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Death Knocks Gently, and Other Holiday Tales

Every year our building management pays for an exterminator to come out and every year I think I’m going to remember to opt out and I forget and so this morning as I lounged around in my pajamas I was awakened by two gentlemen from a company called, and you can’t make this up, Absolute Death.  I was literally awakened this morning by death.

I was hoping they would act kind of like Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd from the Bond movie Diamonds are Forever, but they didn’t.  They just acted like exterminators.

f1880fb0-eb62-4713-83bf-fdfc56d16a77Remember these guys?   They were the well-mannered, almost Victorian, gentlemen who were also vicious killers but who, like every Bond villain, had to express their murderous desires in elaborate, easily-foiled plots instead of something simple like a glue trap.

Why has no one ever thought to ensnare Bond in a giant glue trap? That would be hilarious.  You could trick him into using a men’s room with a floor made of glue. It’s so simple!
At any rate Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are archetypes of the old evil duo trope.  They show up as Croup and Vandemar in Neil Gaiman, as Big Boy and Junior in Haruki Murakami, the Duke and the King in Mark Twain and too many more to list.

They are well-mannered for the most part, often one is skinny and the other is fat, they address each other with exaggerated courtesy, they travel about effortlessly and often appear from nowhere, and they exist in a moral realm entirely their own. They can be hired or set to work toward a momentary purpose but for the most part they exist as a generalized destructive principle.

And they’re having their moment now. As I look back on the year that’s almost past I can’t help but think of it primarily as a year of destruction. Some of the things we’re destroying I’m sad to see go like democracy.  But some of the things we’re destroying are way overdue like a male-dominated system that institutionally treats women as inferiors. I’m happy to see that go.

Anger is dominant at this moment, on all sides. We’re destroying indiscriminately and, down the road, will definitely miss some of the things we’ve destroyed.  But thinking in terms of archetypes and cycles helps me process it.  This is a time of destruction but, assuming we don’t all die in a nuclear war, it will give way to a time of building.

Destructive cycles in history are always followed by building cycles. It’s just that you usually have a couple hundred years of squalor in between. But, this being the speedy tech age and all, I’m optimistic we can get that down to a couple of decades.

I was awakened this morning by death but hopefully tomorrow I’ll be awakened by something more positive like an alarm clock or just a burning need to pee. Meaning, I suppose, that what I crave above all in the new year is normalcy. We’ll see how that goes…

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