Apr/May 2011  •   Fiction

Excerpts from "Mr. Deadman"

by Peter Cherches

Photo by Leeca Desforges

Photo by Leeca Desforges

The Mirror

Spying Mr. Deadman from afar, in a restaurant or some other public place, you'd be excused if you mistook him for a narcissist. But rest assured, Mr. Deadman is hardly a vain man. If anything, he's the most self-effacing of men. How, then, does one explain the fact that at frequent intervals Mr. Deadman takes a little mirror out of his pocket, seemingly to admire himself?

Easily explained. Mr. Deadman, you see, is not looking at himself in the mirror. It's just, every now and then, he feels compelled to hold a mirror up to his nose and mouth and then examine it for condensation. Because these days you can never be too sure.


The Revival Theater

Mr. Deadman's favorite films are the old ones, the really old ones, the ones where all of the actors are long dead. That's why he goes to the revival theater.

Today, at the revival theater, they're showing a silent film: "Pollyanna." Fabulous, Mr. Deadman thinks. The silent ones are best.

As he watches the film, Mr. Deadman develops a crush on Mary Pickford: young, beautiful, embalmed in celluloid.


Mr. Deadman Takes a Holiday

Mr. Deadman decides to take a holiday, a holiday from death. Just this once, for a short while at least, Mr. Deadman plans to live life to the fullest. To this end he books a week at a tropical seaside resort.

Mr. Deadman has bought a brand-new wardrobe for this trip, leaving his usual black suit behind. He arrives at the resort clad in a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, a Panama hat and sandals. Mr. Deadman has created a new, temporary identity for himself beyond the sartorial makeover. He signs the guest register, "Mr. Liveman." For this week "Mr. Deadman" is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Mr. Liveman is having a ball at the resort. He never imagined life without death could be so much fun. He suns himself on the beach, swims in the ocean, snorkels, gorges himself on the local cuisine and drinks countless Mai Tais, Margaritas, and Piña Coladas.

Then, three days into Mr. Liveman's vacation, disaster strikes. A tsunami hits the coast, killing hundreds, wounding thousands of others, and devastating the resort.

Back home from his truncated vacation, Mr. Deadman reads about the disaster. The newspaper lists the names of the deceased. Among them is a certain Mr. Liveman.


A Stiff

Mr. Deadman does not like being called a stiff. He considers it a slur, a term of disrespect, politically incorrect. Yet the insensitive living don't have the slightest idea how offensive the word "stiff" sounds to the dead. How can they? The dead, after all, are not the type to complain.

Mr. Deadman takes it upon himself set things aright. Any time he hears someone refer to a dead person as a stiff he upbraids them. "You shouldn't use that word," he scolds. "It's a very rude way to refer to the dead." Sometimes he adds, "Dead people have feelings too, you know."

It's no use, unfortunately. These people pay no attention to Mr. Deadman. They look right through him, as if he weren't there.