Ever feel really good about somebody’s death, then feel really bad about having felt good about it? I’ll give you an example.
During a lean period in my life some friends and I were renting an apartment from an elderly women, a bit of a curmudgeon and a bit crazy as well, (she was convinced two gay tenants were killing her flowers–“them fags is killing my hollyhocks! They never had spots before, and now they got white spots all over 'em since the fags showed up!”). She was quick to pound on the ceiling if we were walking around after ten o’clock and quick to jump on us when rent was due. She even once threatened to report us to the police after entering our apartment while we were out and spotting someone’s bong. Anyway, to avoid her wrath my friend Bob passed her a check for two months past-due rent with more rubber in it than an inflatable girlfriend. We were dreading the consequences and looking for someplace to sell plasma.
Two days later, Easter Sunday we awoke to an ambulance. The landlady’s family had found her, thoroughly dead.
As we sleepily stood on the stairs watching the coroner shove our late landlady into the wagon we heard a “Psst!” from above. Bob was leaning over the railing, motioning us over with his finger.
He gathered us together, closed and locked the door, checked the window shade, he looked to the left, he looked to the right, reached into the newspaper he’d been holding all morning and, like a magician, pulled out the unopened envelope with the poison check in it. Turns out, while bob was so helpfully holding the door open for the medical examiner to wheel the gurney out, he was simultaneously snatching the envelope and concealing it in his paper.
Nobody said a word. We Just looked at each other, started laughing maniacally under our breaths and started dancing a tribal dance that would have given Margaret Meade cold shivers.
I feel kind of crummy about it now. Celebrating somebody’s death like it was a snow day. And even now, reading what I wrote above I’ve kind of painted the landlady as worse than she really was, sort of to justify it.
Incidentally, the gay couple adopted the landlady’s hollyhocks, and nursed them to back to full health.