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Brian Greenleaf

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Careful Planning Always Pays Off
By Brian Greenleaf
Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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To every time there is a season and to every forty-something there is the task of making funeral arrangements.

Careful Planning Always Pays Off

I seem to get the inspiration to update my blog whenever I make a trip to my doctor’s office.  Yesterday was no exception.  Not that my doctor is my muse; quite the contrary.  If you’ve read any of my other stories, you know that the Marquis de Sade and I have a scientifically balanced lovehate relationship; but it works for us.


Yesterday’s visit was a little easier to take than most because I was only going to review test results.  As anyone over forty knows, that means you get to keep your clothes on and none of your more tender places will be poked, prodded or violated in any way.  Not that that’s a bad thing, should you be so inclined, but I’ve always been opposed to being the only one in the room naked.  It’s a vulnerability thing.


I’ve learned to bring my own magazine to every appointment.  The Marquis is a cheapskate when it comes to reading material subscriptions.  All the mags in her waiting room are either welcoming our boys home from WWII, or came as a freebie from one of the drug companies and is loaded with nothing but shameless ads for the company that published the magazine, recipes for tofu surprise or other, unrecognizable, entrées certain to please only the most dedicated vegan.  The Marquis is on the heath food and exercise kick like a pit bull on a ham bone.


She’s given up on me.


I arrived for my ten-ten appointment at about nine-fifty and, as always, made it to an examining room by eleven.  I tried consoling myself by thinking that the Marquis, being ever the humanitarian, was spending additional time with the patients before me, explaining everything to them in great detail and answering each and every one of their questions.  Then I started to get a little steamed when I realized what a load of crap that was because, according to the doctors anyway, the insurance companies are squeezing them with reduced rates so  they overbook and pray for rain.


Like clockwork, the Marquis sauntered in at eleven-fifteen, looking well fed and properly caffeinated.  I know she takes a break before every one of my visits and have even caught a whiff of jelly donut on her breath on one occasion.  She just makes me wait to see if she can piss me off.  I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.


“I hope that’s a diet book you’re reading, Fat Boy.”


“No, it’s the final exam for the doctorate’s degree at that third world medical school you went to.  It says to send in my name and address along with two sugary cereal box tops and I’ll have my license to practice in four to six weeks.  I got it off the back of a comic book.”


“You’d fail on bedside manner alone you grumpy old fart.  Now, judging from these test results, you’re in damn good shape for a seventy year old man.”


She knew I was forty seven.  She sent me a birthday card with her name stamped neatly on the bottom only a few months ago, reminding me that it was time to make another appointment.


The banter continued for a few minutes longer until she excused herself to go and torture someone else, waving me off as she sauntered out of the room.


Good news is always welcome, but I have a rather warped, yet analytical, mind.  As I was leaving her office parking lot, I noticed a billboard advertising a local mortuary, pleading, shamelessly with the passing public to take care of their affairs now and not leave the grim task up to their loved ones.


I wondered if the Marquis knew that billboard was right on top of her office building.  Not conducive to attracting new patients.  I wasn’t going to tell her.


A dark thought crossed my mind as the billboard’s message sunk in.  My daughter is my favorite person in the world, but she’s blonde.  I have very specific plans for my demise and I fear that, left to my sweet little girl alone, I could end up as a practice cadaver at the third world medical school in Sri Lanka or Pago Pago the Marquis graduated from.


What the hell, I thought.


 As luck would have it, the “ghoul” in residence was none other than an old golfing buddy of mine, appropriately nicknamed, Digger.  Digger left our foursome the year before to further his education somewhere up north so he would be fully qualified to one day inherit the family business when the time came to lay his predecessor to rest.


“Welcome back, Digger.”  I shook his cold, clammy hand and wondered where it had just been.  The receptionist had to call him up from “downstairs.”


“Long time no see, Old Man.  What can I do you for?”  That creepy laugh, like Lurch from the Addams Family, always followed all of Digger’s attempts at levity.


“I want your Blue Plate Special, Digger.  Nothing fancy.  I just want to make some simple funeral arrangements.  Basically, I ‘d like you to cremate me without the viewing and all that.  If people wanted to see me, they should have come to the golf course before I became dearly departed.  Once I’m well done, dump my ashes in the German beer stein I won at the club’s member guest tournament last year, then give the stein to my daughter to sprinkle in Sandra Bullock’s boudoir.”


“But, but?”  Digger was as speechless as one of his clients.


“Digger, if it’s too complicated, I’ll get the guys from Broncos Pub to throw me in that smoker they use for the chicken at the annual poker run.”


“But, but, think of your loved ones!  Don’t you think you’re depriving them of their chance to say good bye to you properly?  Digger was actually starting to stutter as he spoke.  Getting Digger stuttering during a round of golf had become a goal for those of us who derived great pleasure from wrinkling his stiff collar.


“Digger, you’d have a better chance of selling dance lessons to one of your customers out there in the boxes than you do at selling me anything other than what I’ve asked for.  I’d much rather my friends gathered after I’m well done for a shindig, put my stein on the bar and spent the money you’re trying to squeeze out of me on rounds of beer.”


“If everyone was like you, I’d be out of business!  Digger was resigned, but still turning red in the face.


“Don’t despair, Digger.  There may be a pile up on the interstate this afternoon.”


Digger’s inappropriate reply took me aback.


“Well, that’s true .  I’ll make it back somewhere.


A frosty chill ran up my spine.  I was almost glad that Digger hadn’t asked to rejoin our weekly golf game when he got back into town.  There was just something inherently wrong with golfing with an undertaker.  I always had a feeling Digger was watching the older golfers with the come hither look not unlike a vulture hovering over a staggering elk.


Digger’s “golf buddy discount” applied, which didn’t amount to much, and the appropriate paperwork in hand, I made my way out of the Grim Reaper’s morbid gaze and rejoined the living and the much better atmosphere outside.  It was probably just my imagination, but I swore the stench of formaldehyde and death was stuck to my clothes like Velcro.  I’d hated funeral parlors from the first time I’d ever been made to go into one and the dread grew more intense as the years passed.  If I had my way, the next time I went into one, it would be as the guest of honor.  Unfortunately, as the years pass, the occasion to pass through the somber portals becomes more and more frequent.  Truth be told, I’ve actually caught myself glancing over the obits in the local paper on my way to the comics more often of late.  The sad part is that I recognize more and more names with each perusal.


I’ve thought extensively about the way I’ll eventually buy my ticket on the Boot Hill Express.  Unlike most of my friends, I have no desire to be shot by a jealous husband or “die in the saddle.”   If I could choose my demise, I’d be ninety-eight years old, have just finished walking thirty-six holes, all birdied or better, with my great grandchildren making up the rest of the foursome, then go home to bed and never wake up.


Now in keeping with my luck, after never having won a cent on the lottery, one of Ed McMahon’s predecessors will show up at my door to tell me what I’d won when, I’m certain, I’ll suffer a massive coronary or cerebral episode and wind up sprawled on my own front porch, toes up, foaming at the mouth; waiting for the Express to take me to that public course half between here and the great beyond.  To insure I go out in keeping with my lot in life, I’ll have answered the door wearing only my bathrobe which, I’m certain, will ride up around my waist as the cameras catch my last breath on tape.


Am I bitter?  Nah!


Until next time, eat all your vegetables, get at least eight hours sleep every night, don’t drink, don’t smoke and you’ll probably be hit by a bus while you’re out jogging.


See you on the golf course.




©Brian Greenleaf 2008.  All rights reserved.

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Reviewed by alex dihes (алик дайхес) 9/7/2008
sir, i read only the title. i say your dead wrong. over 40!!!!!! years i lived in communist russia. they Carefully Planned there things: everything, every-thing, and every/thing, from zero to the Universe. sir, it didnt work. why? because planning cannot be careful or not careful. sir, planning is euphemism to guessing (the FUTURE), and your guessing is as good as....
sir, if one can plan, please, ask him to plan for my a lottery win.

sir, to teach planning, you must to teach to know future. however, if i know future, it is not planning any longer.

do i against checking possible outcomes? no! i am against that it ALWAYS pays off.


n.b.: i advice you to study economics and philosophy (european not american).

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