Issue 35, Final Fringe

Epitaphs

by Matthew Vollmer Issue 29 01.23.2012

#7

here lies a man whose son had wanted all his life a trophy, the acquisition of which, from the perspective of the deceased, seemed strange, if not downright absurd, in part because the deceased no longer owned nor cared for trophies of any kind, and the only one he’d ever won had featured a baseball player cast in cheap nonprecious metal, which had been screwed upon a marble slab, whereupon a nameplate appeared bearing the letters of the deceased’s name and the year 1982 commemorated the season he’d played reluctantly upon a T ball team named the DEMONS, a team that’d lost all its games, except for the one the deceased had been unable to attend, a team that’d featured a chubby freckled redheaded girl who was said to have grown into a strikingly beautiful woman, and a severely bucktoothed kid who was said to have grown up to become a crackhead, and though many others also played, the only other person the deceased could remember had been a long lost friend, who, according to his Facebook profile, had ballooned quite affably into the kind of overweight person that people describe as jolly and with whom you could expect to frequently laugh, even if this particular individual happened to make his living from an occupation whose description included the phrase “turf management,” or, in layman’s terms, the upkeep of golf courses, which, from an environmental point of view has no doubt catastrophic impacts on the land, though it’s worth noting for those who have never had the pleasure of playing 18 holes that the sensory experience of strolling across a fairway in late afternoon or early morning is not unlike looking at a live version of those representations on felt boards in church school classrooms, the ones that depict Heaven and where the softly rolling hills always appear to be fastidiously groomed, suggesting that in paradise either angels are frequently employed in the mowing of grass or that the grass itself possesses a kind of intelligence and thus knows exactly when to stop growing, and all the kids there have robes of light and crowns with jewels, and in that awfully happy place one can expect that all this talk about trophies will have long been forgotten, as will the sorrows of a six-year-old boy with a flushed face and bright yellow hair, or, in other words, the deceased’s son, who had trudged off the field at soccer camp sorry that he would not be bringing home a trophy, unable to understand the significance of the fact that his coaches had chosen him out of all the other kids in his age group to receive an award, not for the player who happened to get lucky and score more goals during the skill set drills (which was how one won a trophy), but because nobody in his age group during the whole week had outhustled him, no kid had tried harder, nobody had given more than he had, and yet the reality was that instead of a golden statuette this particular award earned the winner a tote bag and a Gatorade towel and a squeeze bottle, which, while certainly more practical, could not, especially from the perspective of a six-year-old, compare to the swoon-worthy gold of the trophy, which we must all admit is shinier and more impressive on a primal sort of level, and one is reminded of those birds (are they some sort of blackbird or raven?) who collect shiny things in order to lure their mates, or had the deceased merely been remembering that movie where the intelligent rats must escape the plow and so moved their house inside a hollowed-out brick to safety during a fantastic mudstorm, and ended up along the way befriending a blackbird with an eye for gold—or, as he said, “sparklies”—and in some ways, that’s what it all comes down to: the refraction of light via metal, which is certainly a magical thing in itself, and which can never be said to be truly possessed, only experienced, but try explaining that to a demoralized and highly emotional six-year-old boy and see what he says and if, in the end, you can’t sympathize with his point of view

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Matthew Vollmer

Matthew Vollmer

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Matthew Vollmer is the author of a story collection, Future Missionaries of America, and is co-editor, with David Shields, of Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, forthcoming from Norton. His work has appeared (or will appear) in magazines such as Paris Review, VQR, Tin House, Epoch, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Oxford American, Antioch Review, DIAGRAM, elimae, Willow Springs, and Carolina Quarterly. He teaches in the MFA program at Virginia Tech.