Ed Weathers was a magazine editor and writer for 27 years and has taught Professional Writing, Composition, and Literature and the Law at Virginia Tech since 2003. He has published more than 200 magazine articles, plus poems in a number of journals. He has won the American Bar Association's award for the nation's best article on legal issues and the City and Regional Magazine Association's
national award for commentary. His essay "Hitting the Facade" was named one of the nation's 100 "notable" essays in Best American Essays 2007. Now teaching only one class per year in his semi-retirement, Ed spends his free time playing golf and tennis, creating original crossword puzzles for the N.Y. Times, learning Spanish, perfecting the Australian crawl, and chiseling primitive stone sculptures. Someday, he would like to sell one of his stone sculptures to a stranger for money. His web site, which contains other samples of his writing, is edweathers.com.
Even the dead buckle their seatbelts.
They board you before breakfast, before your damp toast and your bitter coffee and your two pills—before you steer yourself down the steps, across the bare yard, to the corner where my road meets yours among the farms.
I stop here every morning at 8:30 to turn left. Your shapeless place with its ten doors and the DO NOT ENTER sign in one front window is exactly half way to where I’m going. It is, I think, my halfway house. And every morning, you are parked on the corner, your thumb out low by your hip. And this is what we do every morning: you climb gravely into my passenger seat and buckle in, and the weight of the dead makes my small car sink, and I shift into first.
And then a hundred ghosts start you telling their stories. Right away, a boy who played for Notre Dame is dead up in Rochester, in 1953, and then you say it again: “He died. My brother went to school with him. He played fullback. He died.”
You promise not to smoke, then promise again. You look like a cigarette, I think, and your words are ash. Some days, you list your life like a resume: brick-factory security, shoe-store salesman, construction-site account checker. Your boss in 1958 still orders you around. He died, you say, of cancer, or maybe it was someone else, his son. “I knew his sister,” you say. “I didn’t date her.”
Suddenly a captain, World War II, commands you to curse. “Fucking son of a bitch. Motherfucker bastard. Fucker. Bastard. Son of a bitch.” Then halfway up the hill the captain’s finished, like World War II. And it’s your aunt now, your mother’s younger sister, back in Binghampton. “She died,” you say. “It didn’t look like her. I think it was somebody else. They said she died. It was somebody else.”
It’s three miles up to the university, and we’ve passed the S-curve where you can’t see twenty feet ahead or fifty years behind. You are quiet on the S-curve, and the car labors. You are carrying a garbage bag—in it, you say, your laundry and today’s newspaper. You mention the grocery ads and your shopping, then mention them again. As we approach town, you approach the day, and some of the day’s clarity. You say you want to go to Wendy’s. You look at the coeds.
At a quiet corner, I pull over, and you unbuckle yourself, and, after the mother of another family dies, you get out. Now the captain has come cursing back. I wish you a good day. You curse even louder, propitiating the captain. And so you leave me—one less ghost—and I imagine you reciting my obituary to your next ride.
This has not been one of your better days. On your better days you offer me your coupons.