When I Enter the Ever After (Who’ll First Greet Me?)
By Ivan O’Uris (I.O.U for short)
(Ivan von Slovsky Gutierrez Xing Pho Mumbotopo O’Uris XIII for long)
(This is a test to see if you’re gullible enough to read something else in parentheses. If you’re reading this, you obviously are. If not, you’re not.)
(Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to know if you’re gullible enough.)
When I enter the ever after,
Who’ll first greet me?
The “Left-Eye” lady from TLC?
The one with the birthmark shaped like Tennessee,
Who thought he was a monkey
Addicted to Sara Lee,
Who tried to unlock a door with a piano key,
Who choked on a “P”-shaped pea
And a tee
While drinking tea
From a cup shaped like a “T.”
Will Uncle Lee
Open heaven’s gates for me?
Unless, of course, they’re locked and he
Tries to open them with his piano key.
Background Notes: Ivan O’Uris is a well-adjusted tortured journalist, poet and turkey temperature taker from Luscia, a North Atlantic island credited with inventing a hybrid literary form blending the short story and poetry, known as “shtroetry.” He regularly draws on his homeland for inspiration for his poetry, including this poem. One source of inspiration was Ivan’s uncle, Yurseifir Tao-Mocomaco Almodovar O’Uris. Known as Y.T.M.A.O.U. for short, Yurseifir was elected to the Luscian Legislature during the early 1990s on his campaign promise that he would shorten his initials to a groan-inducing pun. Keeping his promise, Yurseifer (later known as Y.O.U. for short) proposed legislation making death in Luscia punishable by execution. A few fellow lawmakers fervently backed the legislation. One was part-time wrestler Andrew G. Kaufman, a Luscian resident since 1984, when he escaped to the island after duping the rest of the world into believing he had died. Another was Laup McYantrec, the alias of a Liverpool-born musician and songwriter who moved to Luscia during the 1960s amid speculation he had died. But in 2000, the legislation died in the Luscian Legislature when Ivan’s uncle died in the Luscian Legislature – while discussing the anti-death legislation.
Ivan’s uncle was buried in Luscia’s lone cemetery, known formally as the Lone Luscian Cemetery. Following a practice practiced in France that Luscia’s residents had heard of, via St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Excelsior Springs, Mo., he was to have shared a cemetery plot with Leopold Yao-O’Sullivan Davis-Gonzalez, a 19th-century Luscian scientist credited with discovering, inventing and curing nothing. This practice was halted, however, when a muffled voice shouted, “Get him off me!” as Ivan’s uncle was lowered into the ground. The muffled voice was not that of Mr. Yao-Sullivan Davis-Gonzalez, as was first thought, for that would have made him about 200 years old. “Granted, we Luscians have a long life expectancy because of our jeans*,” Ivan wrote in his openly private journal. “But that would be stretching it. Actually, that gives me an idea. Maybe if we stretched our jeans, then that would improve our genes and our overall life expectancy. But that’s another matter.”
It turned out the voice belonged to the body of the victim of a hit-man job by the Greenland-Icelandic mafia. Using cold stares and chillingly calculated methods, the Greenland-Icelandic mafia had made an agreement with the Luscian government to freely dispose of its victims in the cemetery. “In disposing of this victim,” Ivan wrote, “the assassins had executed the plan perfectly, except for forgetting to kill him. Of course, the plan might have worked, even with the hit men forgetting to shoot him, had their target not been the world record holder for holding one’s breath while being buried alive.”
Returning to the United States after his uncle’s funeral, Ivan wanted to write a eulogy for him, but experienced writer’s block, until receiving a letter from his life insurance company. Addressed to the “Family of Ivan O’Uris,” the letter offered the company’s condolences on Ivan’s passing and announced that Ivan’s insurance would be cancelled. Perplexed, Ivan called the insurance company, saying, “I received a notice saying my insurance would be cancelled because of my recent death. But as you can tell from talking to me, I’m not dead.”
“Sorry about that,” replied the representative.
“You’re sorry I’m not dead?” Ivan asked.
“No, I’m sorry you got the letter by mistake,” the representative replied. “We’ll fix everything.”
As Ivan was straightening out his situation on the phone, two friends read the insurance company’s letter: Buddy and Sal, owners of Buddy & Sal’s Body and Soul (and Sometimes Sole), the successful one-stop gym/auto repair shop/worship temple/music store/fish market/shoe repair store chain. The two did what any two true friends would do: They relentlessly needled him. The day after Ivan’s phone conversation, for example, Sal left a message on Ivan’s voice mail, stating, “Hi, this is for the late Ivan O’Uris. I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Why haven’t I been asked to give the eulogy at your funeral? I mean, I know you as well as anyone. Of course, that would make it tough to say anything good, but still …”**
The Ivan-is-dead-or-maybe-not incident prompted Ivan to have nightmares about dying. One night, after a disturbing dream of a colossal crab cake crushing him to death, he felt that writing a poem would purge him of his visions. Blending his experience with his memories of his late uncle, he composed “When I Enter the Ever After (Who’ll First Greet Me?).” Presumed lost for many seconds, the poem was found in Ivan’s apartment by Ivan O’Uris scholars Mark Moyer, Erik Pointer and Shawn Roney under a piano key.
“When I Enter the Ever After (Who’ll First Greet Me?)” originally appeared (in altered form) in the February 2006 issue of The Lawrencian. To obtain a hard copy of the issue, pray that copies of it will rain from the sky because the publisher probably doesn’t have any.
*The use of “jeans,” rather than “genes,” is not a typo. Luscians attribute their life expectancy (about 95 years) to wearing imported Levi’s.
**There are rumors that the above conversation with the insurance agent was actually a real incident that happened to Ivan O’Uris scholar Shawn Roney, who received a letter from an insurance company, in which the company expressed its condolences regarding Mr. Roney’s death and had to call the company to correct the matter. Then, there are rumors that fellow Ivan O’Uris scholar Mark Moyer heard about the incident and left a voice message with Mr. Roney to express his condolences regarding Mr. Roney’s death and to ask Mr. Roney why he had not asked Mr. Moyer to give the eulogy. Those involved have declined to comment for reasons that have something to do with brass knuckles, baseball trading cards and a magical turkey-and-Swiss sandwich.
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