I stand behind dozens of firefighters in their dress blues; I wear an embroidered polo with my name and the Federal Heights Fire Department logo. His casket bears his name: Joseph Eugene Grein.
I am not a firefighter, but I knew the firefighter they are honoring this day. I didn’t know him well, mind you, just as a work acquaintance. But I know he would have helped me in an emergency, and for that, I will always be grateful.
I am honored that I am allowed to stand with his peers and say goodbye from the fringes of the brotherhood.
New Year’s Day
My name is Edward Andrew, and I’m six years old.
You lie in the wheeled bed, puffy and pale
Riding the waves of morphine
(or is it Bartlett Lake?)
I help the illusion along.
Howdy howdy there, friends and neighbors!
This is El Monte Slim f’m El Monte Slim Chev’rlet …
A cough chokes you back awake,
Fear and confusion cloud your eyes
No, don’t speak; I point to the tube
You say goodbye with your eyes.
… I wait for delivery each day until three,
Oh Lord, woncha buy me a color TV?
A simple flick of the switch and my decision is final.
A few shuddering, spasmodic breaths and it is done.
You expire at my side, hand in my hand, my
Tears exposed in the glare of my own inadequacy.
See ya at the beach, Bro.
— Stace Johnson, 1997