The Dead Man

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This is a story about a dead man, although he’s not dead yet. That part happens later.

No, at the beginning he was driving his new Porsche down the Florida Turnpike and I was sitting next to him. We’re really getting after it. I mean we were weaving in and out of cars like Dominic Toretto. We were going so fast, I could barely hear Journey over the sound of the wind. The palm trees dropped out the rear view mirror like Paul Bunyan was working. That fast!

Now, I’m from Idaho. We don’t drive like this. Even when I lived in Miami, I didn’t drive like this. I fit in with all the other snow birds going 65 in the middle lane. So here I am in the passenger’s seat, just clutching the ‘Oh Shit Handle’-begging the Dead Man to slow down. But he laughed and kept on cruising. Hey, that’s the Dead Man for you.

We met years back at a car show when I lived here. I held an unlit cigarette in my hand while I scoped out this GTO. It was a gorgeous machine. The dead man came up to admire and asked me if I have a light. We talk about the car for a few hours, and the next thing I know, we’re meeting up for drinks once a week. I meet his family, and he gets invited to my wedding. Sometimes you just click with people.

Anyways that day in the Porsche, I was just visiting. The dead man really wanted me to come down. He said he had to see in me in person for this one. Needless to say, I was shocked when he showed up in the 911 Porsche at the airport. That was his dream car! I couldn’t believe he bought it! I jumped in and we took off down the Highway.

“So you hungry Jeff?” the Dead Man said.

“Yea, I’m starving,” I said.

We exited the highway and I finally let go of the roof handle. I guess I felt safe with the slower pace of traffic or something. We drove around looking for a good spot when I saw a Halal Guys. I couldn’t wait anymore. We had to stop. At that point, I was way past the stomach growls. The Dead Man just shook his head and we pulled over.

Now at the restaurant he started acting a little funny. It’s like he’s got something to say but there’s a clog going on upstairs. His blue eyes start shifting around and he starts using his hands a lot to talk. Finally I say something.

“You doing okay man?”

“Not really, I got something to tell you.” He took a deep breath.

“I have stage three lung cancer.”

Wow. I mean talk about out of left field. The Dead Man and I talk a couple times a month. This never came up once. It’s like I didn’t even know the man, and he gave the toast at my wedding! I wanted to ask him all the usual worry questions, but what came out wasn’t anything close.

“So, is that why you bought the Porsche?”

He laughed. He had that kind of laugh that made it okay not to answer the question. We finished our lunch but it was quiet. I don’t even think the fans in restaurant were on anymore. We got back in the 911 and took off down the highway. Hauling ass of coarse.

This time on the Turnpike was different . I didn’t grab the overhead handle like before. The speed was just an afterthought. I didn’t even flinch when a little custom Civic tried to play with us. I mean I should’ve. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t say anything. It’s completely unlike me. Maybe if I did, the scene would’ve been different. But then again, maybe not.

The Civic pulled up to our left and honked. The driver flipped us off and juiced it.  The dead man just smiled and the 911 chased after him. I flew back in the seat. I’m pretty sure my eyes were glued open. As we caught up to him, the Dead Man started flipping him off. And that’s the last thing I remember before the crash.

After that, I woke up in hospital bed wearing a gown and covered in stitches. My wife was beside me. She grabbed my hand and told me everything. How the semi truck in the left lane next to us blew a tire. How it fishtailed into our lane. How the custom Civic driver saw the whole thing and called 911. And finally, she told me how Jerry was thrown from the driver side window,

and was pronounced dead.

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Wake

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Engrid buzzed the intercom telling me Mr. Hoggins is in the lobby and would like to sell his coffin back. I spit up my coffee. I’ve been in the funeral business for 20 years and never heard anything like this. A family member changing their mind from metallic to Wood, sure. But never anyone wanting to return their OWN coffin. I started wiping the spit and coffee off of the stack of invoices below me as I told her to send him in my office.

The steel knob turned and in walked a healthy Sam Hoggins, without his usual green oxygen tank in tow. This was not the same man I had met several months ago with terminal stage four lung cancer. My eyebrows raised to show off all the whites of my eyes, as he took a seat.

“Hello Sam. How are you?” I said, trying not to laugh at how confused I sounded.

He smiled put his palms out in a ta-da fashion around his face.

“I’m great! Actually Beyond great! My cancer is all gone!”

I stood up in my chair listening intently. “How?”

“About a week after I purchased this coffin, I drove into the city to for an experimental procedure. At the time it was a long shot, but if there was a chance I’d promised Martha that I would take it for her!”

He continued on with the complicated medial jargon of the operation. I was in utter awe. It was one of the most miraculous things I had ever heard. This man was a goner, but fought tooth and nail to live. Eventually he changed the subject.

“As you can tell I have a new lease on life! I want to surprise Martha by taking her down to live in Boca Raton. Will you buy my coffin back? It’s never been used.”

“Of coarse!”

I began drawing up the paper work, while I had one of my staff get the coffin out of his Dodge and place in back in the showroom. We both signed and I shook his hand.

“Good luck on everything Mr. Hodgins!”

“Thank you! But could you do me a favor?”

I leaned in close.

“I have to run a few more errands before heading home. If Martha calls, could you not mention this? I would like it to be a surprise.”

“Absolutely!” I answered.

He got into his Dodge and roared down the drive way. I sat down at my desk and got back to work on the invoices.

A few hours later Engrid buzzed again saying Martha Hodgins was on the line. I looked at myself in the reflection off the window. Remembering what to do, I picked up the black Cisco phone.

“Mrs. Hodgins how are you?”

There was a giant sniffle before the voice spoke. “I am as good as I can be, John.”

I smiled as I played along. “Understandable, what can I do for you?”

“Well, I’m still at the hospital and they are about to the pull the plug on Sam. His brother Bobby said he would take the coffin over to you for prepping of the wake. Did he make it there yet?”

My jaw hit the floor.