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The man who died twice 

Death doubled by wrong numbers and Alzheimer's

I've decided to murder a man named Travis. I hope he doesn't take it personally. I don't even know him. It's his friends I hate. They call me at all hours, with their unlisted phone numbers, asking if he's around. At first I was polite. "Sorry, wrong number," I'd chirp. But then after the 50th call, I decided Travis had to die.

"You haven't heard?" I gasped. "Travis, poor thing, was anally raped by his prison inmates with a cafeteria table leg. He died the next day."

Travis doesn't always die the same way, and sometimes he doesn't die at all, but horrible things happen to him, over and over again. "I'm sorry to be the first to tell you, but Travis died horribly in a grease fire." Sometimes Travis is not all the way dead yet. "You should go visit him in the hospital," I might advise. "Maybe he'll recognize you. The doctor said the late-stage syphilis has only eaten half his brain."

His friends might show some polite concern, until the lurid details emerge, then they hang up. I've decided Travis must be a crystal-meth dealer, because why else would his pussy friends all have unlisted numbers, and why else would they call him at all hours? "They say if he lives," I'll console, "he'll have to wear a diaper and carry a doughnut cushion for the rest of his life."

I'VE HAD THIS cell number for a hundred years, so it's not that I innocently inherited the old number of this Travis guy. No. This Travis guy plucked my number out of the air and is giving it to people he hopes to avoid, obviously, which is another reason he merits a painful death. "He was killed by an infected, ulcerated hemorrhoid," I might elaborate. "It's not as uncommon as you might think. They've created a memorial fund. For more information, go to www.travistheasstard.com."

I started to feel bad when one girl burst into tears upon hearing the news. Of course, she could have been crying because her drug supply just dried up, but at that point I realized that prick Travis was blowing people off who actually gave a crap about him. "Don't feel bad," I consoled her. "The police found a huge cache of kiddie porn in his lean-to, so he deserved to die."

I got busted when one person called back and got a second rendition of Travis' death. "A man can't die twice," he hollered. Immediately I employed one of my best methods of defense, which was to impersonate my 85-year-old neighbor, Dot, who has Alzheimer's. This impersonation entails a lot of screaming. "I said I want my milk with my meal!" I bellowed again and again. It's a very effective ploy, and works against telemarketers, too.

The only problem is that the ruckus sometimes summons Dot to my door. She is a good neighbor, and when she hears screaming, dammit, she's gonna investigate. I wish I could say the same for when I hear screaming from her place, but the truth is I hear it so often it's just part of the background noise now. I like Dot, though. On her good days we joke about how we're gonna go get us some men. "I see some across the street right now," she'll cackle, pointing at the shirtless contractors working on a house that, until now, had been one of the few on our street that had accompanied ours among the unrenovated. "You go get 'em," she urges. "I'm too tired."

This wasn't one of Dot's good days, though. "My husband's dead," she sobbed, her eyes wild and searching. I nodded sympathetically. Dot's husband died more than 20 years ago. "I don't understand. I buried him 25 years ago, but I woke up this morning and he was dead all over again."

I invited her to come inside, sit on my new patio and have a cup of tea, but she declined. "I have so many things to do," she worried. "That man was the love of my life. How could he leave me like that? He did it to himself, you know. He used to call me from his office every day, but that day he didn't call me, and I knew something was wrong. That's where they found him, in his office. He did it to himself. What will people say? I don't want people talking."

"Screw what people say, Dot," I said, walking her back to her porch. "That should be the last thing on your list of concerns."

"He was the love of my life," she sighed, "and I thought I was his. So many things to do, and I already did it all once. I woke up this morning and he was dead all over again," she repeated, her eyes pleading. "I didn't know a man could die twice."

Sometimes I wonder if crazy people are crazy because they're mercilessly attuned to everything, even thoughtless phone conversations a whole house away. In any case, that morning I got a glimpse of the inner prison where Dot must live. Her husband's death was the most painful thing she ever endured. She took a decade to get over it, only to succumb to Alzheimer's and forget she got over it. I stayed there a good while that morning, holding an old woman's hand, helping her live through the fresh agony of losing her husband, a man who had died twice.

Hollis Gillespie is founder of the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy. For more information go to www.hollisgillespie.com.

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