by George Thomas
“I’M NOT REALLY DEAD. Meet me at Marconi’s. At 6:30. Keep it between you and me.”
Without a doubt, this was the most outrageous post-it note found attached to a front door, but Howard wasn’t phased by the incredulous nature of it, muttering to himself, “Dirty bastard’s gonna want his DVDs back.” Upon tossing the note onto the kitchen counter, it occurred to him, “Wait, Marconi’s is still in business?” Howard picked the note up again and reread it, confirming that the name was, in fact, Marconi’s. He turned his head, stared out the window and spoke to his eclipsed, half-clear relection, “Why the hell is Sammy not dead?”
Howard was overcome, as if the weight of his body had dropped to his feet. Marconi’s had a mean pepperoni pie. They didn’t skimp on the extra ingredients, too. Too bad an “electrical fire” sent Marconi’s brick ovens to hell not four months ago. His hands trembled as he lit a cigarette and exhaled a plume of smoke toward the ground where, not moments ago, he believed his friend’s spirit had gone far below only days past.
Recalling the day of the funeral, Howard did find it odd that it was a closed casket, when Sammy had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A suicide: Sammy closed up the garage, sat in his car, and hit the switch. No one had seen it coming. He was such a fun, loving guy. What else would you expect someone to say about a guy who made like a goldfish and jumped out of the bowl? That got Howard thinking, if that’s really how he died, who found him? It certainly wasn’t his wife. Why Sammy’s wife, Joan, seemed pretty convinced that her husband was dead. She probably wouldn’t have slept with Howard in a state of drunken grief two nights ago had she known otherwise. And if Howard hadn’t been sure that Sammy was dead, he might have thought twice about doing it, even if it was a suppressed temptation all those years. All this thinking made Howard take a last drag of his cigarette and murmur aloud, “I sure hope Joan didn’t get a post-it too.”
Howard was right. Marconi’s had closed down a long time ago. As he drove past the now burned up, boarded up pizzeria, a vaguely familiar face glanced his way. Howard’s eyes bulged at the sight of the woman standing in front of the decrepit building, and said to himself, “You gotta be fucking kidding me.” He looked into his rearview mirror and saw his ex-wife staring back at him as he drove away. She died mysteriously a year after their divorce (or so went that story), way back in the day when Marconi’s was still selling pizza by the slice.
Well Howard had nothing to say to her, dead or alive. He didn’t attend her funeral, and only visited her grave once when terribly drunk and with a full bladder, wanting to finally fulfill that promise he always made to her during their nightly arguments. He took solace in knowing that he could keep late Sammy’s DVDs. Lighting a cigarette, Howard drove back home and forgot about the note and reminisced about how delicious that Marconi’s pizza used to be. “There’s Stone Oven’s Pizza up the road,” Howard whispered like somebody was eavesdropping, “I wonder what Joan is doing tonight…”