Some years ago, an old friend from high school bought a little yellow slab house that sat prominently on a corner in a neighborhood dominated by historical Victorian homes.
One Saturday at lunchtime, a National Guard weekend for me, I was out on an errand in a military ambulance—a big camouflage green box of a truck with a huge red cross on the side—and thought it would be amusing to stop at my buddy’s house, just to give his stuffy neighbors something to talk about.
That started something of a tradition. Whenever possible, I’d stop by his house in an unusual vehicle or outlandish clothing, walk up to the door, ring the bell, and say, “Hi, Jim. I just stopped by to give your neighbors something to talk about.” I did it once while test driving a rat-trap of an early electric car. Once I showed up dressed as a clown. So the weekend that I dressed as Death for a local game convention, I made a point to take off at lunch and drive to Jim’s house.
At the time, my wife and I owned a big, pale-green Dodge we called “The Aircraft Carrier” because its hood was big enough to land jets on. It had a huge V8 engine but no weight in the short trunk, which meant that even a tap on the brakes made the rear end rise and the back tires squeal. On the way to Jim’s house that day, a Pinto suddenly pulled out in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes to keep from colliding with it. My Dodge slid down the street, tires squalling. The woman in the Pinto looked up suddenly, her eyes wide to see me white-knuckled behind the wheel—a skull face within a black hood.
Fortunately, the Dodge stopped in time.
At Jim’s house, after the obligatory, “I stopped by to give your neighbor’s something to talk about,” I told him about the driver in the Pinto, and we both had a good laugh. Then it was time to head back to the convention. I returned to my car, pulled up to the stop sign, and watched a limosine drift past, its driver wagging a finger furiously at me.
“What the heck?” I wondered, while waiting for a break in the line of cars behind him. Then it hit me: Of all the days to dress as Death, I had to meet up with a funeral procession.
Blushing under my skull-face makeup, I put the Dodge in park and lay down across the seat, waiting for a respectable time to pass.
Photo by Oisin Mulvihill