Rob Pichner was the father of my childhood friend Joey. I spent a lot of time with the two of them - my own father was always wrapped in one scheme or another so Rob took charge of our typical middle school boy activities like ball games, fart jokes, and eating contests.

When I got a little older, I had some trouble with a few kids at school. I went to go ask my dad for advice. As usual, he was out in the garage. This time he was up to his elbows in grease doing some crazy thing under his car. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for his head to peak out. I coughed once or twice. I cleared my throat very loudly. I left and came back, making sure to slam the door behind me. Finally, I gave up and walked over to the Pichner's.

Rob Pichner and I kept in touch over the years. Not like a call once a week or anything, but when I was back home, I'd drop by his house and we'd shoot the shit over a few beers.

One thing you have to understand about Rob, is that he was late for all the important events in his life. His mother used to joke that she never forgave him for the ten month pregnancy or the four days in labor. He was late for his own wedding because his car got attacked by elk. He found out later there was something in the water that made them all crazy. There he was in a tux in his ancient Chevy, honking maniacally, desperately trying not to run one over as they circled his car, and hoping his fiancée didn't kill him when he finally showed up. One of the elk then decided to fall asleep right in front of his stopped car. Meanwhile, a male elk, with great big antlers starts scratching up the front of his car and I guess it must've pierced something because the car dies and he has to call AAA, who brings him to the wedding, car in tow. He had a bunch of stories like that from over the years, but somehow it was never his fault. One thing I was never able to get out of him's why he missed his first day of college.

I heard from my mom that Rob wasn't gonna be around much longer, so I found some time and flew home to give my regards. The old man wasn't in good shape. He was hooked up to all these wires and tubes. I think the sterile hospital atmosphere wasn't really good for him either. He'd always been the sort of guy with grass stains on his knees.

The stroke made the right side of his face sort of droop and it slurred his speech so I did most of the talking. We didn't really say anything important, just sort of talked in the meaningless but comfortable way which is the basic unit of human closeness. On my way in, the doctor told me he had about three weeks to live.

Six month later he died. Rob was late for his own death. I don't know anybody but him that could've pulled that off. I'll tell you how it happened too or least what I think anyway. Picture Old Grim making his way to that hospital on a cold and snowy night to take him away, with his bony face and pale horse and eyes full of infinity. He's coming out of a deep dark forest galloping like the monster he is, leaving horseshoe prints in perfect new snow and out of nowhere a bunch of elk appear. They block his way and surround his horse. Then one of them decides that the pale horse sure is pretty, so it starts making doe-eyes at it and incredibly the horse makes eyes back. This continues for some minutes as the Reaper gets increasingly frustrated, though you could never tell it by looking at him. He climbs off the horse and walks the rest of the way. Then you know what happens to him? Well I don't either, but I'm pretty sure it's what caused Rob to miss the first day of college.

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