The Death of Stuporman

I dream in black and white newspaper columns of a citizen who has no known influence but dies under lots of it in the shade of two staggering pines while sleeping in his flea-market hammock with 11 empty bottles and a 12th one still dripping.

Civil authorities say it wasn’t an overdose of Budweiser. They suspect suffocation caused by sticker shock from the surgeon’s bill balled up in his fist.

Before Undertaker slinks in to drain his blood-because in this dream embalming takes place on site-the wind has wrung out the deceased, twisting and sewing the hammock around him like a thrift store burial gown.

Inside this wrapper, the beer-soaked Sunday newspaper still hugs his face, prints today’s headline on his forehead. His wallet is missing but that’s because it’s probably empty instead of stolen. The cat sleeping in the dead man’s lap is a suspect in the crime, as are some early birds scalping his hair to build nests.

Ignoring cops, cats, birds, neighbors, and undertakers, the dead man seems to be somewhere else. This upsets the late-arriving mail carrier who is always agitated when someone moves without leaving a forwarding address. So Mailman goes postal, pulls out his stamp gun, drags the cat off and shoots him nine times. He tells Undertaker a dirty joke that makes him die laughing. He somehow tars and feathers the thieving birds. He burns like witches the two trees that hold the citizen up. He scares the cops and all other creatures into stupor. Only the wind gets away.

Only the hammock lets go, and the debtor dead man rolls downhill like a log, while squeaky wheels from Rood Electric fill up his answering machine with threats to cut off his power.

—first published inGhost City Review