In Which I Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead

A Memoir 

By K.P. Taylor

Barry died. Yesterday, at the age of 43, from kidney failure. Susan called us into the office to deliver the news. She looked very sad.

She never had to work with him, I thought.

“How?” Abby asked incredulously.

“Kidney failure,” I replied. “Susan just said.”

“He was a good man,” Abby whispered. “He helped me move when my husband died.”

That started it. Informal tributes were passed between us like a baton of reminiscence. Until it was handed to me.

“Barry…,” I began, “hated me.”

 The group chuckled because it was funny and because it was true.

 “He wasn’t for everyone,” Sinclair admitted, which made Barry sound like cilantro. “I worked with him for seven years. He could be…prickly.”

Prickly. I recalled the shouting match Barry had with a vendor on the sales floor, his dark eyes bulging, spittle flying from his mouth. Which would have been unprofessional at the best of times but especially when the vendor was eight months pregnant.

“When’s the funeral?” Abby asked.

No one answered.

“He was a big man,” I said, trying to think of something–anything–positive. “Tall.” Tall enough to lean over me and tell me my hair was thinning. Tall enough to spot me on the other side of the store and sarcastically holler, “Killing it!”

“He had a big heart,” Abby said.

And two tiny, useless kidneys.

“He loved the Cowboys,” Sinclair offered. 

That was true. Barry was one of those people who watch football religiously so that they can begin each week with an argument.

“And golf. He played a lot of golf,” Abby added.

“Was he any good?” I asked.

No one knew.

Abby stared at her phone. “Facebook is blowing up.”

R.I.P.s were flowing in from old workmates. Most of them women. Barry had the superficial charm of a psychopath when it came to women. Killing it.

“When’s the funeral?” Abby repeated.

“Has anyone told Lynn?” Susan asked. “Lynn was very fond of Barry.”

She was–until she wasn’t. Lynn had fired Barry for fudging his sales numbers. “Lynn is on vacation,” I reminded Susan.

“She’d want to know,” Abby simpered.

Sinclair was now scrolling on his phone as well. “Says here Barry was on the transplant list and scheduled for surgery,” he announced, “but the donor changed his mind.”

Probably met him.

“Was he still working in retail?” Susan asked.

“He was at the elementary school. Doing maintenance,” Abby explained.

We all nodded solemnly. Maintenance. A nicer way of saying janitorial work.

“So young,” Sinclair sighed. “Only forty-three.”

Which is a year older than I am. I don’t feel young at all. I feel so old.

“I’ll get a hold of Lynn,” Susan said, “but we should…you know…get back.” 

It’s midweek, and sales are down. Commerce is not concerned with grief. Capitalism is predicated on unlimited growth; entropy and death are confined to our off-hours.

“Does anybody know when the funeral is?” Abby asked as we shuffled out of the office.

                                                                  *   *   *

Born and raised in South Africa, K.P. Taylor came to the US at 29 to work at an amusement park for the summer and never left. His work has appeared in Identity Theory, Gargoyle, Mystery Tribune, Roanoke Review, and others. He currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, their son, and two rescued cats.

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