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Personal Narratives by Clifton A. Casteel

Author, Noted Researcher and Teacher

Clifton A. Casteel, Author, Researcher and Teacher

 

THE CERTIFICATE: DEATH, [YOU] LEAVE ME BE

Written by Clifton A. Casteel

Mister Death listen up. I ain't ready for [you] to take me jist yet. I've got a few more decent years left in me. And I have [you] know that I'm a good cook, and I clean folk houses like a dog cleans a bone, and I can tend to anybody's bad younglings. 'Course, truths be told as it is, my life ain't been a bed of tall sweet smellin' roses, but it shure ain't been a wide burr patch, either. True, from time to time my bones creaks like ungreased wagon wheels. And then there's my old achin' back. Lord, when, it rains, it feels like it's being kicked by a wild station. But still I ain't ready for no Certificate of Death. I have you knows that that I ain't never tries to wear no high and mighty tall crown. I tries to treat people like the 'Good Book' says. And I ain't never befriended ole Lucifer. Oh he tries to git into my heart and head, but I shoos him away faster than a gust of winter wind.

     My preacher drops by to see how I was doin' and tells me that Death treats Christians and Satan worshipers the same when the time comes to give them a Certificate. And ole Death places his mouth against yours and sucks the breath away before anybody knows it, and a person don't feel a thang. In one of his Sunday sermons, he says this much: "My faithful Christians, now the one that y'all got to fear is not Mister Death; rather it is Misses Sickness, she ain't merciful at all. When she gits hur arms around you she'll wear your soul down to the bones before she's finish. And you will suffer like a stray mad sick dog before Misses Sickness turns you over to her brother, ole man Death. But Mister Death is a kind and faithful servant of Almighty God. He is told by God when to pay a visit to a person and there just ain't no reasons to put up an alley-cat fight; it will jist make the situation more painful. Ole Death is as wise as King Solomon and as gentle as a mother's arms. If you followed the words of the good Lord, He will carry you to the Promise Land. But if you is a sinner Ole Death calls Satan and tells him to be ready for another subject."

     Now don't be mad with me but lots of people says that [you] doesn't care who [you] gives that Certificate to. And without blankin' an eye, [you] just as well take a newborn child jist as fast as you takes an old worn-out soul. But Misses Sickness ain't much better, and maybe even worse. You sees me, I just wish I didn't have to see the likes of either one of ya'll.

     I remember to well what happens to my first cousin. When she starts feelin' poorly, she begged [you] Mister Death to give hur a Certificate but you took your own sweet time. She would tell us that cancer in hur belly had turned into a mean fightin' black devil right from hell. The more that gurl ask for mercy, the worst hur pain gits. That black devil poured coal oil inside hur belly and chest and even in hur birthin' place and set them on fire. That gurl begged and screamed for hur Death Certificate like she is a preacher beggin' for a second offerin' and she don't git nothin'. She ends up lookin' like a burnt wiener. The undertaker says he didn't see no needs to embalm hur.

      I was told that my uncle from my mommy's side, fights [you] tooths and nails; every night he moans and kicks when [you] reaches for him. Folks says he tells [you] that if [you] ever shows your ugly head again he'll give [you] a taste of his double-barrel shotgun. And [you] wises up and leaves quicker than grease lightin' and doesn't never comes back until he tells [you] he is ready for his Certificate.

     Listen up [you]! My ole sweet papa, God bless his rest his soul, use to say: Baby gurl, Mister Death is bouts as sneaky as a mouse fetchin' crumbs off the kitchen floor. When ole Death comes, you best not look him squarely in the eye 'cause he will git madder than a drunk who can't find his bottle, and Death will show no mercy. And papa once says that his bist friend tells him [you] comes for him and he tricks you and people should be 'ware that [you] smells like brimstone when [you] furgets to take a bath.

     When I was young, [you] come uninvited to my family house one rainy evenin' and takes my papa when he is eatin' his supper and it is still daylight. He didn't deserve a Certificate. My older sister calls [you] a coward 'cause [you] doesn't gives a person a fightin' chance to whip you behind. I must tell you that I'm still angry that my papa dies so young. He was fit as a fiddle and as good as the words in the Bible.

     Mister Death, my gurlfriend says hur granddaddy tells hur that when a person is feelin' poorly, the best way to keep from getting' that Certificate is to keep one eye open when you sleeps. Every night he dranks a glass of strong whiskey 'fore he gits in his walnut bed. And I'm here to tell you that hur granddaddy lives to be nearly as old as Methuselah 'fore he gits his Certificate.

     My auntie on Mommy's side tells me to watch my words around [you] 'cause [you] has spies everywhere, and the one thang that a person doesn't want to do is to make [you] mad by sayin' bad things 'bout [you], 'cause [you] will snatch a soul away from earth quicker than a young boy can steal the sweetness out of a gingerbread cake, and then [you] will write somethin' bad on their Death Certificate and keep them from gittin' to the Promise Land.

     [Man], I hears you sneakin' upon my porch like a bill collector at the first of the month. And yea I hear you knockin' at my door, kinda softly at first, then hard enough to wake the cemetery dead. I knows it was you 'cause I feels your presence. But I have you know that I don't open my door past midnight for nobody. And that ain't all, one cloudy night somebody tells me they sees [you] sneaking and peepin' in my bedroom window. Well, I knows that it was you and so boarded-up all my windows and locked both my doors. And here's the kicker, my next door neighbor says [you] comes over to hur house hopin' she would tell you if I was in poor health and [you] offered to help write my obituary. But she knows you had a Certificate and she wasn't 'bout to tell [you] neither my weekly business nor my Sunday business. And I'll tell [you] somethin' else, I removed that black bow [you]hung on my front door as if I was dead. Yea I knows it was put there by [you]. Mister Death, I'll let [you] know when [you] can bring me a Certificate.

     Now it's 'bout time to git down to the real business at hand. I needs to talk to [you] straight up 'cause I knows why you is here. Somebody tells [you] that I might have the pox or the plague, and I'm runnin' a fever of sort. I 'member that it was 'bout a year ago when you leaves a piece of paper on my dresser fur me to sign 'cause [you] knows that I read poorly, but I takes it to a teacher and he says don't sign nothin' 'cause it is a Certificate. And [you] knows that I goes to the funeral home and pay down on a mahogany 'true suit' [casket], not that I plans on usin' it anytime soon. But I have you know that I'm as fit as any young woman and then some. I ain't near ready for the undertaker's knife and that poison stuff. Then maybe that old drunken fool of an undertaker sends for you 'cause lately he ain't hardly got no work. Yea he uses to have the hots for me and he gits mad when I tell him to go to his daddy, Lucifer for his pleasure. Now that ole fool tells me that he can't wait to git me on that table and put some poison in my veins, and he says he would fix me up good for folks viewin'.

     Please  excuse me, but I thank I better get on my prayin' knees just in case [you] comes by. But when I feel it's time I will give you a personal invite into my bedroom and you won't have to sneak 'round like a thief in the night. And one more thang, I would be mighty beholdin' if [you] will see fit to put some good words on my Certificate when my times comes 'cause I know I'm worthy to rest in the Promise Land. Now respectfully, that's all I gotta say to you, Mister Death!

 

Written and by Clifton A. Casteel, 2012.