Regina SISYPHA, of Borington, New Hampshire, passed away on December 25, 2020, while over-roasting the Christmas ham. She is survived by Jack SISYPHA, her loving husband of 49 years, who perked his head up when he smelled smoke from his La-Z-Boy in the next room; her son Ralph SISYPHA, who, while watching the football game with no sound on the couch next to his father, was thinking about the solid three-course meal in store for him, which he missed because he’d lost his waiter job six months ago due to Covid; her daughter Erica PLAINS, who was nursing her newborn in her childhood bed upstairs, away from prying eyes and who had been crying listening to the old-fashioned Christmas music streaming from downstairs because she felt like this was all too much of a cycle; her son-in-law Roger PLAINS, who was outside smoking a cigarette and looking at the moon and realizing that he was rather hungry and was looking forward to the taste of another beer; her newborn grandson Roger, Jr., who was sucking away in earnest his mother’s last meal of homemade beef macaroni; her cat MOOKIE, who was in the process of carrying a dead, drooping bird in her mouth through the little trap door into the kitchen when she noticed that her human, Regina, was lying on the black and white checkered linoleum floor and who, subsequently, let the bird fall from her mouth as she eyed the glistening darkened ham through the open oven door.

14 Comments

  1. David O'Connor

    Love how this starts as a standard obituary and trickles into total mundane madness. The going around the house and down the family line follows the obit structure and fulfills the story perfectly. The cat is the cherry on top. I’d love to film this. Great details. The SISYPHA–reminds me of the myth, if that’s the intension, I wonder if a minor detail (maybe I missed it) could be added to bring it to the fore, and perhaps the title could do more work, add a detail… there is something brilliant in this, and the falling bird from the Mookie’s mouth at the end is so good! Well done.

    • Cheryl Pappas

      Thanks so much, David. You are right about Sisyphus! I wrote the title in a hurry, but yes, I’ll rethink that. I was thinking like cuts to a film, so I’m glad you saw that.

      Thanks for all your comments during this brief workshop! I look forward to seeing more of your work.

  2. Bud Smith

    Hot damn. This won me over more and more as it tumbled down. I loved the tone this and how the pov keeps shifting as the obituary reads out so we move around the house like a cut up film. Just enough beats of everyone but of course my favorite was the cat. Is it a coincidence that her last name is like Sisyphus? The guy who had to push the boulder up the hill forever? I bet not. But again back to MOOKIE (cracked me up that he got all caps like everybody else): “her cat MOOKIE, who was in the process of carrying a dead, drooping bird in her mouth through the little trap door into the kitchen when she noticed that her human, Regina, was lying on the black and white checkered linoleum floor and who, subsequently, let the bird fall from her mouth as she eyed the glistening darkened ham through the open oven door.” Mookie was on his way to give a gift to his human. He is the only one who is thinking of Regina, the rest of them are only thinking of themselves. Shit!

  3. Cheryl Pappas

    Thanks so much, Bud. I am writing in images more and more–I’m glad you saw it as cuts from a film. And yes, the connection to Sisyphus the myth is there. It may be too much there and I might change the names in revision.

    Thanks for this class. Brilliant fun, as always.

  4. Janelle Greco

    So many great, great scenes to get immersed in here. You’ve lacked so much greatness into such a short piece, Cheryl. And I love the form of the obituary as a framework here. It would be so neat to do a series of these where the deaths are just absurd and ridiculous. The cat at the end is perfect. Everyone’s so wrapped up in their own little world no one thinks to check on Regina. I say it’s perfect for the holidays 🙂 thank you so much for all the pieces you shared this week and for all of your comments on mine. It’s been immensely helpful and such a treat to get to read your words!

  5. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Well, Cheryl, Bingo! Great obit. Splendid turn on the copy of the obit. Each surviving character plausible and insane simultaneously, the cat topping the whole bit. The only thing I would suggest, in addition to David’s note about slightly more development of the myth– is that you don’t capitalize the last names. I think reference is loud enough to any reader that knows the myth at all. Just love this.

    • Cheryl Pappas

      Thanks so much for this, Martha. I was using an actual obit for reference, but I’ll take a look at more.

  6. Lisa Moore

    Hey Cheryl,

    This is a very clever premise. I liked the tone you use and how the details pile up on each other as the lines progress. The final lines are excellent and the final image is wonderful. What is the bottom line to a cat, even in the midst of human loss? Food.

    I think I agree with Martha that we don’t need capitalization with the last names. But besides that, there’s not much I would change.

    Thanks for the great workshop.

  7. Amy Barnes

    Great use of the form — I would expect no less from the master of hermit crabs and unique forms. The entire flash is such a metaphor in itself, the constant picking up the rocks that constantly drop down the hill — expressed in life events heading toward death. So sensory — over-roasting the Christmas ham, smelling smoke, La-Z-Boy, no sound football game, being unemployed, smoking cigarettes, Christmas music, last meals, cats, dead birds, checkerboard floor. Each thing/feeling in the list is like those moments of a life flashing before someone — little flashes, moments, memories, smells. And in the same way, the entire story becomes another flash in what is a longer list of the day’s obituaries. Only you would be able to accomplish that in such a small space. The myth reference just adds to the effect of the flashing memories!

    • Cheryl Pappas

      You are such a thoughtful reader, Amy. Thank you so much for noticing these things.

  8. Neil Clark

    Loved this, Cheryl! What a great concept. Like a freeze-frame snapshot in multiple dimensions.

    I love the little details in this, like the ham and the Christmas music and the son-in-law smoking out the back. So many little hints at the relatable family dynamics that you deliver so economically.

    Then the way you loop back to the ham at the end with the cat and another death (of the bird) is so good.

    • Cheryl Pappas

      Thank you, Neil! The freeze frame was exactly what I was going for, except for the cat.

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