Nebraska Center for Writers

by David L Bristow

One night, a man awoke from a sound sleep to discover that he was dead. Through the sheet which covered him, he could see the light of many candles. His head buzzed with alcohol and with the ear-splitting report of a gunshot.
Perhaps that was the shot which had killed him. Sitting up and drawing back the sheet, he looked all around, struggling to comprehend his destiny. Alone in a somber room, he lay on a little cot, surrounded by glowing candles. By the candlelight he could make out the stacks of coffins against the walls. Perhaps in the eerie half-light he could even distinguish the bad from the good, the cheap pine boxes from the polished black caskets with plush, pillowed interiors; perhaps he even noticed how the candlelight glinted off the plate-glass windows on the front of the finer models.
His coffin would be one of the fine ones. He was a prominent businessman; he would go in style. The papers would print admiring obituaries, and wealthy and respected men would stand hats-in-hand at the graveside. No one would mention the drinking. Death was too polite an occasion for that. But everyone knew, and later they would talk about it. They would assume that drink had had something to do with it, with whatever it was (Was it the gunshot?) which had brought him here to this place of death, this place of inescapable and horrifying death.
He began praying aloud, though he must have known it was too late for that. It was all over. He was dead.

Reprinted with permission
from A Dirty, Wicked Town
Copyright © 2000
by David L Bristow
Caxton Press

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Nebraska Center for Writers