The manner of his murder

I’ve previously blogged writing by Brian Doyle, editor of Portland magazine. I have his permission to share this with you:

The Manner of His Murder

My friend Tommy Crotty was roasted to death on September 11. But he was a terrific basketball player and a wry wit and a gentle husband and the best dad ever, according to his daughters. But everyone who ever knew and liked or loved him is now sentenced to thinking about the manner of his murder. But this enrages and infuriates me, that his murderer gets to insist on anything when we think of Tommy, and I will be damned if I will put up with this any longer, so this morning I will edit the murderer out of Tommy’s story, for the murderer was a foul misshapen spirit who bent his considerable brilliance not in service to creativity and community but to his monumental ego, the poor stupid slime, and Tommy was not like that at all, so we will stop thinking about the pompous ass who murdered Tommy, and instead focus on my boy Tommy, who is alive and grinning right here on the page as long as I am writing this essay, and I would keep writing it for thirty more years if I could, and give Thomas Gerard Crotty the span of his natural life. It would have been well-lived, his natural life. He was not the kind of guy who would stop too many nights at the pub, or hit on the secretaries, or play slippery games with the pension fund. He would have gained fifteen pounds because even though he tried to stay in shape and play golf and tennis and hike in the hills, he worked in finance, in excellent suits, and those guys just do gain the fifteen no matter what, not to mention that often the very best athletes pack on the pounds when they get old, almost like their bodies are so relieved not to be lean humming extraordinary machines any more that their bodies happily say hey, sure, I’ll have the onion rings on the side and another beer, life’s short, man, and didn’t God invent onions?

Probably Tommy would have chipped in on a mountain cabin with his brothers, the rights divvied up so each family gets three weeks in summer and pretty much any other weekend you want, and there would have been a discussion about a beach house, but Tommy played college ball upstate and came to love the wild forests along the Hudson, and the velvety sprawl of the Adirondack mountains, who would have thought there was such shocking wild beauty so close to Manhattan, you know what I’m saying? And he would have gone to Father-Daughter dances with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes in the men’s room that his girls were getting so willowy and beautiful and teenagery, and soon they would be writing college admission essays, and one would be debating whether or not she should take the lacrosse scholarship to one school or the academic scholarship to another. And he would suddenly for no reason whatsoever slip into his wife’s arms when she turned toward the stove in the morning and as she laughed and protested he would glide with her in a sort of weird Tommy waltz through the kitchen and through the dining room and around the living room and even out onto the porch and the dog would get confused and excited and the girls would come running because their mom was giggling helplessly and their dad was grinning broadly and that is my friend Tommy Crotty, you stupid arrogant bastard, that is my friend Tommy, as alive and funny and as happy as any man ever was in this world, and no one can kill his joy and grace and kindness and sly sidelong grin, no one, not as long as there are those of us who liked and admired and loved him; and there are legions of us, more than you and your squirming ilk could ever count.

Let me put it to you this way, in this last sentence, in real clear terms, so even you will understand it, you who understood nothing of love: Tommy will always be alive, because when we think of him we smile; but you will always be dead, because no one who thinks of you ever smiles; and someday, as the tides of peace and joy slowly rise to drown thugs like you, no one will even remember your name.

Brian Doyle

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