Darlene Quaife

Death Writes


Death Writes

This is Death's personal notebook (handwritten and complete with doodles), an old scribbler discovered abandoned in a coffeehouse, reproduced here for the first time anywhere. Whose story does it tell? You decide.

I found this book in a coffeehouse. It was left on the corner table I frequent. But not in the form you see here. What I almost discarded with the bruised and flaccid newspapers littering my table was a "scribbler," an exercise book issued to grade school students when we still  had one room schools that taught penmanship and Latin as a matter of course. This scribbler is a plain, square collection of lined and unlined pages. A buff cover with a place for the student's name, name of the school and the teacher. Inside is cheap paper divided into sections headed by letters of the alphabet. According to the outside, this exercise book belonged to: Student: Elsie Cole, School: Coleman Elementary, Teacher: E. A. McGillicuddy, School Division No. 1216, Year: 1921.

On the inside page I discovered in wide, black felt-tip letters, DEATH WRITES.

Below each letter of the alphabet is a line or two of faded handwriting most probably copied there by the original owner, Elsie Cole. It would seem that when teacher E. A. McGillicuddy issued the scribblers, s/he had the students transcribe sample words they could use to practice their penmanship.

The author of Death Writes has not ignored Elsie Cole's well-rounded words. This notebook is arranged according to the alphabet and responds to many of the words written 90 years ago. Death observes, thinks, and writes, and Death Writes is a wry, eclectic, profane and profoundly amusing meditation on life by Death.

Death is articulate, knowledgeable, irreverent, and nothing escapes his/her gimlet-eye. Between the lines of wit and wisdom, Death doodles.

After Zz the scribbler is free of student penmanship. Using the ubiquitous Magic Marker, a title page has been created for the last section of the scribbler, DEATH NOTICES. Here Death has collected quotes, clippings and curious bits of this and that.(Download pdf)

I refer to the author as Death, because the perspective of this notebook is Death's. This is Death's take on life. You will have to decide for yourself whether Death keeps his/her felt-tipped pens in a plastic pocket protector.

Death is winter with a tattoo. Death eats words and numbers. Death never forgets a face. Death italicizes life.






 a persona      a persona grata           a persona nongrata             a persona impropria         



A dark winding street somewhere, Amsterdam perhaps, where an abattoir and art gallery are neighbours. The storefronts are indistinguishable, unremarkable, the same face presenting different bodies. I follow the . . . 


follow Death . . . Download (pdf)