On Clothes and Caskets

Joseph came into this world flailing and screaming, naked just like the rest of us. The nurse took him, sucked the mucus from his nose, and wrapped him in a blanket to cover his nakedness. Shame, that swaddling concept from birth, turned to brass belt-buckled defiance somewhere along the way. We all find a way to shiny up our pride. Joseph was cock-sure, like that peacock the two of you saw on Cleveland Street last month. You were carpooling, like neighbors do, when that finely-arrayed bird stepped out into the middle of the road. You stopped your car to keep from creating the first Arkansan peacock road-kill.

“Is that a,” you stopped short.

“Yes, it’s a peacock in Fayetteville,” he said.

“Can’t be,” you responded.

“It is,” Joseph said.

You pulled forward, playing a slow game of chicken, or peacock as it were. He didn’t move, but instead, spread his tail feathers wide and beautiful, his head perfectly centered like an iridescent blue middle-finger. You drove around so as to avoid popping the bird.

When Joseph died last month, he chose that final act of rebellion. You remember seeing him, pumped full of embalming fluid and made up like a prom queen? It looked pretty natural except the foundation rubbed a little against the collar of his white shirt. The black lacquered casket was hermetically sealed to keep the earthworms and grubs out. To dust he shall return—in thirty or so years, I suppose.

Not to be crass or callous, I’m sure he was a good man. But clothing and caskets are little more than masquerades for the fall.