-straight trappings of military flash and soberness, the gleaming hearse, the flag-draped coffin--it was all candycoating. It couldn't conceal the fact that some poor young fuck had died in a strange, unfamiliar, hostile place, ripped apart in agony, for the temporal, ephemeral cause of geopolitics. Eastasia vs. Oceania soon becomes Eastasia + Oceania BFF4evR, just like those friendly German fellows we do business with. It renders the supreme sacrifice about as meaningful as dying over a brand of soda.

Yes, T.T. was one lucky sonofabitch, as death goes. He went out in his own bed, in a room he'd built with a wall of windows looking out onto the trees, surrounded with familiar comforts and with his family all there, quietly, warmly loving him. And he got to chuckle one more time at those corny-assed Statler Brothers, for shit's sake. The cancer was a bitch, sure--but still, he had such a fine end.

I didn't plan to be playing a role in all this. It was a sudden, self- imposed journey, but I'm glad I took it. I now understand something I need to be aware of:


Inescapable. In myriad forms. How we stay alive at all is a fucking *miracle,* because we're positively *soaking* in DEATH.

So, hell--


Yes! Eat the fucking HELL out of that hamburger, all of you, because sometime when you don't expect it, old sucker Death is gonna snatch that burger out of your jaws--so DAMMIT, let's start LIVING!!!