War face (blank stare)

Denture grapple

Joy buzzer handgrip

Depend face-swat

Slipper ear-slap

Stupefying drone about the old days

Taser cane

Tear gas suppositories (for getaway)

Hobble juke

Dreadlock toupee bluff

Fart flash-bang (lighter required)

A good talking to



“You know I could take you any time,”
smiles Death, “but lately I’ve come
to prefer feeling needed: that’s why

I love the old so much.” Oldguy says
he doesn’t know why anyone would
love the cold, especially somebody

without an ounce of fat or anything
else on their bones. He suggests Death
try some winter wear instead of that

drafty old robe, offers to lend him
his L.L. Bean catalog. “You can keep
your goddamned L.L. Bean catalog,

snaps Death. “That’s not what we’re
talking about.” Oldguy says he also
has one from the Duluth Trading Co.,

which offers Alaskan Hardgear
Snowcat Pants—plus Buck Naked
underwear, which he thinks

Death could really use. “I’m Death,”
snaps Death. “your last dance partner—
zip, nada, finito! What

do I need with underwear?” “Support
your privates?” says Oldguy. “What
privates?” says Death. Oldguy notes

that they now have operations
to fix that. Death pauses. Then I wouldn’t
be Death
, he thinks, recalling how

he used to dream of being a sad clown,
like Emmett Kelly, someone you’d want to
put your arm around and comfort, maybe

have over for Thanksgiving dinner
or give a nice treat to on Halloween.
Snapping out of it, he announces

he’s leaving to rub out someone who won’t
pull this kind of crap on him. “For caps,
Hat Club’s pretty good, says Oldguy.



Oldguy, invited to a white-tie banquet
honoring him for service to mankind,
mistakes his rented duds for opera attire.

When he’s invited to say a few words,
he steps to the microphone and belts out,
over and over, the only opera phrase

he knows, “O Sole Mio,” which he usually
saves for taverns. When a lady host, thinking
he’s had too much Champagne punch, tries

to escort him back to his seat, he assumes
his big scene’s at hand, the one where
that king strangles Aretha Franklin.

As he grabs the hostess by the neck, they
tumble off the dais and into the “Venetian”
chocolate fountain, splattering some VIPs

and convincing Oldguy he’d remembered
the wrong opera. Fished from the goop,
Oldguy dusts off “The Cowboy’s Lament.”



Oldguy wakes up from a noonday snooze
to find Death once more setting up

his chess set, offering Oldguy the choice
of white or black. “Black,” mutters Oldguy.

“Revealing choice,” grins Death. “Means
you’ve been depressed, as well you

should be.” Reeling off a list of famous
suicides–Socrates, Cleopatra, Dudu Topaz–

Death says that he’d like to join the club
if he didn’t have to be Death. He explains

committing suicide would be like kissing himself
on the forehead: impossible, though it would

be a breeze for Oldguy, who says he couldn’t
kiss himself that way either. “No” says Death,

“I meant a breeze to kill yourself.” He adds
there’s a banquet of methods, many of them

not all that painful or messy. “Why don’t
you try shooting yourself in the forehead,”

Oldguy suggests. Death counters that
Death’s death is an ontological impossibility,

that the kissing thing was just a metaphor.
“How would you do it with a semaphore?”

Oldguy asks. I said “metaphor,” snaps Death.
“Maybe if you sharpened it . . . .” he says.

“No, no” shouts Death, “Metaphor,
METAPHOR!” “Still,” Oldguy continues,

“that’d make quite a mess, what with the flag
jamming things up.” Death, declares

he didn’t come all this way to talk about
his goddamned suicide, that he didn’t ask

for this shit job where everybody hates you
and all you do is go around creeping

people out, causing misery for no reason
at all. “I could have been a dancer, if you’d

like to know,” he sobs. “But ‘Dance of Death,’
right? Try to get an agent with that hanging

around your neck.” He rakes the chess pieces
into a bag, folds up his board, and clatters off.

“How ‘bout trying one of them plastic bags
over your head,” Oldguy calls after him.



To Superman, I bequeath my Kryptonite-resistant Jockeys.

To Batman, my denture grapple.

To Wonder Woman, my silver Fitbit bracelets.

To Captain America, my Kate Smith’s Greatest Hits.

To Captain Atom, my copy of the Democritus Joke Book.

To Spider Man, my Zap N Trap bug catcher.

To Plastic Man, my Male Erecto.

To Thing, some of my do-dads.

To Aqua Man, my Depend Bed Protecters.

To Ant Man, my plastic farm and display light.

To Captain Marvel, my SHAZAM rupture truss.

To Iron Man, my stool softener pills.

To Death, my dead ass, ya bastard, and welcome to it.


William Trowbridge
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