(Which is also known as That Novel I've Been Writing.)
“Anyone die today?”
It was his standard greeting to me during those days, a type of in-joke that had started taking on a somber tone. We had long since abandoned the pleasantries of how are you and how was the drive up from Philly. In those days, we were all about the dead and the dying as I tried making room for the living.
“I got the last one, can you believe that?” I said, nodding to the boxed butter cake I held, an attempt to change the subject.
My Uncle Mark's question-as-greeting referred to the obituaries, but we didn't call them that. They were simply “The Deads”, and our religious daily reading of them in The Philadelphia Inquirer was one of the things Uncle Mark and I had in common. Whenever someone in our large, full of twice removed peopled family died – a third cousin, say - it became almost a contest between us to see who would be the first to call, the first to ask, “Hey, did you see in the paper that ….?”
There was a time when I would have offered the tired joke about whether either of us were expecting to see our names listed. Not now, not today. Not in these circumstances.
“Anyway, we’re still here,” I offered, knowing that there would be a day when I wouldn’t be able to give that answer.
When the question wouldn’t be asked.
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