Dingy Ways to Die
Copyright 2012 by
We were at the pub, a typically oddly-named establishment called The Hoity Toity, in North London, playing our favorite game: Dingy ways to die.
It was my turn. "Read about this one yesterday. Verified it on the web. It's totally true. This woman was in Lormes, France."
Lester hated the French. I knew he'd enjoy this one. He finished his pint.
"Was in Lormes. Very nice. So, how did she die?"
I grinned and emptied my glass as well. "You're gonna love this one."
He ordered another round while I spun him the bizarre tale of this French woman's death.
"You know those spray cans of air freshener people use in the bathroom?"
He nodded. "Go through two of 'em a week."
I laughed. "Well, so did her husband. Except, he forgot one thing. In his misguided attempts to keep her from having to inhale his bowel's darkest secrets, he sprayed so liberally twice a day that her toothbrush, exposed to the open air and sitting benignly on the counter, upright in its holder, absorbed these airborne toxins over a period of time. And she eschewed the universally accepted dentist's recommendation as to toothbrush rotation, and after putting it in her mouth for three months, one morning she fell face first into her steaming porridge, splashing milk and granola onto his soccer scores, and died. Autopsy was conclusive. Toxic poison. They even id'd the scent: Sea Breeze."
Two more perfectly drawn Guinness's were placed in front of us.
To my left sat an older gent, the requisite ruddy complexion of the London drunkard, with the preponderance of belly and the sad, vacuous eyes. I say older just because he looked older, like someone who had not aged well. A man who'd fought the good fight against the forces of evil, and lost, profoundly, and wore the defeat on his face like a second skin. He was, upon reflection, about our age, early forties. But he looked like he had one foot in the grave. I could tell he'd been listening to us.
"What do you blokes call this game?"
Lester always liked it when we could entice strangers to play. We'd heard some incredible stories from people.
"We call it, 'Dingy Ways To Die'."
"Yeah, you know. Ignominious, shabby, squalid, embarrassing, shameful, grotty."
"I know what the word means, ya wanker. The opposite of noble. Unsullied."
"Yeah, like that. Got one?"
He grinned. I gestured to the barkeep to get the poor sod another pint.
Noticing this, he drained the last three inches of his lager.
"I do indeed got one."
"Has to be true. Has to have actually happened. That's the only restriction."
"Well, have you ever played the game strictly from your imaginations? Now that would be fun and interesting. Challenging even. A competition."
Lester looked at me, grinning. "What do you say, mate? Wanna fictionalize it for this one time?"
I nodded. "I suppose we could. Might be worth a laugh or three."
I turned to the barfly. "You first, mate, since it's your idea."
He picked up his full glass and took a long swallow.
"I'll leave out some of the more obvious clichés, like laundry-room prison rape on your last day inside; or being hit by a bus while in a wheel chair; or you're drowning and then get clubbed in the back of the head with a boat oar as a boat races past, because some drunk asshole thought you were a baby seal floundering in the surf."
Lester chuckled. "Good point. Don't want to beat those dead horses to death again."
"So to speak. So, I'll start with a rather simple one. Remember, you're gonna have to suspend reality a bit, though I've always said, if I can imagine it happening, it can happen."
We both nodded in agreement.
"An avowed homophobic racist is hit by a car on a dark street one night by a drunk queer Asian guy, rushed to the hospital by a black emergency technician who fails to give him oxygen, and then dies on the table when the Lesbian doctor accidentally severs his carotid artery with her finger nail."
After about five seconds, Lester and I started to laugh. The guy stood there smugly and sipped his beer.
"Ok, " I started, "that's more ironic than shabby or squalid. I mean, one could mine 'irony' from almost any death."
He smiled. "Yeah, but you both laughed. That was my bottom line."
Lester put down his pint. "Let me have a go at this, mate."
He rubbed his palms together, craned his neck back, eyes squeezed shut and remained like that for about ten seconds.
Picking up his beer, he began thusly.
"When the bear took off his entire right arm cleanly at the shoulder joint with one horrifically violent swipe of his powerful, clawed right front leg, Oscar was certain he was not going to live to see another sunrise. The next morning, lying prone in the snow, with the densely packed snow pressed against his gaping shoulder wound having stemmed the flow of blood and quite likely saved his life, Oscar began to feel his face and head with his remaining left hand, searching for other wounds. There were none. Then, swiftly, the bear set upon him again, swinging the oaken club of an arm and this time snapping Oscar's neck, killing him instantly. Within minutes, five bear cubs were feasting on his midsection, his viscera, steaming, spilling out into the chilled air as it sank into the fresh snow, melting it. The mamma bear good naturedly cuffed the cubs to keep them from fighting over his pancreas."
Me and the drunkard were quiet as Lester finished.
Finally I spoke up. "You sick fuck."
"Nobody laughin' at the end of that one, mate," the stranger said.
Lester winked at me. "Who said I was done?"
"When the bastard dies, that's it. End of story. You know the rules." I looked at him. "You are done, aren't you?"
"Not in this case. When his neck was finally chewed through, his head rolled a couple of feet away, up against a small snow bank. The cubs thought it was a toy. They began batting it around, playing bear soccer with it. One cub sat on it triumphantly, and then was pushed off as another one peed on it. Finally they got bored with his skull and went and chewed off all ten of his toes…one at a time."
Now we all were laughing.
Lester gestured toward me. "Have a go at it, mate. You're only limit is your imagination. From what I heard as Fanny left you last year, amid a hail storm of bric-a-brac and 'fuck-tard's, and just before the door slammed, was that you sort of left your imagination at the bedroom door."
Even I had to laugh.
"Alright. First of all, fuck you Lester, you cockney-accented dick-weed, for bringing up that ignominious part of my past. Now, I will come up with the dingiest way to die."
"Try to keep Hitler out of it, 'kay mate?" Lester was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I was in London for over two years before I realized a Cheshire cat was mythical, from 'Alice in Wonderland'. It explained the looks I got when I would ask a bloke what they looked like.
But Lester's tale of my painful breakup last year brought immediately to the surface my absolute hatred of Fanny's mum.
This devil-woman gave hateful witches with 3-inch talons and syphilis a bad name. And boy did she despise me. I decided to use her as inspiration.
"So, this bloke hates his mother-in-law to such a degree he decides to kill her. He devises this plan, fool-proof, or at least it appeared so after 18 pints one night when he ran it by his best mate. His mate, who brought their combined pint total to 36, agreed and even offered to help. As fate would have it, the poor sod decided to soldier on alone in the implementation of his plan. Anyway, he and his gal are visiting her mum one Tuesday night, and she is scheduled, as always, to take her bath at 8pm.
He sends his gal to the store for beer, and tip toes up the stairs. He's already plugged in the hair dryer behind the towels hanging on the rack. As he approaches the bathroom door, he hears the demonic humming of his mother-in-law as she lowers herself into the hot water in the tub. He can see steam seeping out under the door and rising toward him in the chilly hallway. The cheap wench didn't believe in paying for central heat. He could literally see his breath as he gingerly gripped the door handle and turned it."
I stopped and gestured for another round. Both guys were leaning in toward me.
"Need me to continue?"
"Can't wait," Lester said.
"The latch caught too loudly, but the old wench didn't hear it. I, ah, I mean he, walked in rather boldly, reached behind the door, grabbed the oversized hair dryer, turned it to 'high', its screeching, whining pitch igniting at the same time as her initial scream. He closed the door gently, feeling the latch click. He realized she had been humming "The Best is Yet to Come". He grins. Raising the bleating hair dryer above his head as if pointing a handgun to the ceiling, he strides toward his panicked mother-in-law. She is wedged into a grimy, used-to-be-white-a-century-ago, claw-footed porcelain tub, wearing it like a grape skin. Her bloated body is difficult to look at, other than obliquely, which he squints in a vain attempt to do. He slips in an unseen puddle of water, staggers toward the tub off balance, and falls in, his face landing between the upraised knees of his 81-year-old mother-in-law. The nose of the dryer clicks against the bottom of the tub, sending a jolt of electricity through the water. She clenches her knees together spasmodically and throws her head back and howls. He has somehow twisted his head to where he can see up her torso toward her head. His final vision before all brain activity stops is the incredible sight of his hated mother-in-law's nipples hardening as they both die of electrocution."
Both men are laughing so hard that they are pounding the bar, Lester with the flat palms of his hand, and the sod with his right fist.
"And that'" I continued, "is a grotty way to buy it."