Knock knock on the door and I got up from the sofa and walked from the living room through the kitchen and opened the door and who was there but my dead cousin Morgan. His head was shaved just as it was on the day of his wake. It was like that because when he got out of the moving cab and fell and hit his head on the curb, his head began to swell like a growing balloon that was about to pop. In order to relieve the swelling the doctors shaved his head and cut it open. Mum said it did relieve the swelling but he died anyway.
I was surprised to see Morgan standing in front of me, smelling of musty earth and worms, and told him so. I also told him how much I loved him, and hugged him, but he squirmed out of my hug like a worm and just stood there.
I said again how great it was to see him, and asked him to take off his dirty Doctor Martins that he got the summer before he died. They were covered in dirt and they were getting Mum and her boyfriend Jody’s white kitchen floor dirty. I didn’t mean to take away from his coming back to life, but I wanted to keep the floor clean because we just moved in with Jody, and Mum said if I did anything to screw it up she would send me to the funny farm. Not that I thought the funny farm sounded like a bad place, it was just that I didn’t want to leave Mum alone. I loved her. Morgan didn’t seem to care about the floor though, and so I just hoped that they would understand under the circumstances.
How’ve you been? I said.
He grunted and I knew that meant he was fine. He grunted again and I knew that meant he was kinda tired. I had other questions and so we just stood there, face-to-face in the kitchen, and I asked him more. It turned out that he broke through his casket and dug through the earth, eating worms along the way because it took him almost the whole year he was buried to dig himself out. When he got near the surface he dug and punched really hard to break through the earth that was iced by the December cold. Then he walked to my house.
Why did you come see me first? I said.
He replied with a bunch of grunts that sounded like a rap song, but I knew what they meant. Everybody in his whole life judged him wrongly, always treated him different, like he was a rotten potato, shrivelled on the outside and a smelly mush on the inside because of his schizophrenia. Nobody except for me treated him normally. That made us bosom buddies. I didn’t know what that meant, but I could tell by the way he grunted that it was a good thing. He died in December, over a year before the day he knocked on my door. It was four days before Christmas. That day doesn’t matter though, because really he died three days before that. He was brain dead and it was just a formality, them keeping him alive on that life machine. I guess he only had two percent brain power and so even if he lived and was able to breathe for himself, he would’ve been as swift as a cucumber or carrot. That explained the grunting.
Morgan was born and grew up on PEI, but when he died he was living in Calgary because his dad, Uncle Freddy, was from there. A lot of people at the wake and funeral said bad things about him living in Calgary, some of them even blaming the strippers for his death. But Mum said there was nobody to blame. That he could’ve just as easily died washing dishes. All it takes is one slip, she said.
The day Morgan died was a good day because he just got his first unemployment cheque. He was able to draw pogey because he was laid off from a job as a dishwasher. For the first time since his mind problem was diagnosed he was able to hold down a job. The work wasn’t great, but all he wanted was money. So he worked day in, day out. He didn’t want to be a doctor or a math-man because of his mind problem, and that’s all I’ll say on that. Except that maybe I got a mind problem, too, and that was why we were as tight as Aunt Lou’s purse strings (that’s what Mum always said). So he just got his first cheque and decided to go to the strip club with bikini in its name because he liked going there. And I bet the girls liked him too, because he was cute and smiley and he would just sit there and drink pop and watch them dance. The pop only cost him two bucks and he got a free refill with it. So he would pay his money and drink his pops and watch the girls take off their clothes and dance and spread their legs, showing off their buck-naked birds. It would take him two hours to drink his pops. Then he would get the train back to his dad’s home somewhere on the outside of the city, and he wouldn’t pay because the way the system was set up you didn’t need to pay all the time, but if you got caught without a ticket you got fined. Morgan was lucky and never got fined. On the night he died, probably because he just got some money, he decided to take a cab to the strip club with bikini in its name. I bet he felt like a rich man, driving down there in style. And when the cab slowed down in front of the club, Mum said he must’ve thought it was stopped but it wasn’t and when he stepped out he stumbled. He fell headfirst into the curb. There wasn’t any pain or blood. It was just lights out.
I looked at Morgan and told him that I loved him and missed him and that I just relived his death in my mind, but that it really didn’t matter since he was alive right there in front of me. He grunted and I tried to hug him again but he dodged it by squirming like a worm again. I guess he spent too much time with the worms and was beginning to act like one. I asked him if he would like to have a seat in the armchair in the living room since he was tired. He grunted, and so I led him into the living room by the hand and took him right over to the seat. I pushed him on top of it and he fell into its coziness. He turned his head over to the side and looked out the big picture window at the sun. He grunted and I closed the curtains. Then I asked him what I wanted to ask him since I opened the door and saw it was him.
What is it like to die?
He didn’t answer me. I thought there might be dirt in his ears and I was about to go dig it out when he grunted. Once he started he didn’t stop and I just listened. When I thought he was finished I said, Wow---But he wasn’t finished, and he looked away from the blinds and into my eyes and grunted, Death is lonely without a friend. That’s really why I’m here. And he smiled for the first time that day. His eyes were dark like flies and his teeth were the colour of poop and it was the scariest smile I ever saw. I shivered.
It wasn’t long after that Mum and Jody came home from eating. Mum was angry about all the dirt on the floor and on the carpet in the living room. She kicked me in the butt and cursed at me like a rapper, and when I told her Morgan made the mess she tried to attack me. Jody held her back. He carried her into their bedroom and for a while there was the sound of yelling and things breaking and then the bed started squeaking. Soon there was silence, and I asked Morgan what he meant about being lonely. But his eyes were closed. He was asleep. I was about to wake him when I remembered that tomorrow was Christmas and I was now short one present.