May He Rest in Peace
Dubby and Brent leave the funeral home with a new plan. Since no friends or relatives would be at the cemetery but them, they do not need to bury the casket. They told the mortician the body will now be cremated and for him to tell the people in the cemetery to fill the hole back up, for the plot was back up for sale. They had the casket picked up by a common trucking company and delivered to their apartment. They told the truckers it was empty; it was just a heavy casket. The meat chunks inside the casket were already in small baggies and all they had to do was to take them to the next door restaurant's dumpster. They put the casket in their guest room for a bed as a joke, since they never had a guest. Dubby thought the guest room was sort of like Sill's now, and he felt he should always ask Brent into the Guest Room whenever he wanted to talk about or to Sill, so while they were in there he asked again, “Would you kill me too, Brent?”
“It's going to be harder to kill you , Dubby. You have employees and customers that see you every day.”
“I could quit my law practice and when things died down I could die.”
“You handled all the legal stuff to create Brent Hardbaker. How can you handle everything for yourself?”
“I will have to do it before I die.”
“But you like being a lawyer. What would you do after you die?”
“I have enough money to last another life. All I want to do is change my life.”
“You have to come up with a cool name too before you start anything.”
“I already did.”
Brent smiles and asks, “What is it?”
“I don't like it.”
“It's not cool. Daryl isn't a real cool name.”
“How about Rod Washburn?”
“Nooo. It's better, but you will have this name until you die the second time. What's your third guess?”
“I don't have another one.”
“Let's think about it for a day or two. I'm going to the biker's bar down the street to pick up one of those scummy biker chicks for sex. It's not every day that a guy gets to celebrate his own funeral. Want to come?”
“No. I only have one dick.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don't have one to spare that I can risk.”
“Good one, Dubby. Good point too. So where do you want to pick up chicks?”
“Girls don't like to be called chicks.”
“Only the ugly ones don't like it because no one calls them a chick, just like they don't want to be treated like women. They want to be treated like men.”
“They want to be treated as equals to men, Brent. There's a difference.”
“Do you remember our conversation at Tony's Lasagna Palace about six months ago? What did I say when we were talking about women?”
“You said women were the most beautiful creatures God ever made, that they were smarter than men and would earn more than men if people were paid according to what they accomplished. It was nice to hear you talk like that.
“And who were you talking to then?”
“No, you were talking to that dead guy Sylvester Cromley. I have to change everything to be Brent Hardbaker, even my opinions. Brent is a hard ass, Dubby. He is a money spending, brute of a womanizer. That is my new persona. That is who I am now.”
“I liked the invisible sensitive Sill better. If I change I want to become a better person.”
“Why not come back as Sill. The names open now.”
“No thanks. I don't like your parents. They are like my parents. They have no love in them.”
“If you don't change everything about yourself then why change at all, Dubby. If you want a nice body like mine all you have to do is work out. If you want to look different but keep everything else about yourself the same then let all your customers and employees know you will be getting some plastic surgery done and that they should be ready to see you look different. Then you can keep your name and life the same while getting a do-over of the old body.”
“I think that is really what I want to do.”
“You need a better nickname though. How about using part of your last name? Treck, spelled T-R-E-K? It sounds technical, sci-fi-ish, and an original cool nickname.”
“Hmmm. I kind of like it. It fits my real name Dubert LaTreck too. Then my business associates and clients can call me Dubert in public which would give me more respect.”
“Respect. That's something the new me will command … not earn, but demand”, says Brent, who adds, “Let's get out of this dead guy's bedroom and get a nice steak at the restaurant. If we knew how the funeral was going to end and that we wouldn't have to bury the casket or open it I would have had some of the steaks that were Sill kept on ice so we could eat them here.”
“That's an awful thought, Brent.”
Brent smiles and adds, “We could have invited Sill's parents over and afterwards tell them that the meat was Sill himself.”
“That's gross, Brent.”
“We could tell them that Sill's last message to his parents was, ‘Eat me'”
Both Brent and Dubby chuckled thinking that would have been funny. As they leave their penthouse they run into their neighbor's beautiful twenty five year old daughter. Dubby blushes and looks down at the floor as he always does when facing an attractive single girl. Brent says, “You are looking gorgeous this evening, as usual, Cynthia. We are going to have a steak at the restaurant. Would you like to join us for a meal of your choice? You can have anything you like. We are celebrating that I am still alive.”
Cynthia smiles her attractive smile and says, “Well now that you mention it, I should celebrate that I am still alive too. I would love to join you guys. Let me just holler in to my parents to tell them where I'll be.”
As the two men wait outside her parent's penthouse Dubby says, “We never got to know her because Sill was just as afraid to talk to her as I am.”
Brent looks at Dubby and says, “Sill was a coward. Brent is a lady's man. He's not afraid of anything.”
Cynthia comes out and walks between them saying, “I'm ready, boys. I hope you have a lot of money because I'm famished” as she tucks her arm around each of theirs.
Brent says, “How come a good-looking chick like you never asked me out before. You must have known I was madly in love with you.”
Cynthia throws her head back and laughs. “You just moved in three days ago. I like to make my men beg and grovel for at least five days” she laughed.
Brent glances at Dubby to let him know pretty girls do like being called chicks, while Dubby just blushed as he held her arm wondering how Brent could change his whole personality overnight. Dubby never said anything all evening while Brent entertained Cynthia who seemed to love being the center of attention.
As the weeks passed Brent would sleep later and later and go out every night staying out later and later. Some mornings Dubby would see hundreds of hundred dollar bills piled on the kitchen table when he woke up, and some evenings Brent would ask if Dubby had a thousand to loan him for the evening. “What do you do all night?” he asked one day.
“Party and gamble and play with woman … all night. It is great fun and exciting. You should come with me some night.”
“You will end up losing all your money by gambling, and you are going to catch something playing with strange girls.”
“I always take just one thousand dollars with me every night. I can only lose three hundred and sixty five thousand a year that way. I figure I have only enough to last a little under two hundred years if I never won. Last night I won fifty thousand dollars.”
“I saw it on the table this morning. How do you win so much in one night?”
“Blackjack. I can count cards.”
“Everyone that can count can count cards, Brent. There are fifty two in a deck. Second graders can count to fifty two.”
“Counting cards in Blackjack means you can remember which cards have been played and can calculate the odds of which of the remaining ones will turn up next. There are only a few people that can do that, and no one in this town seems to be able to do it.”
“Is that legal?”
“It's only illegal in the game rooms. You can't go to jail for it, but you could get beat up by the casino goons for it. That is why I make discrete losses to throw them off. Some nights, as many as ten in a row, I lose my thousand dollars. Some nights, never two in a row, I make fifty thousand. You get the picture. I'm way ahead.”
“It sounds dangerous to me.”
“It did to Sill too. He was too much of a coward to cash in on his ability.”
“I'm ready for my plastic surgery. It's scheduled for next week.”
“That's great, Dubby … I mean Trek. I have to remember to call you that now. Well, see you tomorrow”, and Brent throws his suit jacket over his shoulder and leaves for the evening.
Trek did not see Brent the next day or even the next week. He started worrying and called the hospitals and police stations. No one at those places ever heard of Brent Hardbaker.
At the end of the third week when Trek was ready to assume Brent was dead he received a letter from France . It was short and in sort of a code. It said:
52 of what?
Got me in trouble.
Won big. $400k. Made enemies.
Got in fight. Got hurt. Hurt others.
Might be in big trouble there.
Am okay. Like my new home.
Trek just looked at the letter. He now understood what happened and was relieved his friend was alright. He felt sorry it happened, not because his friend got hurt and was in trouble, but because he would now be alone for the first time in his life, and his only friend would not even recognize him now after his plastic surgery.
There was a knock on the door. Trek thought of not opening it, but decided life alone must go on. He opens the door and finds Cynthia standing there … crying. “Can we go out for coffee?” she asks.
“Brent is not here”, says Trek.
“I need someone to listen to me, Dubby … I mean Trek. Brent is always talking and trying to grab me. I need someone to just listen. Please come with me.”
Trek closes the door and they stand quietly waiting for the elevator as he wonders why someone always bubbly as Cynthia would be crying … and wondering why she would want to talk to him .
Sylvester Cromley was the name on his Birth Certificate. He always hated that name. People called him by the nickname Sly, which he hated even more, because he thought it made him sound cunning and devious.
When he was thirteen his father said he was now a man. Sylvester's first sentence out of his mouth as a man was to tell his father and mother he wanted to be called Sill and not Sly. He explained that when he entered High School in September all of his new friends will know him by his new name which he liked much better. They agreed. That was when Sylvester learned he made his first mistake as a man, for his mother started calling him Sillie.
His second mistake was when he thought if he didn't answer to his mother's calling him Sillie she would just get angry and holler “Sill”, but that she did not do. Mrs. Cromley never got angry. She just thought Sylvester was not in the house, so she went to the front door and hollered out to the whole neighborhood for her son. Well, you know the name she hollered. Sylvester was mortified. Silly then became his new nickname in High School.
Sill didn't have to worry about all of his new friends calling him Sill, for he only had one friend in High School. His name was Dubert LaTreck, pronounced as “Do bear”. He hated his name too, but was afraid to change his nickname of Dubby to anything else for fear he would make a similar mistake as Sill, as some of the kids already had called him “Poo Bear” then “Poopy Bear” and one older kid called him “Shit Bear”.
Sill and Dubby were like twins … not that they looked alike or were from the same parents. No, Sill and Dubby were twins from the same Fate. The only thing they had in common was that they hated their names. Both were sort of forced to be the other's only friend, or they would have no friend at all.
Like most young kids in school, when you are not invited to parties or asked to be on a sports team or in general when you are not noticed by the other kids, all you have left to do is to study. Sill and Dubby had the highest grades in their class. They worked together on different projects in their basements or in their father's garages. Neither was tall or short nor were they fat or skinny. They were completely average looking, other than Sill had more acne than most and Dubby had bigger ears than anyone else in school. They saw that the kids in school who were smaller or “Geeky” looking got picked on, but they themselves were almost invisible. That was the only thing for which they were thankful, as the Seniors were relentless in their torment of the kids they noticed that looked different.
Sill and Dubby were to be graduated from High School with all ‘A's. The Principal asked which one wanted to be the Class Valedictorian. “You could be co-valedictorians if you like”, he added. Sill said his parents were taking him to see some sick relatives so he would not be able to make it to the ceremony. Dubby didn't lie like Sill did. He just honestly said, “I don't want to be Valedictorian and I won't be going to the ceremony.” You see, both of the boys thought they had just made it through a maze of potential high school terror without being injured. To them High School was like the computer games they played, where the hero would be up against an endless number of villains who wanted to kill him. They had just completed the game, but knew the villains' number was endless and they certainly didn't want to draw any attention to themselves now. No sir, they won and they just wanted out of there. They were both going on to the prestigious Hale University in the autumn and were hoping college was not going to be just a harder version of High School, … like an advanced game of Ghetto Zombies. Sill did not know what he was going to choose for a major since he was interested in everything technical. Dubby knew he always wanted to be a lawyer.
Both boys again wanted to be invisible at college, at least until they learned their way around the campus. They wanted to know what was around every corner, even if they couldn't know who was around the corner. But as they were to find out, as you enter college so shall you live through it. Again they were little noticed other than by their Professors who had seen the two as gifted. Dubby went on to the Law School right there on the Hale University campus. Sill went on for his PhD in Engineering there also, still not deciding whether it would be in Chemistry or Mechanical, or Electrical or Computer Science, as he graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics with a minor in Engineering. He took courses in all of the Departments and wrote his thesis on The Computer Solution to the Mechanical Design of a Multifunctional Chemical Process Using Inline Electrical Control, which had original ideas presented and solved in every engineering department. Every Engineering Department wanted Sill to accept his PhD degree in their department and they all offered him a Professorship also. Sill then realized he would have to teach if he accepted the professorship and would have to get up in front of a class of students … and have to speak … and answer questions … and be the center of attention. He declined the offers and even walked out of school without the PhD degree, realizing it was just a sheet of paper anyway.
Meanwhile Dubby passed his Bar Exam and was allowed to practice law in his home state of Pennsylvania . He chose not to practice in his little town in the foothills of the Appalachia Mountains , but instead elected to practice in Philadelphia . Sill, who of course came from the same little town, wanted to live in a big city also, so they rented a large apartment together, with Dubby going directly into practice on his own doing legal research and writing defenses for other big name law firms who were in over their head on a particular case, and Sill designing machines, chemical processes, Electrical controls, and computer programs for people he met on the internet. Both were earning a lot of money. It was exciting at first, but after only two years both were rich, and, alas, both were bored with the routine. One day on a Sunday morning as Sill was sitting at the kitchen table he asked Dubby if he would kill him. Dubby was shocked. “No Sill! Don't even think of committing suicide either. We need each other for confidence to keep going.”
“I don't mean kill kill. I mean just pretend kill. I don't like this life. I know I can do more in another life and I want to start that life as soon as I can.”
“You only get one life, Sill.”
“Hear me out on this, Dub. If I actually died who would miss me other than you? My parents never call even though I call them every week. I now have to say, ‘It's me, Sill … Sly … Sylvester … your son calling.' If I died in a fire or fell into a punch press they would have a closed casket. Who would know if it was really me inside, or anyone for that matter, especially if I gave you the power of attorney to handle all of my affairs and you said it was indeed me inside. I know it would be illegal to say that, but what would it matter if you knew you would never be caught. Imagine. I would be free to start a new life with a new name and a whole new personality. You could get me all the identification I would ever need for my new life and you have access to all of the records to make it look all legal and proper. Look at how many people live in Philadelphia . Who is going to miss one person, or notice one more added?”
“What would happen if some people recognized you?”
“They won't. I am going to get a face change.”
“Yes. A bigger and straighter nose, higher cheekbones, narrower eyes, bigger ears, but not as big as yours, and a full head of hair. I'll be a new man with all the confidence a man with the name Brent Hardbaker would have.”
“You even have a new name picked out?”
“Of course I do. I've had twenty six years to think of the name I wished I had. So what do you think? Will you help me? I rarely leave the apartment now anyway, so I will just stay in here until my new face is ready for me to visit my new world.”
Dubby reluctantly agrees.
Two months later Sill came home from the doctors with the bandages removed. He hollers through the door, “Brent Hardbaker here to see a Mister Dubert LaTreck.” Dubby opens the door and almost faints, for there stood a dashing man in flashy clothes with a beautiful smile who says, “I am sorry to announce that Sylvester Cromley has passed away. He was crushed beyond recognition by the nine tires on one side of a steel-hauling tractor trailer truck. There is nothing left but his wallet and what looks like raw hamburger with bones. Please notify his parents, would you old chap?”
Dubby looks like he is greeting a stranger but says, “Come in.”
Brent walks in just as though he owned the place, took off his coat and asked, “What do you think”, as he flexed his muscles in his t-shirt and ran his fingers through his long and now blonde hair.
“Where did you get those muscles?”
“I've been working out every day for the last six months. You didn't notice them because I always wore sweat clothes. I just dyed my hair this morning before I went to the doctors. I had my old crooked teeth pulled yesterday and picked up my false ones on my way here just a few minutes ago. I really am almost a new man.”
“You're not even half bald anymore”, says Dubby.
“Transplants, my friend. Your little-boy hairline wouldn't need them. You're lucky, because it hurts when they take them out and it hurts when they plant them in a new spot.”
“What are you going to do now”
“I have a funeral to go to. I hope my parents remember they had a son named Sylvester. I wonder how they are going to take his death. I guess I'll know in a couple days.”
“You're going to your own funeral?”
“Everyone goes to their own funeral, Dubby. They just don't get to talk to their old friends.”
“You don't have old friends, Sill.”
“It's Brent, Dubby. Don't call me Sill anymore. Sill is dead. You have to go to the funeral parlor tomorrow to buy a casket. It has to be one that can be sealed. I'm going to get some stuff you can put in just in case someone opens it.”
“What is that going to be?”
“Cut up animal parts. I would think even a corner would only look quickly and determine the cause of death was from being totally torn apart and then close the casket right away without further testing.”
The funeral was a small one, not because the family was small but because Sylvester had no friends, and the members of his large family all gave excuses why they could not attend, some even admitting they never knew Sylvester even existed. “Mr. and Mrs Cromley. This is my friend Brent Hardbaker.”
“How do you do, Brent. Were you friends with Sillie?” asked Mrs. Cromley.
“We never met, ma'am, but I heard he was a quiet man. I'm sure this is a great loss to you.”
Mr. Cromley said, “We hardly knew Sly. He never said much to us. He would call sometimes and talk for a while but never said anything. You know what I mean, don't you, where people can talk and talk and never say anything.”
Mrs. Cromley said, “I remember once he said I was his father's sweetheart.”
Brent grit his teeth as he recalled that at the time she was remembering he was chastising his mother for doting on his arrogant father and said she was his sweathog . “How sweet of him” he only said.
“I wonder whatever happened to that goofy kid he hung around with. Do either of you know him? Most kids finish school in twelve years, but Sly and that goof took nineteen years to finish. I think that weirdo was a bad influence on Sly, but it may be the other way around.” said Mr. Cromley.
Dubby quickly answers, “He couldn't make it, sir. He was afraid to meet you since he was the sole inheritor of Sill's assets.”
“Who is Sill?” asked Mr. Cromley standing next to his wife who also had the same question on her face.
“Sill is the name your son used in college”, said Dubby.
“Oh well, dear” said Mr. Cromley with a smile, “We're not getting Sly's fortune. I guess that means we don't get his weird clothes or the Nintendo game of whatever he was playing with when he got run over. So how come the casket is sealed?”
“There is nothing but mush inside. It would be an awful sight.” says Dubby.
“Do you want to see it, sir? I'll open it if you want to see it”, says Brent smiling.
“What do you think, dear? Do you want to say goodbye to your son?”
“You won't actually be able to recognize a face in that mush or even tell it is your son, but if you want a good scare I'll open it for you”, says Brent egging them on.”
“The lawyer said it cannot be opened for any reason, Brent”, said Dubby.
“Oh come on. Let them look at the hamburger. The lawyer will never know. It isn't any worse than walking past the meat counter at the supermarket.”
Mrs. Cromley says, “We will take everyone's word for it that it is Sillie.”
“I'm leaving early, dear. I think everyone that is coming was here and left already” said Mr. Cromley.
Brent says, “But the funeral just started. Only the four of us came so far.”
Mrs. Cromley pats Brent on the arm and says, “I have a pot roast in the oven. Trust me, no one else will be here. Mr. Latreck here is handling the burial arrangements so our work is done.” She turns partway facing the casket and adds, “Rest in peace, Sillie.”
“Pot roasts are usually pretty big. Are we invited to your dinner?” asks Brent.
“No. I'm sorry. We will need the leftovers for … um, something. Come along dear”, says Mrs. Cromley.
“Don't you want to know where he is being buried?” asks Brent.
“No” says Mrs. Cromley.
“We never visit grave sites. There is no one there to talk to and there is never any food served” says Mr. Cromley as they leave.
Brent and Dubby were left standing alone in the funeral parlor. They waited for the full three hours the newspaper notice said casket would be available for viewing. No one else came, just as Mrs. Cromley predicted. Brent looked at Dubby and seen he had tears in his eyes. “Are you going to miss Sill?” he asked.
“No. I was just thinking this is how my funeral will go too.”
Brent puts his arm around his only friend and has tears of his own when he says, “Even my only friend won't miss me. What kind of life did I live? I would miss you, Dubby, even if you just died to change into a new person like I did”, and both men hugged each other crying, wondering what they have done with their lives.
Dubby looked at Brent and asked, “Would you kill me?”