The alarm clock screams at 5 a.m.
and I get up to attend a funeral
50 miles away, a long drive back
to a corner of Chicago once rife
with corned beef and cabbage but
redolent today with salsa and tequila.
I head for the bathroom to shower
and brush my teeth but when
I turn the light on, I see a long
mahogany bug, species unknown,
glistening and motionless
on the cap of my toothpaste.
As a former caseworker in the projects
and someone with a gardener for a wife,
I have seen a variety of bugs, urban
and agrarian, and if they behave,
I normally don’t bother them,
except for mosquitoes
that land and happen to like me.
So I tell this bug on the toothpaste cap
that I have a funeral to attend today
and it’s 50 miles away so please,
be a good bug and move on.
Of course he doesn’t move.
Instead, he twirls his antennae
and rubs his pincers together.
Finally, he says somberly
“Can you get this cap off?
I’ve been trying all night.
I hear this stuff tastes good.”
As I would do later that day
for my old friend at his funeral,
I say a prayer for the bug
and send him on his way,
a burial at sea, if you will,
down, down, down he goes
to the hymn of a flushing toilet.
I can still hear his last words:
“My wife had octuplets.
They’re under your bathtub.
Tell them I said good-bye.
And have a nice day!”