The other day, I sat here and wrote about a ghost town. Last night the sky was full of light and thunder. A founding member of "Bill Flaley and the Vomits" passed on. I met Mark in the sixth grade. He had, as his obituary stated, a crackling dry sense of humor - even at that age. We connected as middle brothers. We both had older brothers in Boulder High School, and we expected to follow in their respective glory: Me in band, he in theater. We had younger brothers following us around at recess on Columbine Elementary's playground. I was clever in sixth grade, but I knew I was onto something if I made Mark laugh.
My dad always used to read the obituaries. Bill Cosby does a bit about his dad announcing from behind his paper, "You know who died yesterday?" Truth is, it's kind of a universal notion - keeping morality at bay by reading the death announcements instead of creating them. Reading the local newspaper in my hometown makes that an even more tenuous experience. These are the people I grew up with. Forty-four still seems like a cheat. So does fourteen. So does ninety-four.
Instead, I'll hold on to the photo of Mark and I up at our cabin the summer after our sixth grade year. After the flurry that was our last year in Columbine, he was headed for Casey Junior High. I was headed for Centennial. He was going to be a Cub. I was going to be a Cyclone. For that weekend in the mountains, we chopped wood, stayed up late reading comic books, and worked hard at being kids before we launched ourselves into the next big thing.
We met up again at Boulder High. I was in band. He wasn't. So we didn't have as much to share as we used to. I was always pretty happy when I did something goofy in Pep Band and made Mark smile. It wouldn't last long, but it told me I was on the right track. I confess that after graduation, I haven't given him a lot of thought. He was a guy I knew in school. I'm guessing this would be his wry little way of letting me know he was headed on to his next big thing.