How you die
By Barbara Lougheed
Read by Nicola Makoway
March 16, 2013
Andrew when you first called television the Great Teacher* I knew I had found a fellow traveller who well understood why we should devote so many waking hours to this great benefactor of humankind. Dave and I have named our den where we spend so many happy hours the Hall of the Great Teacher in honour of this most excellent name ever.
Andrew, we see you dying in such a hall, but a more sumptuous version, surrounded by many attendants on roller skates to more quickly respond to your finger snapping requests . How do you afford all this you ask? You have come into a great deal of money. You’ll also be surrounded by many friends – having acquired most of these prior to the money. Many more have sought out your friendship since. Some you welcomed and others you sent packing, depending on their merits.
This money is shipped to you in one hundred dollar denominations in great wooden crates. Remarkably these crates make their way to you each month stuffed full of this happy paper and are never interfered with by the outside world or those in your inner and less inner circle.
At 11 am on the fifteenth of every month you take your crow bar and crank open the latest case to all your household help’s happiness and all your many hangers on’s relief. The money is never accompanied by any sort of note explaining why you’re the recipient, where the money comes from or how long these gifts can be expected to continue. By this time most of your household expect that the crates will always come. They started when you were 60 and have been rolling in for the past 20 years.
The neighbourhood has a lot of ideas about where the money originates and these stories are told over beers in the local brasseries and cafes. Some assume you’ve found a direct link to universal bounty and others assume you’ve blackmailed the right folks. You laugh and carry on.
Other than the Hall of the Great Teacher you live quite simply. The majority of your money is donated to your many worthy causes. However, you always hang on to enough to throw a banquet for the neighbourhood each month the day after the crate’s arrival. These banquets keep all the local restaurateurs in business. Following the banquets you and your troupe put on a play. The audience is usually rowdy, emboldened by their drinking and the heightened mood, throwing tomatoes and whatever other food is at hand, not in a spirit of critique but really to demonstrate whole hearted appreciation that theatre is alive and well.
On the morning before you die, you have opened the crate, pulled out the latest bills and ordered the party preparations to be attended to. You go for a stroll up the mountain as you do each day, preside over the dress rehearsal, chow down and then look at your lines once more before your faithful man servant, Jochomo, leads you off to retire.
The next morning on awakening you realize your right arm has turned green. A nice green, a happy green – apple – and being a flexible sort with a well-developed sense of humour you welcome this development and carry on. By 10 am your right leg has turned a lively cerulean blue colour. At your ass the colours merge to create a blue/green symphony. At lunch your face is striped – bewitching really. A cherry red and sunny yellow pinstripe with soft blue dots free floating in between. Both eyebrows are dotted with black and white hexagons. There’s also poetry on your forehead in a flowing orange script. You notice your face when you’re in the bathroom brushing your teeth. The poetry is written backwards so that you can read it in the mirror and it’s what you wanted to say. You see how far your artistic life has carried you. None of the household staff or your friends have even noticed your paintedness. They think it’s just you being you.
By 2pm your back is covered with orange and red plaid triangles, your left side with paisley in gold, emerald green, fuchsia. Your nether parts are a fetching royal blue, violet and gold softly blending into one another. You notice this when you undress to relax in the sauna. At that point you determine that you’re being called upon to share your body as art and theatre in the production to follow that evening.
That evening the play unfolds in all its wonder and adding to the theatrical quality of the evening is your painted body. Your body’s colours have now extended into whatever background you move into so that the colourful magic that is you takes over the entire hall. Your whole body gradually morphs back into the set and becomes the set so that where you end and stop is no longer possible to determine. And then when the play is over you are nowhere to be seen. The case of money – what’s left of it – spontaneously combusts. Your laugh is heard breaking glasses in the distance. And then nothing. You leave this realm loudly just as you came in. We raise our glasses in a toast and your laughter breaks those too. Bastard.
Happy Birthday Andy. I’m so sorry we couldn’t be at your party.
You are one entertaining, rabble rousing, wonderful human being with great integrity. It’s a pleasure to have you as a friend.
*Although Barb credits me with referring to television as The Great Teacher, it was actually Michael Leon who coined the term. After we bought our first Sony Trinitron many years back, my boyfriend at the time, Carl Stewart, and I did refer to it as Sony Sensei.
This year I decided to do something different for my birthday; I decided to celebrate my death. The end result was an incredible evening of poetry, song, storytelling, drawing, conceptual art, chocolate cake, laughter and a whole lot of love. Over the next several weeks I will be posting the results.