“Everyone dies in the end,” Ray told his friends. But they did not buy it, as he accosted them in bars, or out for a stroll in the park. He was sure his last business venture would make a killing: a plot of land he marketed as a cemetery. He still had time to himself, now that he was a skeleton. He lived there alone—except for Crow. Did he still have to live with the creature that had plagued him in life?
In the beginning, Ray had bought the land to farm, but Crow ruined that enterprise, eating all the seeds. Crow in his mourning jacket inspired his next move, to plant dead people, but no one wanted to be buried in wheat stubble; they were afraid of being plowed up.
So, Ray lay alone, while Crow flapped like a black flag on the elaborate wrought-iron gate that said, “In Sod We Trust.” Actually, it had been, “In God We Trust,” but part of the G had been twisted and hung down.
One long, dull afternoon, Crow watched the skeleton walk back and forth, “You’re not getting anywhere, X-Ray.”
“I’m pacing myself.”
“For what, eternity?”
Ray had always struggled to make something of his life, but he never gave a thought to what he’d do with death. The wind whistled through his ribs; the crow pecked at shreds of flesh, “Stop picking on me.”
“Nothing personal, it’s just my role.”
Well, Ray thought, in my life I often had to eat crow, so this was the underside of the circle of life, where roles reversed; “I want to make something of my death, but what?”
“Bone up on the classics.”
“’To be or not to be, Alas poor Yorick.’ Somehow it doesn’t seem the answer.”
“What’s the question?” Crow asked. Skeleton gazed into Crow’s obsidian eye. But the darker the mirror, the deeper one can see. The secrets of life were written black on black. Cows wandered through the field, grazing. Knowing Ray milked everything in life, Crow told him, “You should milk the cows. Calcium is good for bones.” So, Skeleton did, but when he tried to drink the milk, it spewed right through him. “But seriously,” Crow said, “Everyone knows there are ghost writers. You could do that. It’s not a living, but that’s nothing to you.”
So, Ray plucked a quill from crow and started to scrawl. When he thought he had a book, he gave it the title, Grave Mistakes, and crow flew it to a friend at Owl Publishers. They said it had a good plot, but it wasn’t fleshed out. The editor suggested that Ray could work for Cliff Notes, paring plots down to their bare bones.
So, he went to work right away; the editor thought it great that Ray had no life. He fit right in with all the other working stiffs. It was nothing to crow about, but management loved him because he cut down the texts more than others, who hated to leave out the details about loves and dreams. It saved on ink.
Holly Woodward is an artist and writer whose works have won over a hundred honors. She was a doctoral fellow at Moscow University; and she also at Saint Petersburg U. She was writer in residence at Saint Albans, Washington National Cathedral, and is currently fiction fellow at CUNY’s Writers Institute.