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My Father’s Brush With Death and Shame

Years back, my dad was away on business for his computer consulting firm.  He was staying at a Motel 6 in Wichita, Kansas.  After a late night of consulting on computation machines, he stopped at a McDonald’s and ordered what he described as an abhorrent amount of food.

To translate what that might mean to you, I will say this:  My dad is no fatass.  He’s a lean man with glasses and an intellect that can carve you to pieces… pieces which will then be vulnerable to a certain “rapist wit” that often echoes only inside his own skull — its genius multi-layered irony indiscernible to the average person.  And he’s not one for reckless indulgence.

So by my best estimates, using a calculator for my father’s level of shame, I would put his fateful McDonald’s order at somewhere between $11 and $15, which, based on the Dollar Value Menu, could have reached an alarming caloric level.

Once he arrived “home” at the motel, he stripped down to his white fruit of the loom briefs and his black almost-knee-high socks.  Sufficiently comfortable in both mind and body, he booted up his laptop and inserted the DVD for Rumble in the Bronx 2.  Rumble in the Bronx 2 was a straight to DVD spinoff of a kung fu movie starring Jackie Chan.  My father, who has managed an image of refined cinematic taste for over 50 years, was quite aware that this movie was going to be awful — Mom would never have allowed such artless drivel in the house.

Which is precisely why he waited until he was in Wichita, Kansas with a bag of McDonald’s in a Motel fucking 6 and a do not disturb sign on the door.

So when he choked on that fateful McNugget, the type of choking past the point of it will pass, I mean really choking… he knew what to do.

He threw himself off of the crumb, salt, and grease covered bed.

He hacked and gasped his way past the phone.

He inched his spasm-ing body towards the chest of drawers

And as the last remnants of oxygen were being swallowed by his body, as all the lights were going out, he summoned every ounce of human strength left in his body to lift his finger towards the “Eject” button on the laptop DVD player.

And just as he reached out to press the button, he collapsed on the floor where the resulting impact on his chest dislodged the piece of “chicken” stuck in his throat.

Now, to hear my father tell it, it all makes perfect sense.

He saw the phone.  He knew where the water faucets were.  He understood the mechanics and hydraulics of his digestive tract.  There were many routes he could have taken to evacuate the rogue “chicken” morsel.

But even with all his understanding, he knew there was a chance, just a chance in the grand scheme of probability and quantum physics, that he would not be able to save his own life.  And if that were the case, no fucking way did he want to be found in a Motel 6 in Wichita, Kansas, watching Rumble in the Bronx 2 in his underwear, murdered by his own lust for processed bird chunks and fried potatoes.

What would the neighbors say?

The sheer possibility alone was enough to shake him to his core and allow him to face death with the inner peace of a Tibetan monk… he would risk it all to prevent such a cruel bookmark to an otherwise respectable life.

But he had no delusions of grandeur.  If he got the DVD out, where would he hide it?  On his person?  The mortician would never take him seriously.  Could he destroy it, maybe by breaking it apart and eating it?  Of course not, he was choking, and the autopsy would reveal it anyway.  Flick it under the bed?  Hide it in The Bible in the motel bedside-table drawer where no one would ever look? 

All the vaults were out of reach.

No, he knew he was going to be caught.  And he knew that, at best, all he could do was demonstrate a desire to undo his filthy deeds before they were unceremoniously and inevitably uncovered.  His only faith remained in creating actions which could possibly be interpreted in such a way that those who found him could reverse-engineer his thought process and see he knew what he was doing was stupid.

It was an admission of guilt, a naively idealistic gesture dripping with humanistic symbolism.  And it was his final entry into the Motel 6 Guestbook of Earth.

But even in what he thought were his last moments, my father’s inner monologue was mostly laughter and a morbid psychic awareness of the police who would find his lifeless body:

Wow, another sad sack nugget choker.

Watching a Bruce Lee movie, no doubt?

Close.  Jackie Chan.

Poor bastard, dime a dozen.

Wait… look at the way the body is positioned.  You see that?

The angle.

Yeah, based on where his right elbow fell, seems to me he was reaching for someone…

Or something.

Maybe the bible?

No, that’s on the other side of the room, he’d never have enough time…

Could it be the eject button?

Wait, on the DVD drive?

Look at the way his hand is clenched except that finger.

Well, I’ll be damned. He was reaching for the eject button!

Almost made it, too…

Looks like our corpse had a bit of the old bedside conversion!

A moment of clarity!

Of all the things he could have done in those last few minutes…

Sure would have taken a lot of effort.

You know what?  I bet I would have liked this guy if I had met him in real life.

Me, too.  We totally would have liked the same TV shows I bet.

After hearing this story, I’ve never felt closer to my father.

I no longer believe I was adopted.



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