Die Big

Contributor: David Macpherson

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Two days after my grandmother died, we were in Neptune, New Jersey, where she was spoken about by people standing behind a podium. My father's best friend growing up was there with the wife he was soon to divorce. He spoke of the importance of family, God's ever loving gaze. Things like that.

Afterwards, we grandchildren were deposited on the Ocean Grove boardwalk, while the parents went to handle the paper work that survived the old lady. We talked for a while about college and work and things we did. The wind did not allow such autobiography and we walked down a frigid December gang plank in silence, heading to the Playland we went to when we visited as kids. It was shuttered closed. Not for the season, but for the ages.

We spoke about the funhouse we loved. The tilting room, the hall of mirrors. The pre-recorded shrieks of horror that startled me every time. On the plywood that covered the Playland entrance was spray painted the words Die Big, in large block letters. Fearing omens, we turned round.

On the boardwalk, the Devil his own self stood on a soap box selling whatever was desired, wanted. Anything at all, cheap, only the price of a soul. They didn't even have to be our souls. They could be lingering in our pockets, stuck on our shoes, sent to us in the mail by mistake.

It was too cold to be tempted and we walked on, finding our parents. My Aunt was in tears. She wanted her mother's engagement ring. The nursing home said it was missing. It had not been stolen, goodness no, just missing. These things happen.

They said my grandmother probably was the one to lose it what with the state she was in at the end. My aunt didn't care, she said, “It's not even that nice a ring, I just want it back.” With nothing to give her, we bid our goodbyes.

For the next week, I found myself inspired to do stupid, drunken acts with no knowledge of why I might do such things.

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David lives in Central Massachusetts with his wife Heather and son George.
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