Powerpoint Eulogy (Mark Wilson, Fly on the Wall Press)
reviewed by Gabriel Hart, 3.24am May 10th 2021
Does Bear Creek even have a bookstore? My trip there was so brief that I didn’t have time to search, but I did find the Bear Creek Lending Library. I figured stacks of books are stacks of books, so I waltzed right in, grinned, took a deep breath of that vintage tree pulp musty air and then… strange, suffocating looks from the librarian and the couple other patrons, who put their books down so I could see their thousand miles stares.
Unnerved, I grabbed the first book I saw — a bright yellow oddity that depicted a paralyzed, deflated character I immediately identified with. It even looked like he had library index cards coming out of his severed scalp. Powerpoint Eulogy: a story by Mark Wilson it was called. I sat down in the corner, out of everyone’s intrusive views following me over there, the most high-volume silence I’ve ever experienced.
The book begins with a somber tone, as if it was aligning itself with the atmosphere in that eggshell-walking civic institution. It outlines the death of a corporate everyman, one you feel like you know yet are maybe too repulsed by — that very American guilt by association, even though this kind of guy never exactly does anything wrong other than keep to himself, eating his pungent egg-salad sandwiches. “We all told him he looked good, even though his body was eating itself.”
Wilson nails the American cubicle as catacomb experience so well it’s hard to not get swept up in the cloying pathos of this story told in poetic “slides” — where even in death, this poor man couldn’t escape the superficial pandering that blinding office LEDs leave you nowhere to run.
I couldn’t help it — I started crying right there in the library. Not that I really cared about this fictional character — it was almost as if I felt trapped in my own country, shackled to the American death march, knowing my country would use every bit of me to maintain its economy rather than its humanity.
“Excuse me, sir? You’re not allowed to cry here in the library!” said the librarian, striding over like she was about to swat an insidious fly.
"Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was until it was too late,” I said, a poor defense.
“Anymore disruptions and I’m going to have to call the Bear Creek Police to escort you out.”
I nodded, put up my hands. “Got it, sorry.”
I kept reading, trying to focus harder so I wouldn’t burst into tears. Instead, I burst into laughter.
Slide 12: One day he glued thumbtacks to his keyboard/To impress management/To prove he was willing to suffer for the company
Wilson introduces a “food-horror” element to Powerpoint Eulogy that is so enveloping — combining creature of habit fast-food fetish as coping mechanism, seeping into the “oh, look who’s fancy!” cat-calls of homemade food prep. It all swirls into a universal sadness, reminding you that it all goes down the toilet at the end of the day, a rotting concept that sustains far beyond expiration dates. Free donuts, Lean Cuisine, soda long gone flat. Precious Moments Statues, Sky Mall employee of the month contests, “Lunch and Learns” — all sinking nuances that exacerbate the panic to maintain superficial conversations when grown adults are being treated like children by the CEOs.
I just kept laughing, I didn’t care anymore what the librarian or the police would do to me, especially when I got to Slide 26:
“One day he laid out a buffet of gas station sex pills next to the
Day-old bagels we were allotted
Pills with names like
Goat Juice XXX
Electric Blue Balls XL
Eat, Pray, Cum
And Genital Scorcher MAX
No one was certain what his intent was
Or why those were the ones he was discarding
When his collection appeared so vast
But, at the end of the day, they had all been taken
Sheepishly pocketed by an office trying to save their
Respective sex lives
Through a hand-me-down gas station pleasure chest that
Weren’t good enough
For a dying old man”
The next thing I knew, the doors swung open. Three cops swiveled their heads around, led by the librarian who was pointing at me. I could barely see through my tears or my laughter. Was I cry-laughing or was I laugh-crying? It didn’t matter — they hoisted me up by my armpits, dragged me out like a ballerina on ice, my toes gently sliding across the institutional tile. “But!” I said, trying to gather defense. Instead, I began reciting the book to them, thinking they too, could use the help:
“He used the phrase, “you’ll thank me later,”
With regularity and unprecedented enthusiasm
In conversations that weren’t meant for him
“Can’t sleep, huh? Eat a jar of hot Vaseline immediately
Before bed, you’ll thank me later!”
He nudged the person in the side
As though the peculiar suggestion
Would ever be realized
Burdening them with an unsettling look at his bedtime ritual
“Baby aspirin? For heart health, take ketamine every day,
You’ll thank me later!”
The suggestions grew in peculiarity
“Failing marriage? Sleep with a coworker, you’ll thank me
“Headache? Take three huffs from a gym sock full of
Computer duster, you’ll thank me later!”
“Crippling debt? Sell your liver, you’ll thank me later!”
“Thinning hair? Ram bamboo shoots under your toenails,
You’ll thank me later!”
For a while we thought he was testing us
Seeing if anyone was gullible enough to take his senseless
Seeing if he could ruin a few lives
With some well-placed water cooler banter
But when he died
We knew that the suggestions were genuine
But maybe he still wanted all of us to go with him.”
Since I refused to let go of the book, I was charged with theft on top of disturbing the peace. “But this is America!” I said, “Our country was founded on theft, mass murder… and you can’t tell me with 20,000 American’s dead last year from gun violence that there’s any peace to disturb! This is fucking war!!!” I had also walked into the library drunk. “This ain’t America,” they told me. “This is fucking Bear Creek,” they said, as they fingerprinted me.