I dedicate this horror story to all the copy editors I’ve ever worked with.
I died on a grey Thursday morning in late October.
On that day I awoke precisely at dawn, as I do every day. I took note that my lower back pain, a dull constant for the last few decades, was gone. I headed to the bathroom, sat down, and landed hard on the floor.
I’d never fallen through a toilet before. Apparently, the dead have no need for plumbing.
Confused, I rushed back to my bedroom and saw my own body lying there next to Myrna, my wife and only love.
It broke my heart to see her wake up and try unsuccessfully to rouse my body. She couldn’t hear me or see me, just the corpse in the bed. Myrna cried a lot. I guess she really did love me.
After that, things got chaotic.
I hate chaotic. I like finishing things properly. I am – or I guess, I was – a copy editor. I create perfection, or as close to it as human writing can be. Perfection demands control. But as I’ve learned, death is defined by the loss of control.
The half-done copy edit job on the hard drive of my MacBook Pro will never get back to the client. That’s the first deadline I’ve ever missed.
The funeral was wild. A lot of old friends showed up and talked about me. The kids came back from their far-flung lives and Myrna and they made a little booklet about me.
They didn’t proof it. I spotted three spelling errors, eleven sentence fragments, and whole passel of passive voice. It actually said, in black type on cream-colored paper, “We welcome you’re contributions.”
I guess my legacy is now a wife and children who can’t spell.
I’ve been spying on Myrna. I can’t seem to get more than fifty feet away from her, so there’s nothing else to do.
Her to-do lists betray an astounding lack of parallelism.
I’ve seen her grocery lists, too. She has misspelled “pomegranate” four different ways. She cannot even spell “lettuce” properly. I can’t believe I never noticed this about her.
I’ve watched her write emails. She uses emojis. And exclamation points. And memes. I had no idea.
Had I really loved this person?
When I saw the obituary she sent to the paper, my blood boiled (metaphorically, of course, for I have no blood). The fifth paragraph began, “He loved his family, his boat, his friends and his work above all.”
Really, Myrna. Do you remember our discussion about the Oxford Comma? The one that comes before “and?” We talked about this. You knew what that meant to me!
After 38 years of marriage and a few days of death, I was ready to give up on the whole relationship. Then I saw the flyer she sent around to the neighbors for the memorial get-together at our house.
It was touching. It had a picture of me on it. Uncharacteristically, the grammar and spelling were flawless. I was touched.
Then I looked closer.
Comic Sans? Really, Myrna? Why, Myrna? WHY?
Who would have suspected you were capable of such carelessness? Or do you know that I am watching? Is it not carelessness, but cruelty? Only someone who knew me as you do could do what you are doing now.
I understand now. I’m not just dead. I’m not just a ghost.
I’m in hell. And there is no escape.