The Death of James Polk
James Polk shat himself to death. The family doctor confirmed it. Tom Miller. You know Tom? He doesn’t catch coughs, he pitches them. But he knew a mess when he saw one. Which is what he saw when he saw Polk’s deathbed.
James Polk shat the deathbed. Imagine fucking up and somebody else saying, "You really shit the bed on that one.” Now imagine you’re James Polk fucking up your whole life story by literally shitting the bed, which will be your one remembrance of life before you breathe your last. So that’s where you could be in life: dying and shitting in bed.
Which is what Tom Miller saw when he saw Polk’s deathbed: a dying mess. Tom Miller thought I don’t get paid enough for this. James Polk thought I’m too old for this shit. Tom Miller is the guy who killed my grandfather. James Polk I have no relation to. I have reason to think Tom Miller is going to kill me, too. I have reason.
Except in conversation I pronounce it raison, as to arch brows or catch a scoff. Sometimes an audible scoff, sometimes a hard loogie. This is information I can’t use. If anyone has a problem with me believing that Tom Miller is going to kill me, they should let me know with words and not speechlessness. I have no use for noise.
In a small house next door one man killed another and wept. This was a week ago. The medics’ arrival became an event. The windows along the street brightened in a mood of sporadic concern. Heads popped out of doors with the calculated startle of meerkats. It’s like don’t forget when the Dutch gave meerkats the old Ellis Island treatment. Anyone could’ve heard it coming but would be hard put to say why. It was a strange noise, weeping.
The species is going extant. Which is almost as bad as its opposite. Tom Miller knows this, and he’s going to kill me to prove it. He’ll tell me it’s to settle a debt, although regarding which one I’m not sure. A lot of people owe me things. Chiefly respect. Respect is usually what people conveniently are fresh out of, as though respect were a dime dropped or a Lucky smoked. “I’m fresh out,” people say, “the fact that I haven’t been stalely out, that it’s untrue to say I haven’t had any in a while, the fact that I just had some a minute ago—it’s a testament to the freshness of my lack.” This is the kind of shit Tom Miller would say. The same Tom Miller who said, “This shit again” upon seeing James Polk in the throes, churning the dark linen.
I go out, I buy bread, and there’re pentagrams baked into the crust. I paid for sustenance, not for occult imagery, which I could care less about when I’m hungry. I mean take one bite and you’re an iconoclast, and was that what you were planning on when you were young?
My secret public suspicion is this. Tom Miller killed my grandfather but let my father live, so I must be next. It skips a generation.
Wherever I go, I see people spitting. It’s like once I enter their field of vision they deem it necessary to hock a hard one. Sometimes scorn is irrational, otherwise I’d just consider myself a walking expectorant. My very presence an act of mucokinesis I’d rather not be a part of. It’s the same logic involved in why I’d rather light up the house and view it from outside instead of in. I want to be around my life, loitering around the bright house that is my life.
It’s like walking around the house of someone who’s died, you pick up a piece of their life, something hidden and strange, and say, “You think you know a guy.”