Private: Abe Lipschitz
Two days after a tragic accident, I found myself in a cemetery.
Don’t worry, though! I’m just visiting! I’m not dead or anything. If I were, you’d definitely be able to tell just by looking around. Everyone around me would be way sadder than they are now. Crying their friggin’ eyes out, professing their undying love for me. A few would have to be held back from just climbing in my casket because they can’t see a point in a world without Abe. Even though all of them never called me back after we’d only hooked up once, they know that it’s just never gonna get any better.
“Who is it that we’re here for again?” Misereé asked, wiping a few stray blades of grass off her long black dress. When her and SELMA noticed me going through my section of the closet space in search of a suit to wear, they were naturally curious as to the occasion. As you all know by now, I’m a guy who likes to put a little sugar and spice in my ensemble – and this three-piece is the only black thing I own.
I told them that I was headed to the funeral of a good friend, which prompted them to ask me if they could tag along. Now, I know what you’re thinking: of course they would want to go to a funeral, as it is very grim and both of the Black Metal Friends are into that sort of shit. Even though they claim that “they’re metal, not goth.” I’m not going to bore you with the differences because it’s a lecture I received about forty times when I first moved in with them, and I’m trying to be a nicer person.
Anway, Reé told me that the reason she wanted to go was to confirm that I actually had a “good friend.” Coming from anyone else, this would have really hurt my feelings. But, since it was a mean remark from the Wizard of Loneliness herself, I decided to brush it off. Again, I’m trying to be a nicer person. It’s ultimately why I let them both come along to the services. Social interaction is good for them both, especially if there’s a chance that they meet someone with a bigger apartment who’s looking for two creepy roommates.
“His name’s Mike,” I replied. “Just one of the best people you’ll ever meet, honestly. I’m really going to miss him.”
“Mike, huh,” Misereé countered, giving me an unconvinced look beneath the layers of corpse makeup. “What’s his last name?”
As if she’d just pushed down a handle on the side of my skull, my brain swirled as my best pal’s name was flushed down the cortex and unable to make it to my lips. Defensively, I flicked the funeral program that she held in her hand. “Can’t you read? It’s in there.”
The truth was that I hadn’t known Mike for as long as I’d originally let on. As a matter of fact, I’d really only met him a few months ago. I didn’t really think about it until just now, but it was coincidentally right when I’d debuted in PRIME. And to be completely honest, we weren’t really all that close, despite me lying to my roommates that he was a guy that shared all of his deepest and darkest secrets with me. Like that he’d once taken a job at a bowling alley just to smell the customers’ shoes when they weren’t watching. Or that he’d occasionally wrap a carpet sample around his genitals to pleasure himself. I’d hoped those startling revelations would get Misereé to stop asking me so many fucking questions, but I was wrong.
“Well, how did he die?”
See, I told you. Never shuts up.
I was here today for the same reason any minor acquaintance showed up at someone’s funeral: overwhelming guilt. Not as a family member, not as a friend, not even as a keeper of private memories. You see, the reason Mike would be dropped in that big ol’ rectangular hole today was partially because of me.
Mike had fallen on hard times a few days ago. He’d told me he’d suddenly lost his job, a career he’d begrudgingly devoted 8.5 years to. I couldn’t help but feel pity for him. So, I made an introduction to one of the set coordinators on the film I had been cast in as an extra. It was a chaotic scene for the movie and one that the director really wanted to highlight a disaster’s impact on the general public. Hundreds of extras on hand would serve its purpose to heighten the drama and further the complicated plot.
The real challenge here was that we’d been informed that we’d needed to get it right on the first take. In hindsight, this was probably too much pressure on a first-time performer like Mike. Not to mention that this thing was slated to be strapped to a rocket and launched right to the top of the Oscar ballots. I knew this because I’d read the script several times in preparation for my audition to co-star. Yeah, it was another part I didn’t get, but to be honest it wasn’t really a good fit for me. It’s a gritty melodrama featuring the tumultuous life of a construction worker, and it would have been tough to buy me in a big yellow hard hat and coveralls.
Mike, though? He was rough around the edges. A little dirty and unkempt in appearance even if he’d just had a shower. One of the assistant directors took notice of him and plucked him from the crowd, and ten minutes later he had returned in full costume. First acting job ever and he’d already been promoted to Construction Worker #4 – Mike McWhateverhislastnamewas was going to show up in the credits! I wasn’t jealous at all of him, though. I was totally happy for the guy even though I’d been doing this for way longer, taken several acting classes, and went on a date with said assistant director like a week before and went down on him to show that I could commit to any role I’m given. Totally not mad about it, and it’s definitely not the reason I stuffed a bunch of coconut macaroons from craft services down my shirt before I left the set that day.
Several minutes later, the star of the project strolled out of his trailer and made his way toward the set. Sniffling his nose and scratching underneath it with his index finger, the gentleman greeted everyone with a friendly “haw haw haw” and a tilt of his khaki-colored cap. It’s not often that I get starstruck, but as a kid I absolutely loved Toy Story, and my dad’s go-to comfort sitcom featured him in his breakout role as “The Toolman.”
I glanced over at Mike who seemed pretty impressed as well. Silently I prayed that he didn’t make the unprofessional mistake of trying to approach him. Thankfully he stayed put in his position: right next to the back of the truck that was the focal point of the shot. Even if he’d made a move, the director of the film had already captured Tim Allen’s attention by scooting up onto the scene.
“Alright Tim,” he instructed, “you’ve been nailing everything all day, but this is the one that we gotta make count. We’re behind schedule and the next scene, we only got one chance to get right, so I need you to make a little more magic for me. You know I trust you implicitly, but just to give me some reassurance, say the line for me right quick before we roll camera.”
Tim Allen grunted, tugging the denim vest with confidence over his gray t-shirt.
“Pourin’ cement is a verrrrrry delicate process, and should be left to professionals like me, Vern,” Tim recited, tweaking his otherwise gruff voice to more of a higher-pitched, nasally tone. “If you don’t get it right, you could be in a real sticky situation. Knowwhutimean?”
Beautiful. Sure, it wasn’t exactly like Jim Varney, but a true artiste like Allen knows that in order to pay tribute to a fellow actor, it’s not necessarily just imitating them. You put your own spin on it. This is exactly what made series reboots so good. Colin Farrell in Total Recall. Adam Sandler in The Longest Yard. Matthew Broderick in Inspector Gadget. Need I go on? Fine then. Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz in Charlie’s Angels. The puppies in Air Buddies. The great Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man.
That was all of the reassurance that the director needed.
“Now, just say the line, walk up next to that dirty looking guy at the cement truck over there,” he commanded, pointing over to Mike, “and I’ll cut scene and bring in the stunt crew.”
He walked back to his chair out of the line of the shot in preparation to begin rolling. I too prepared myself for the background performance of a lifetime. Although extras are given specific instructions to try and blend in to the shot as much as possible, I generally take this more as a suggestion than a command.
“Ernest Paves A Road, scene three, R, take one,” the clapper loader called out, pushing the stick down. “Action.”
As Tim mugged for the camera and recited his line, I made sure my role as a pedestrian would not be taken as a pedestrian effort. Since I was wearing a lime green tank top with the Big Dogs logo on it (#whatsabewearing #abewearsshirts), I made sure to slightly turn to the camera that I knew would most likely make the final cut and casually flex my bicep. They only had one take to do it, so fuck ‘em if they played it back and got mad about it. That’s what they get for giving a novice the part of Construction Worker #4 over me.
Now, I know that you’ll watch what happens next and go “Abe, you really didn’t have to go to the trouble of mentioning everything before this.” That may be true, but I just wanted to make sure that when the movie comes out, you all didn’t miss my part in it.
While the director was a bright young mind with a beautiful creative lens, this was one of the longest days on set thus far. Some might say that Tim Allen’s performance as Ernest was so realistic that maybe he forgot for a moment that he was shooting a movie, and that Ernest had risen from the tomb much like another fictional deity that will not be named nor acknowledged by me.
Either way, as Tim went to grab the little slide thing where the cement was about to come pouring out of, the director forgot to yell for the cut. And Tim, a real professional, knew time was of the essence. He also felt that being able to say that he “did his own stunts sometimes” would be a good thing to add to his acting resume.
This is how both Mike was knocked to the ground via the cruel arm of the mixing truck. And although the director knew that he could be in real fucking trouble for doing it, this was the only take they had. Quick-drying cement…hundreds of pounds of it…covered him as he screamed in terror. Enveloping his body and squeezing as if he were a tube of toothpaste, and eventually sealing all around him into the shape of the mold.
He had become one with the concrete. Lifeless and hardened.
“Bull shit,” Misereé said, shaking her head with disapproval. “There is no way that story is true.”
“Believe what you want,” I retorted, “but that’s the way it happened.”
She scowled at me. “No production in their right mind would just let a guy become trapped in cement just so they get a funny shot to use in the movie. And why didn’t he just get up out of there? It takes like 20 minutes for concrete to dry!”
My lips curled upwards into a smile as opportunity began to knock. “If you’re so confident it’s a lie, wanna make a bet on it?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“A hundred bucks then. AND I get to use my choice of entrance music when it’s just me in the match from now on,” I offered. “I have to hear that awful fucking shit enough in the apartment, and I shouldn’t be forced to have to tolerate it during singles competition.”
Reé grimaced at the thought of this, as her and I did not necessarily see eye-to-eye on the matter. “If you really want to make that bet, what else besides the money do I get if I win?”
“I’ll use my own money to travel separately from the two of you, and you can use the rest of the company’s stipend to upgrade.”
“Deal,” Misereé quickly agreed, extending her hand to shake on it.
Minutes later, we all watched a black hearse slowly make its way down the winding road of the cemetery. It then pulled up next to the green canopy that covered the plot and the rows of chairs that were set up for the graveside service to follow. Once parked, a group of six men lined up behind the rear door of the vehicle awaiting the funeral director to open it and slide out the coffin.
I nudged Misereé with my elbow, which prompted SELMA to give me a Charly Horse on my arm.
“OW! Look closely when they pull him out, you two,” I said, doing my best to conceal my excitement at proving my story true.
There was no coffin that the pallbearers retrieved from the back of the hearse. Instead, it was a rectangular block of cement that was perfectly shaped to fit inside the grave. Well, almost. One of Mike’s arms protruded through the concrete as it was the only part that didn’t fully entrap him. Around it were the same coveralls he wore at the time of the fatal accident.
SELMA stood there with her mouth agape. Misereé, as usual, was in denial of the situation.
“Oh YEAH RIGHT, that arm is SO FAKE LOOKING.”
“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” I shushed as the rest of the funeral goers turned toward our direction. “Are you kidding me right now?” Thank goodness that Mike’s friends and relatives seemed to be pretty mild-mannered people, as they didn’t immediately begin kicking our asses. Or it might have been because SELMA looked the way she did and was also holding a hatchet at her waist. Either way, I was pretty embarrassed as I watched the men struggle with the weight of the stone to place it on the casket-lowerer thingy.
The parlor director then invited everyone to take an empty seat before he began the eulogy. I assume Mike wasn’t a man of much spiritual reverence, and that was just fine with me. He had started with a verse from the critically panned work of fiction titled the Bible. Never got around to reading that one, but I heard there’s a shitload of stuff about death in it. So I guess it fits the vibe.
Mike didn’t exactly have a long list of life accomplishments to rattle off, which meant that there was a lot of time to fill. As the funeral leader finished his canned pitch for 10% discounts on eternal salvation, he’d then asked the congregation if anyone would like to come up and share a few words about our dearly departed.
To be polite, I waited a second to give someone else first crack at the limelight. When no one volunteered, I snatched the hatchet from SELMA’s hand and walked up to the front of the assembly. Mike may have gotten the part of Construction Worker #4 from me, but I was going to be the lead role at his wake. Thankfully the PRIME Drone was alerted to my whereabouts and conveniently here to witness it.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” I started, looking down to what I assumed to be Mike’s kinfolk, as they all had that slight look of grime and had the occasional specks of dandruff on their black clothing. None looked particularly thrilled that I’d gotten up there wielding a miniature ax. Misereé’s dumb outburst didn’t help either, but I’d been put in front of tough crowds before that I ultimately won over. They’d come around by the end of my beautiful tribute to him.
“It’s safe to say that those of us who grew up with Mike or knew him for many years all agree on one thing: when you were talking about THE Mike, there was never any need to clarify which Mike you were talking about by using his last name,” I proclaimed, making sure my bases were covered with that little issue. “Another thing we can agree on is that Mike was a brother, a son, an uncle, and a cousin. But most importantly, he was a friend. Ol’ Reliable Mike, that’s what I used to call him. Always there when you needed someone to talk to.”
“As a matter of fact,” I continued, “the one thing Mike loved to hear me talk about was my wrestling career. And you know, if you all will allow me the opportunity, I’d like to talk to him one last time about it before we say our goodbyes.”
The funeral parlor guy suddenly began to stand up. “I don’t think we all wa…”
“Thank you,” I quipped, pointing the blade of the hatchet toward him as he slowly sat back down. “But this one will be a little different. For the past couple of weeks, Mike was elated to hear me talk about how I was going to just absolutely stomp Ned Reform’s face and smush it into a highly educated blob of broken maxilla bone and skin. And that I was going to use him as a foundation to begin to cement my legacy in PRIME.”
Whoops. Probably the wrong choice of words there. “Shit,” I retracted, “Word vomit, sorry. What I meant to say was that I was going to pour out a lot of pain and suffering on top of him, then drive over him with a pick up truck. Metaphorically speaking, though. Not literal.”
Good save, Abraham. You’ve got them eating out of the palm of your hand now, guy!
“But Mike, as much as you enjoyed the rabble rousing,” I sighed, “I’m moving on. And I’m pretty concrete on this, so don’t try to change my mind!”
I chuckled as I reached over to the slab and playfully punched him in his dead arm. Then I lifted the hatchet up to eye level. I examined both sides of it, flipped it in the air, and caught it by the handle as it came down.
Okay fine, I missed catching the hatchet in midair. But I picked it back up as if nothing had happened and pressed on.
“That’s why I have this here with me today. It’s a symbolic affair,” I explained. “We will not only bury Mike, but I will also bury the hatchet with Ned Reform. Sure, I realize that this seems pretty anti-climactic. It’s not really the way a blood feud is supposed to end. Heck, ma’am, I’m sure you really wanted to see Abe the Babe give that prick a baker’s dozen of Hot Crossed Stuns, right?”
The PRIME Drone panned over to reveal who I was talking to: a frail looking woman in a wheelchair. She appeared to be on the verge of finding herself moving here in a few short months. Show white hair, wrinkles like a topographic map, and probably only able to communicate in painful groans.
“Fuck yeah, Abe! I want you to kick his holier than thou ass!”
Well, never judge a book by its cover, I guess. I wonder if she’s ever thought of going into the wrestling management business.
“I appreciate the support, good lookin’. But it just isn’t going to happen. Even though I know we’re scheduled to have yet another match on ReVival, this time I will lie down and let Ned pin me. And much like Mike and this hatchet, our rivalry will be dead in the dirt.”
All of a sudden, everyone…even the old woman…stood up and gave me a rousing ovation! It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. Hooping, hollering, and a ton of “You Go Boy!” Well, all except for two people, who are both “convinced” that I’d “just hired the same extras from the Ernest reboot” to “stage” this “funeral.” I’m not one to acknowledge the opinions of the haters.
I was just glad to send Mike out the way he would have wanted it.