He was shoveling the walk when the pain came radiating from chest to arm and when he finally recognized it, he pitched over into the snow bank. The falling snow covered much of him though his boots stuck out, twitching periodically as he argued with Death about the necessity of the exit.

His wife found him several hours later. Well not the “him” she had married but the “him” she would bury.

On that day, she wore her favorite cocktail dress, the one he liked, to the memorial service. So what if it was red? It matched her lipstick. A last gathering of friends and acquaintances come to say their goodbyes. Good memories were the order of the hour.

He was surprised so many people came. More than had attended their wedding. His first wife was there, and the second one as well. The three of them—standing together next to the urn—made him proud that he could finally bring them together. It was a sorrow that it hadn’t happened before and doubly sorrowful that he couldn’t joke about it, at least not until they joined him in the afterlife.

He had been dead all of a week now and it seemed that nothing had happened other than him continuing to observe the living. He wondered if he would move on to something or another, but had no clue as to what might prompt it.

The three wives did laugh when they said more or less in unison, “he was as stubborn as he was distracted.” “Yes” said the first to the second, “you were quite a distraction.” “Unintended,” she replied “but now I see how much we have in common.”  It was obviously true but the third wife was not going to admit that.

The third felt that she had very little in common with one and two. They were cut from the same big boned blond cloth and she was so not that. Small, dark, and perhaps too thin. But then there had been over a decade between the end of the second marriage and her meeting him. His taste in women had changed or maybe he had just gotten distracted.

He was undecided about how well this was going. He wanted to kiss them all and though he tried, there seemed no effect other than the second wife brushing her hand at the faint movement of air as if she was shooing a fly.

The music started—Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic”—“…I stepped up on the platform / the man gave me the news, / he said, you must be joking son / where did you get those shoes?” He was glad number three remembered that was the song he wanted played at his memorial service. It. Pretty much summed up his view of life. Even in the afterlife it made him smile.

The third wife surprised him by asking numbers one and two to offer eulogies. It was gracious and oddly appropriate. The first had accounted for 4 years together. Long enough to get through college and discover she was more interested in feminine than masculine.  She offered a story of how he caught her in bed with another woman and had asked if was there room for a third. That got a laugh. After 8 years of being too single and too drunk for his own good there was 12 years of being “that couple” with the second wife before she declared him impossible to live with. That left him with another 8 years of reaping what he had sown. Then the happy 4 years he shared with the third before his departure. There was a pleasant symmetry to it though he had always thought he’d have more time with the third wife. It was too late for that.

Each of them made life together sound funnier than he remembered it might have actually been.

After the memorial service each of them took a third of his ashes. He would be set to rest in a sunflower garden, a raging river and the alabaster urn, though the third wife put a pinch of him in a locket she would wear to coffee dates with men she met on-line. She was waiting for it to vibrate his approval. Without that tsunami of “yes” there would be no second meeting.

He was not sure he could make it vibrate or would want to. Still why should he deny her happiness in this life, when she had given him that while he was still in the world? In the not knowing how long he would have access to this world and what he supposed would eventually become the other, it would be amusing to try to make it vibrate if she met a man that was worthy. What would that be? Perhaps something as simple as being in good enough health to not drop dead shoveling snow.

It got him to thinking, after the Final Judgment would the four of them would be reunited with the three wives as his hareem or would he go from one to another sequentially for eternity? Either prospect was fine with him. He’d just have to wait to see.


About the Author

Loren Niemi is a poet, author and innovative storyteller whose work includes a 2020 Midwest Book Award winning story collection, What Haunts Us and two poetry chapbooks, “Coyote flies Coach” and Vote Coyote! His new poetry memoir A Breviary for the Lost is available now.  more: www.lorenNiemistories.com


Photo by Wendy Seltzer from Flickr