Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Death By Skylab



When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the story of the man who left nothing behind but a foot in a slipper. Supposedly, he died of Spontaneous Human Combustion while on the toilet. My father kept a book of supernatural occurrences in the bathroom and, each time I went in, I studied the picture of the old man's slippered foot lying on the cold tiled floor. I wondered if there was anything left in the toilet - any sign of his final act of life - but the picture didn't show the bowl.

I became obsessed with bizarre deaths. On the way to school, I fantasized that a piece of Skylab would hit me and leave nothing but a smoldering crater. I would be a headline item on the CBC. My mother would cry for the camera.

We had heard stories in the news at that time, my friends and I. Technology was falling to earth. You never knew when your number was up. Anything could happen. Satellites, airplanes.

A woman lept from a plane and her shoot didn't open. She landed on someone's front lawn and made a person shaped impression in the ground. She survived it and thought it was a miracle. She was on numerous talkshows.

I'm thinking about these things today because I was at the doctor's and he asked me if I had ever thought about dying. Not suicide, I said. It would be an accident. Unforeseeable. Inevitable. Ball lightening through the telephone line. A runaway train. A slippered foot.

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