Paris Portingale

On Death: A Piano to the Head

Paris Portingale goes to the doctor to learn more about death, and whether or not you can die from nothing.


A lot of people die of heart attacks. A lot of people die of cancer. A lot of people die of falling off something, but generally this can be avoided by not getting on anything in the first place.

Heart attacks are a funny thing though. You can pick up cancer from anything, but when your own heart attacks you, stabs you in the back like that, it’s a sad betrayal. Why would your own body do that?

Well, maybe it doesn’t like you anymore. Have you ever thought of that? Has that ever popped up as a possibility while you’re lying on the kitchen floor clutching your chest, left arm tingling, finding it hard to breathe. Eh? I didn’t think so. But maybe next time you find you’ve got your shirt torn open and some guy is standing over you with a defibrillator giving you forty thousand volts to the chest while your life is flashing before your eyes, maybe you should give that a thought.

I’m not talking about you personally; I’m talking about everyone else. You’re not going to die of a heart attack or cancer. You might die from falling off something, I don’t know, that’s entirely up to you.

But the thing is, and it’s an unfortunate thing, a goddamn bastard really, we’ve all got to die sometime of something. Nobody dies of nothing. I think dying of nothing would be nice, but no, apparently you have to die of something. I know this because I asked my doctor. His name is Dr. Crawfish. Seriously.

Me: “Doctor Crawfish, can someone die of nothing?”

Doctor: “No, you’ve got to die of something. Why, what’s the matter with you?”

Me: “Nothing.”

Doctor: “Well, that’s not going to kill you, I can tell you that.”

I let that sink in. It took about two minutes. Dr. Crawfish spent the time unscrewing his ballpoint pen, taking the spring out, and stretching it and making it go wobbly.

So, after that I said to him …

Me: “Well, if you’ve got to die of something, what’s the best thing to die of?”

Doctor: “There’s no best thing. There are a lot of worst things. I’m a doctor and I’ve seen most of them. I swear to God, it’s a wonder anyone in this profession is still sane. Just pray you die in your sleep, that’s all I can say.”

Me: “But if you had your choice, what would you opt to die of?”

Doctor: “Okay, so I’m walking down the street and someone’s lifting a piano up to the seventh floor and the rope breaks and I’m standing underneath it. It’s a grand piano so there’s no walking away from that one. Of course there are other instruments that can kill you, but a grand piano is certainly better than getting beaten to death with a saxophone, I can tell you that.”

Me: “I suppose you’re right.”

Doctor: “Oh, I’m right alright, I’m a doctor.”

Me: “So, a piano it is.”

Doctor: “Grand piano, you don’t want to take any chances. Was there anything else?”

Me: “No.”

Doctor: “Okay, send in the next patient.”

I went out and told the next guy he could go in. He had a clarinet sticking out of his chest.

Of course, you could always sell your soul to the devil, but there’s always a catch. Like, you get to live forever, but you’ve got leprosy.

You: “You didn’t say anything about leprosy?!”

Devil: “You never asked.”

Or you could get a painting of yourself, like Dorian Gray, and the painting gets the leprosy. The painting gets everything, the syphilis and gonorrhea and all the other shit you pick up because you’ve turned into a debauched bastard because you can live forever. But then the house is always going to catch on fire and the painting will get destroyed, so now the leprosy and shit’s back on you and, insult to injury, you’re burning to death. You’ve got leprosy and syphilis and gonorrhea and herpes and crabs and seven different types of cancer, and you’re burning to death as well. That’s no way to go.

Best to just go to bed and hope you die, that’s the way I’m looking at it.


Paris Portingale

Paris Portingale is a writer and dog owner. While having a somewhat indifferent attitude towards abstemious self-restraint, he does follow the safe guidelines of four standard drinks a day, although his standards are a great deal higher than most, certainly the medical profession’s. Paris is visited often in the night by God, and the meetings are anything but pleasant.

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