Through the fiddle of a front window at Miss Dee’s Diner, Clarabelle caught a glimpse of a friend, Corn Cob of a Man, sipping from a loving cup.
Hey, Clarabelle said, scooting into the booth bench opposite his.
Hey, Corn Cob of a Man said.
What’s happening? she asked.
Writing a eulogy. Or trying to.
Oh, I’m so sorry — so sorry for your loss, friend. Writing it for who, if I can ask?
Not who, Corn Cob of a Man said. What.
What? Clarabelle asked.
Right, Corn Cob of a Man said. What. What, as in hypocrisy.
Not following, Clarabelle said.
Hypocrisy is dead, Corn Cob of a Man said. Long live hypocrisy.
Uhh … no? Clarabelle said, motioning to Miss Dee that she was ready to order. Hypocrisy isn’t dead. It’s just something else now. It’s an engagement tool. Like on social media.
Corn Cob of a Man blinked and sipped, blinked and sipped.
You’re right, he said. I’m sorry. I mean, thank you. I mean, I seem to be forgetting things. Forgetting everything. Or maybe I just don’t know things. What do I know about eulogies? What do I know about death? What do I know about anything?
Out on the street, cars took names and hit high C notes in hushes. Cats played the numbers and hooted at the nonpareil moon. The taking and the playing, the hitting and hooting, filled the sky with night music, a thought bubble in holiday plaid, a stained glass symphony in rehearsal.
Asking rhetorical questions? That sounds hopeful, Clarabelle said. It also sounds like a song.
It does at that, Corn Cob of a Man said.
Clarabelle sprung from her seat and pulled Miss Dee’s upright piano snug and tight up to Corn of a Cob Man’s booth bench, Miss Dee trailing behind, making sure the sad little Christmas tree atop the upright came along for the ride.
Corn Cob of a Man blinked and sipped, blinked and sipped. His palms down, resting slightly above the keyboard, his wrists relaxed and straight, Corn Cob of a Man breathed in, breathed out, listened for a cue from the cars and cats, and began to play. And sing:
Call me stupid, but I like when hypocrisy matters
Call me Cupid, but I love when songs are sad … or
pretty … or shitty… as long as they’re about love
Call me Mr. Tibbs when I’ve a eulogy to give
Call me Mr. Pibb when I’ve half a mind to live
in a world without certainty … a world without end … not “end” exactly, more like a perpetual wizardry … without a license to will … or sit still … in a broken-bench diner bathed in broken-night neon … on a broken-light wish … to make amends with my soul … or make peace with my social media engagement rating … or take a bath in that broken-wish light. Take a powder from death. Take a message from love. Or take an oath. A hypocritical one.
Corn Cob of a Man stopped, sipped and picked up his corn cob pipe and, with the mouth end, ting-ed the little jingly bells draped in a tangle on the little Christmas tree. In sequence, the tings sounded a little like the theme from the Smurfs’ first Christmas special, and a lot like Sly and The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
That tinging bit would be the guitar solo, Corn of a Cob Man said.
A little light, a little hope — on this night, it’s like a rope. I like it, Clarabelle said. Keep going!
Meh, Miss Dee said. Can I get you anything, or what?
A Mr. Pibb please, Clarabelle said.
Want anything, piano player?
Corn cob pipe in hand, Corn Cob of a Man blinked, sipped one last sip, and saluted the street, nodding to the cars and cats, now with their noses snug up against Miss Dee’s fiddle of a front window, the neon song they sang, the new world song they sing, how it rings, a little bell, a jingly one, a testimonial, a panegyric, a paean — to ringing, and ringing still. To ringing in the new, and reeling in the newer. In due time. In the key of stained glass. With a loving cup chorus.
No thanks, Miss Dee, Corn Cob of a Man said. I’m good.
Pat Foran does not have a corn cob pipe, but he does have two eyes and a heart made out of stone-cold coal. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tiny Molecules, Moonchild Magazine, Truffle and elsewhere. Find him at http://neutralspaces.co/your_patforan/ and on Twitter at @pdforan.