Rick’s Terrible News

Rick’s father had died in the night. He called me the next morning. “My dad died last night, George,” he said. “How did you hear?” I said. “My brother called me and I used my ears,” he said. He started laughing. “Why are you laughing? I said. “I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. Maybe I’m afraid to be sad about it,” he said. “How could you not realize something like that?” I said. “I really have no idea how I couldn’t realize something like that,” he said. “It’s like automatic functioning took over for a moment there,” I said. “Right. It’s like taking a rowboat across a lake. You can travel across it and feel successful without for one second getting to know what is under the surface, or acknowledging that it’s the boat that allows you to,” I said. “Glaucoma Ramona,” he said. “It’s a cycloptic predicament,” I said. “I have three eyes, George,” he said. “We’re not quite flies yet, but we’re on our way,” I said. There was a knock at the door. I opened it. Rick was standing there with the phone up to his ear. He hung up. “I’m so sorry, Rick,” I said. He came in and sat down on the couch. “I wish I could feel sorry about it, but I’ve kind of expected this for years. The alcohol was going to get him eventually. Still, he was my dad.” he said. He got up and walked over to the refrigerator. He opened it and grabbed a beer. Right now it was his way of remembering him. “What’s your plan, today?” I said. “I suppose I’m going to want to talk to my brother about how the arrangements are going to go down,” he said. “So you want to be alone today?” I said. “Not really,” he said. “So you want to hang out with me for a while, then?” I said. He chugged his beer, then tossed it in the trash. “What do you feel like doing? He said.” “I think we should make this day about you, Rick. What do you feel like doing?” I said. “I want to do the usual,” he said. “You want to hang out and philosophize?” I said. “It’s important for me to remind myself how small I am right now,” he said. “As a way of honoring your father, or making him more grand, indirectly?” I said. He drank another beer, and began shrinking until he was the size of a carrot. “You look like a carrot,” I said. “Just don’t feed me to a bunny,” he said. “How long does it last?” I said. “However long it takes,” he said. “How long do you think that is going to be in your opinion?” I said. “Forget it,” he said. He pushed the door open and walked out. “I was just asking,” I said. “Because the answer is so important to you,” he said. He put his hands on his hips. The neighbor’s cat jogged across the yard towards him. “Run, here comes Daisy,” I said. “Is it a fast strut?” He said. “You’re going to get bit if you don’t hightail it,” I said. “I’ve been running all my life,” he said. He ran towards the cat, waving his hands. I ran after him and snatched him off the grass. Daisy, looked at me like I’d just stolen her promotion, then walked away. Rick returned to his original size. “Do you have a death wish?” I said. “That’s a little bit callous to say to me under the circumstances,” he said. “More callous than you trying to kill yourself right in front of me?” I said. “There’s a difference between callous and desperate,” he said. He was right about that one. I felt confident he could still reason effectively. “How are you doing with your father’s death?” I asked. “All I can think about when I think about him being dead is that I’m next,” he said. “It’s perfectly natural to feel the gravity of death like that,” I said. “It’s probably true.” “Like death has a check off list and it’s all about sequencing?” He said. “Well if you could escape it where would you be?” I said. “You can’t escape it. You have to join it. Right now I’m becoming what I was, if that makes any sense,” he said. “I’m having trouble following you,” I said. “That’s because you’re still thinking that I am in front of you somehow. There is no such thing as the future, so how can I be something you can reach toward?” He said. “How do you explain old age, then?” I said. “Old age is a mental construct that provides a context or contrast for the past, which is also a mental construct. So is the present,” he said. “So there is no such thing as time or a self located within that time. I don’t have to agree with you on this,” I said. “What can be known cannot be named,” he said. I liked him better when he wasn’t plagiarizing Lao Tzu. He was clearly in denial. “But isn’t anonymousness itself a mental construct?” I said. “It is, because it’s not,” he said. “Now you’re just being illogical. You can’t just hide behind figurative language and moral relativism like that,” I said. “Who said I was hiding?” He said.  “You’re right. You aren’t hiding. You are just too thoughtful. You make me start to question myself. I don’t want to change, so I just make sensible sounding blanket statements to avoid having to think about the really tough questions,” I said. “I know, George,” he said. He put his hand on my shoulder. “I’m glad you’re my friend, Rick,” I said. “You better be,” he said. The sun was starting to go down. “I can’t remember the last time I watched a sunset,” I said. “The sunset can’t remember the last time it watched you go down either,” he said. “It probably prefers that,” I said.

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