I have decided to write as if I’m dead, and my hands are reanimated and connected to my brain. The keyboard is getting badly beaten and my fingers are stiff like hard candy from the bones of a skeleton. The point of obituaries, I guess, is to get you to pause in a busy day and remember or contemplate the life of another. Will you lovingly remember me? No, since you didn’t know me and even if you did, you didn’t. Humans are like circles, they edge a big hole that eventually gets incinerated by the magma of a torn, dying earth. Yes, that is a problem. There is nothing ever left behind that we can recognize as a real person. Someone who was here doing stuff, hurting, loving, feeling, falling. Yet, I will continue with my obituary and the important details of a life. If I do my job correctly, your face will warm to my last breaths and the truth will come to you in the reading, not the writing.
Duke was born in a storm that tore up a dog pound down the street. His mother painfully popped him out on a kitchen table. When he was in high school, he studied the Jews and WWII and because he talked so much about concentration camps he lost many opportunities to pet the breasts of good looking girls. Those women were searching for animals less inscrutable. Duke always disliked contemporary references. They destroyed the idea of indivisible time. He strongly believed that his life was meant to be different and humorous and helpful. Clichés were to be avoided like bad women with large boyfriends. Because of these religious beliefs he tended toward cracks in the wall and unexpected politeness and all of those last pieces of toast. When he was in college the smell of diesel and asphalt were important to Duke. Until the day he died, they reminded him of whorehouses and little boys begging for quarters.
We are a bit less than halfway finished with this prepositioned obituary, often sold by newspapers for a dollar a line, and brought forward by the miracle of literary foreshadowing.
Duke earned many advanced degrees. However, in terms of education, probably the best thing he ever did was drop out of a PhD program in Library Science. He was dating a librarian with bread flour skin that had a penchant for purple lingerie. She had divorced a policeman who would park in front of his old house and old bed where Duke would sleep with his old wife. One day, while the librarian was at work, the cop questioned Duke about a man who had run through a series of thick hedges and then out into the street where he jumped on top of a moving car and stomped in the roof. The policeman wanted to know where the man was. Duke didn’t say that the man was hiding inside of the policeman’s old house. Later Duke got stoned with the man who stomped in the roof and found out that the man’s girlfriend had been in the car. The irony of this incident was important in Duke’s life, but in a way he could never fully understand.
Duke’s 25-year international career had a lot to do with teaching people how to behave. He rose to the top of his profession. There was this man on a bridge firing a weapon into the air while thousands of people ran to the other side, over the river. The people were desperate since a revengeful army was bearing down upon the little town and they needed to go somewhere else. Duke yelled at the man to stop firing and there was a wild look in the man’s eyes and then in a split second he shot a woman with a baby in her arms. She fell to the side, against the metal railing, and the baby rolled onto the wood planks as the crush of the madness covered everything and then the little form in the blanket was gone. Duke never got a raise because of that incident and he never used it in salary negotiations. In fact, he never told anyone. It was the sort of thing that got lost in his life, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t important. No, it was part of his internal value system; a snapshot in his mind that often came to him like a dull pain in his left arm and the face of the baby was always surprised and the sky was blue and red and yellow and the people were screaming in an unknown language.
Duke died suddenly on the floor of his kitchen. He was surrounded by bugs and dogs and went peacefully. The love of Duke’s life was there, in the living room, watching a movie and she didn’t notice he had died until the movie was over. The movie was about a man staying in an expensive business hotel who meets a girl. There were many shots of the girl’s knees. They were pure and soft and had the world been a different sort of place, people could have prospered on those knees and raised generations of healthy children that would have fought to overcome all of the evils that Duke understood.
There will be no formal services for Duke since that would be meaningless. He wanted it that way and has decided to be burned upon the edge of the local landfill which is in the shape of a circle and people don’t go there much since the feral dogs roam around and people are afraid they will be attacked. It seems a good place nonetheless and a perfect spot for Duke.