A Perfect Place to Die

    As I sit in the green haze of decay emanating from a carcass in my attic, I wonder: Why do rats choose to die there? Gasping and riddled with pain, staggering from heavy metal poisoning, those brown rodents spend their few dying moments climbing my roughsawn cedar siding, squeezing through a narrow crack in the fascia, and dragging their limp claws across the rafters to a bed, deep in the insulation. Here in eternal rest, the body will be unseen, but the odor will be forever.

    I don’t poison them. These critters are free to scamper across my deck in the velvet of night. Live and let live. But my deck is not the only place they wander. They eat poison.

    Where would I go if I had been poisoned but could find the ideal place to die? Did you see the movie "D.O.A.?" (Not the remake, the original, with Edmond O’Brian?) Well, Eddie spent his last few hours searching for his murderer. Not me. Like my doomed rats, I would seek an eternal place. I have given this some thought. I might like to pass away rocking on the porch of the Clevelander on Collins Avenue on South Miami Beach, looking over the railing to the ocean. Maybe better – a surplus store, full of dusty stuff, smelling of cosmoline protectant from the pacific theater. Future projects and wonderful, strange valves and switchgear to disassemble. I would suddenly keel over while sorting through a bin of decommissioned thermostats. Or maybe the Eagle Dairy: My father took me there. He was doing some electrical work. I drank unfrozen ice cream, and ate a brand new Eskimo Pie. Heavenly. It was cool between those tanks, and it smelled of chocolate.

    I was curious: The only way to my attic is up an extension ladder. I have never been up there. Frankly, I was a bit apprehensive. I moved the ladder to the portal, above the garage, and climbed shakily up the rungs. It was hard to remove the hatch; I had it screwed down to keep the critters out. Worked like a charm n’est –ce pas? When I finally got it off, I received a face full of warm, dusty, moist air. I crawled on to a few planks running down the center of the attic. There was not enough room to stand. The furnace was a big obstruction half way down. The ambiance was a yellowish color, raw wood, and it smelled of dried pine. The attic fan was causing light beams to swirl in the dusty air, and the light, cut by the rafters, traced religious symbols in the shadows. Think of James Cagney in a prison cell, a shadow cast by the bars projects a foreshortened cross on the stone wall behind him. I rolled on to my back and looked up into the dusty roof line. It seemed a bit like being next to the highest ceiling in a chapel. The silence had an undertone of faraway creaking and hum from the fan. As the light swept over me, I felt the urge to close my eyes. My ear to the joists, I could hear the fruity growl of the refrigerator below, and crackling from the fireplace, faint music from the radio I always leave on. The sounds of safe, quiet life, muted by drywall and insulation. It was a warm heat, not unlike Miami, and it had the aroma of surplus. I closed my eyes and an Eskimo Pie floated past.

    I’m not sure that I will ever have the chance to pick a great place to die. In a way, the critters in my attic have a bit of luck, a slow acting arsenic that allows them to seek the holy asylum of my attic. May they rest in peace.

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