Sunday, March 16, 2014

Deathman, Do Not Follow Me

In my eighth-grade "Language Arts" class, we had to do a book report-presentation combo. We could select a book of our own choosing, but it had to be approved by our teacher. We were permitted to pair up, too, and so a friend and I opted to read a YA entitled Deathman, Do Not Follow Me by Jay Bennett. I don’t remember much about the book, except that I really liked it as a thirteen-year-old. A kid by the name of Danny Morgan was the main protagonist, and he was daydreaming in history class at some point in time. I believe, too, that he inadvertently got involved with some art thieves or some such thing. Anyway, my project partner and I made the equivalent of an abridged book-on-tape before there was any such thing (or was there?). This was going to be our presentation part. As fate would have it, we didn’t have to go public with the tape. I don’t recall the reason, but it worked to our benefit. For starters, nobody would have understood what was going on. We flubbed our lines on occasion as well. My buddy, the narrator said “art expedition” when he meant "art exhibition."

What made me think about Deathman, Do Not Follow Me after all these years is an encounter I recently had with a passerby. I saw this man coming toward me who looked an awfully lot like someone I once knew—a man named Jerry who has been dead for thirteen years. What went through my mind as the distance that separated us narrowed—and he looked more and more, and not less and less, like Jerry—was what if he said hello to me as if it was him? What if it was like the occasional meetings we experienced for so many years—we lived in the same neighborhood—where we’d briefly chat about nothing especially important like his desiring a move to Reno, Nevada, a great "walking town." After all, if he’s standing there as Jerry and knows me by name, I couldn’t tell him that he’s dead and that I attended his wake. This potential scenario very literally played in my brain in the several seconds leading up to us passing one another. He was a dead ringer for Jerry all right, but it wasn’t him.

Had it been Jerry, what would I have done?. Would I have turned around and gone home, thinking I had either lost my marbles or was still in bed dreaming? Or would have I continued running my errands, believing that maybe—just maybe—I’d entered the Twilight Zone. Afterwards, I kind of wished it really was old Jerry that I saw on the street the other day. It would have certainly given me some food for thought. Then again, I probably wouldn't have written a blog about it.

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