The Last Meal by Matthew Erman

Trey David drew dicks all over my chest again with a big, black Sharpie. He wasn’t very good at drawing anything other than dicks, which wasn’t surprising because he drew a lot of them – on whiteboards, on bathroom stalls, and on passed out frat brothers. There were about four and a half on my chest and a somewhat realistic one on my back; he’d also written “#pledgefail” on my forehead in his sloppy handwriting. Everyone was sure it would be a trending hashtag the day after, especially with the amount of photos he’d taken of me.

In hindsight, all of this was absolutely hilarious, classic “Trey.” And you know, I’m sure Trey felt pretty good after he drew the fourth dick on my chest, it’s just a terrible shame that I happened to be dead. He obviously hadn’t planned for his pledge to die from ingesting (give or take) 3 pounds of (presumably) spoiled mayonnaise and I’m sure getting punched in the stomach by Mark Taylor, our starting fullback, didn’t help my situation either.

So, there I was—laying on a metal slab in a cold morgue surrounded by a mortician, Det. Patterson (looking way different than they portray detectives on CSI) and my two parents. What a shame, I hadn’t even declared a major yet. (Although with how things were going, I would have ended up with a useless Political Science degree – simultaneously not surprising and disappointing everyone I knew.)

I was a squat, unremarkable kid from the Midwest and that was my sophomore year at a Major State University. I wanted some buddies to lean on and the history of Rho Kappa Alpha was alluring. They promised consistent trim and endless booze (they didn’t say anything about the quality thereof) which was a hard deal to ignore. I’d been warned that pledging to a frat would be ‘the worst decision of my life,’ but I understood that it was all about forming a bond with other people—growing to trust those who humiliated you in the past and would no doubt continue to do so.

“Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes—is this your son?” They’d already removed the white cloth covering my body and, as sad it was to see my parents cry, there was a part of me that thinks they probably should have seen this coming. After the shock of seeing their youngest dead, their expression shifted to abject disappointment followed by unquenchable curiosity, surely asking themselves how I became such an unabashed moron.

“Detective…how could this have possibly happened?” My Mom said. “We just saw him!”

“He passed from…complications surrounding a pledge to his frat.” The Detective said, obfuscating the truth that I’d ate a hideously large amount of mayo before one of my asshole friends rocked me in the gut. I have to admit, his explanation had more…I don’t know…Je ne sais quoi than mine.

“Why is he so…bloated looking? Is that just him being fat or…something else?” My Dad asked. Even in the afterlife he couldn’t resist the chance to call me a fatass. Again, the Detective deflected that line of questioning, hoping not to subject my parents to the depths of depravity and idiocy I’d sunken to.

It wasn’t even name-brand mayonnaise. I was killed by some knock-off trash mayo. How miserably underwhelming. And how embarrassing that Trey didn’t even bother to clean the mayo out of my barely-there beard, or scrub the dick doodles off my corpse.

After my parents were led out of the room, the mortician and Det. Patterson discussed the finer points of my passing. They started hedging bets on whether or not #pledgefail would end up as a trending hashtag, and admired the tasteful line work on penis #3 which, let me just say was Trey’s best work.

They wondered if this was the plight of the young American male, or a larger problem with our educational system. They eventually figured that my trend of normalcy and the unmistakable stench of mediocrity would follow me into the afterlife. I guess that’s why they got paid the big bucks.

Before long, my parents started planning my funeral, which was a shame because I never got to make any cool requests. Knowing Mom and Dad, my family was set for something tastefully dreary, something miserable with none of the things that made me who I was (cheap beer and questionable decision-making.)

Had I actually written a will I would have asked good ol’ Trey to read the eulogy. Regale my mourning family and friends with the hilarious story of how I, like Icarus, flew dangerously close to the sun (the sun in this case being a plastic salad bowl full of warm mayo) before my wings burned and I crashed to Earth. He’d enchant all my closest compatriots with the tale of how even before pledging, I pre-gamed by double-fisting a bottle of hand sanitizer and vanilla extract (that was surely a big contributing factor in my death). Trey might even release some birds, something poetic as my friends and family ask themselves whether it was in my nature to die eating sandwich spread. (It most definitely was.)

And after Trey delivered his stirring speech, he’d instruct those in attendance to shotgun a single, room-temperature beer before finally walking over to my casket to form a single file line. Each of them drawing one last dick on the expensive, dark varnished rosewood exterior. My legacy boiled down into a cautionary tale for my frat brothers for… maybe, a semester or two.

Matthew Erman has been writing fiction for the better part of his 26 years. His work has been featured in; Vanderbilt University’s The Nashville Review, Filigree Literary Journal, University of Miami’s Mangrove Literary Journal, Pelorus Press, and Cracked.

Matthew has a high school diploma, no college debt and attended the 2012 Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop in hopes of finding someone to tell him he is just as worthless as everyone else (he succeeded.) He lives in sunny Columbus, Ohio.

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