The Chronicle of Don

The writing prompt for this week’s Chatham Writers Group was “write your own obituary”. That kind of bummed me out! I was going to go off topic and read the story I wrote about The Mud March, but thought some of the group might find it not exciting enough. I woke up at 7:30 this morning with a thought, and this is the product. I completed it by 9:45 this AM, with time to spare before the start of the 10:30 AM start time. Full disclosure, the Don in my story is a compilation of two guys named Don that I worked with years ago. The one Don did suffer an ashtray blow to the side of his head, he survived, albeit rather bruised. The other Don did stand up into the hose of a dust collector and it sucked down onto the top of his head to the bridge of his nose. He struggled mightily to get it off. It looked like an elephant’s trunk had grabbed his head. He finally got the hose off, and his hair was standing straight up. I had been laughing too hard to help. He asked me to promise not to tell anyone. I have been telling this story for 43 years now. At any rate, here is my fiction work for today.

The Chronicle of Don

When an unfortunate workplace accident contributed to the untimely demise of Donald Mallard, as a cub reporter for the Press & Journal, I was assigned the dual tasks of reporting the story and preparing his obituary.  This was not uncommon for Cub reporters in the early stages of their journalism careers, so I was prepared to do the scut work that would eventually lead to the sports writer desk.  The assignment was presented to me via my boss shouting form his office door “Stricsek!  Get over to Widget Powder Metals now!  There has been an accident.  Get enough info for a 500 word story and stuff for an obit.  They are expecting you”.  Of I went in my VW bug on what would prove to be a very curious journey of discovery.

 My journey began with the HR Manager of WGT, Incorporated, and I quickly discovered that Mr. Mallard was universally disliked.  “I really don’t know what to tell you” she began.  “What type of a person was he?” I asked, “was he a model employee?”. “No!”, she exclaimed, “No! He was the most odious person I have ever encountered!  I am going to send you over to his boss and perhaps he can provide more details.  Just mentioning the late Mr. Mallard’s name makes me want to take a shower…. I am sorry to speak ill of the dead…” she shuddered and trailed off.    

Those were the exact same words Mr. Mallard’s boss used to start our conversation before moving on to details. “Duck Mallard was loathed by everyone who worked here.  A more unsavory character you will never meet.  Profane, quarrelsome, I mean how would you feel if you were greeted every morning with “ah go to hell”.  Every word out of his mouth was coarse”.  I asked about the details of the accident.  His description of it made it very plain that he despaired more of the loss of a piece of equipment than the loss of Mr. Mallard.  “He got sucked into a dust collector unit, like a huge vacuum cleaner.  He damaged the filters when he lodged against them,  the broken pieces got into the Venturi unit and burned up the motor.  Damn! That dust collector was brand new and cost $250,000!  I am going to send you over to talk to his co-workers for more details.  I am too worked up to say anymore.  Nice meeting you”.  

Mallard’s co-workers made no attempt to hide their disdain for their recently departed crony.  The most talkative one of the group began “God that guy was a piece of work.  We would draw straws every morning to see which of us would have to assist him.  Men the size of a tank would break into tears after drawing the short straw.”.  Another volunteered “We called him Duck Mallard, or Donald Duck, it would drive him nuts.  I said good morning to him one time and he told me to eat shit, I never called him Don again.  I don’t know, maybe that is what led to the accident”.  He pointed towards a large hose suspended from a beam and said “That is the vacuum hose.  It broke loose from that beam and started to swing towards him.  I shouted “Duck!”.  I guess he thought I was mocking him because he turned and gave me the finger then he got sucked into the hose.  It was like watching an anaconda swallow a capybara”.  He caught me gaping at him and clarified “I watch Animal Kingdom every Sunday”.  “Anyway, that’s what happened” he continued, “Duck ended up breaking a quarter of a million dollar machine”.  I had all I needed for the accident article.  Nobody had anything charitable to provide for the obit.  I had phone numbers for Mr. Mallard’s mother and ex-wife, perhaps I would be able to glean something positive from them.  

Mallard’s mother dissuaded me of such noble thoughts. “Yeah, when I received the call I asked “what, did his ex murder him”?.  When they told me what happened I assured them that somebody must have stuffed him into that hose, that boy could piss off the Pope.  You know when he was born, and the Doctor smacked his butt to get him to take his first breaths, he actually said “You bastard!”, yes he did, clear as day.  I told the Doc he learned it from his father.  His little foot would kick in my womb whenever my husband said bastard.  Well, I got nothing else for you, my soaps are about to start, so, have a nice day”.

The last stop on my journey was Mallard’s ex-wife.  “My first thought was that someone killed him.  He had that effect on people.  You know he took me out for a lovely dinner, to The Victorian, you know the place, really nice.  After dinner he looks at me and says he wants a divorce.  He was holding his drink in his left hand, I reached over to grasp his right hand, then I hit him with an ash tray.  He ran out with a napkin over his eye.  I had to pay the bill”.  She stopped to catch her breath, then broke out into a fit of laughter.  “You know” she resumed, “How ironic.  Don encountered something that sucked more than he did.  Hey, I gotta run. General Hospital is starting soon.  Have a nice day”, and she hung up.

It was easy to type the story of the accident.  Not so easy for the obit.  With no one seeming to have anything good to say about the departed, or seeming to care, I channeled my inner Lincoln and began:

Donald Mallard:  April 1, 1950 – February 10, 1978

With malice for all

And charity for none

Don Mallard’s work in this life is done

Everyone he knew, begged to not be misunderstood

Don is dead, good

Even Doc Holliday, in his obituary

Was granted some Grace

With Don Mallard

People are glad not to see his face

Let it be known to all, that his remains were accorded a Christian burial.

Ernie Stricsek

Chatham Writers Group


5 thoughts on “The Chronicle of Don

  1. Yes, I agree Ernie. Writing an obituary during these times sounds like a prompt suggestion from someone disconnected. You did a good job working around it. I got a kick out of finishing it by 9:45, made me think of the Christmas Story … “ Oh, rarely had the words poured from my penny pencil with such feverish fluidity”.
    😊 Like the way you wrote the ashtray scene!
    Hope we can get our rabies shots soon, news of the shift in line sounds promising.
    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thanks very much Gerald! I love your reference to A Christmas Story! That is how it felt writing it. I think my tongue was outside of my mouth the whole time I was writing also.. shots so we can enjoy other shots together.


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