JOE’S GERIATRIC DIVERSION • by Michael Cluff

The first time that Joe Cowell flew he thought he had died and his spirit was floating away from his body. Being seventy-two, and never being dead before, he had every right to think that sudden detachment from his tangible form was a sign that he had moved on to the Great Beyond.

First he was standing between seventy-year-old Eunice Bates and sixty-year-old Eunice Pifferton in the choir loft drawling out a bass line in one of Father Thompson’s originals. Then, well, there wasn’t a poof or a tinkling or any type of transitory noise; nope, he just wasn’t in himself anymore.

Joe floated up because he thought that ‘up’ was the appropriate way to go, but feeling a little out of sorts and maybe a bit rebellious in his lighter state he did a “Lot’s Wife” and looked back. He knew then that he wasn’t dead.

It wasn’t the fact that he could see his tired body still standing and singing. What proved to him that he wasn’t dead, but just merely on corporal disconnect, was that he was able to look down Eunice P.’s choir gown and still float upward. Joe felt pretty sure if he was indulging in such a carnal act and was indeed dead, that he would probably float in a more Southerly direction.

Joe’s own boldness in admiring Eunice shocked him. Since he’d married Gloria, Joe never even looked at other women. After Gloria, Joe figured he was old stock, spent, and other women weren’t a thought. At least not in that way. But now, whether it was being free of his own live flesh or it was being free to look at Eunice’s lively flesh, Joe felt more liberated than he had in a good while.

Not wanting to abuse his new-found freedom, Joe left off from his peeping and did a few loop-dee-loos around Father Thompson. Fluid and painless movement seemed like a friend long lost and Joe embraced it with the enthusiasm of a much younger man. He zipped on back to the choir loft, and resisting more voyeurism of the two Eunices, he studied his own real self. He wasn’t quite sure how he could still function without being all together, and the fun of it all kept him away from speculation. Mirrors didn’t do justice because as Joe looked at himself he looked a heck of a lot older than he had perceived that morning while shaving.

Ha, old but still good looking, Joe thought. Eunice B’s brief coquettish look at flesh-and-blood Joe confirmed Joe’s opinion. How long had she’d been doing that? Joe knew that he was going to have to pay more attention to the elder Eunice, even if the younger Eunice had more admirable physical qualities. Joe shook his head or the ethereal equivalent and moved on to the congregation.

The majority of the people in attendance were a bit more along in years like Joe. He knew all of them and knew them well. When Gloria had still been alive, the two of them were a striking couple among the small church community. Gloria’s departure three years earlier had put an end to most of Joe’s social life. He’d accepted that she’d slipped away peacefully and he was content to do the same, at least until Father Thompson had strongly invited Joe to join the choir and spend time among the numerous singing widows. Looking back to the choir loft and how both Eunices were now closer to body Joe than necessary, spirit Joe gained a deeper appreciation for Father Thompson. What an inspired man.

The weather had been nice that day so Joe decided to go outside. Floating towards the doors, out of physical functionality more than anything, Joe’s head passed through the wood and stopped. He wanted to go out all of the way, but he couldn’t move out anymore. He tried to, but just couldn’t. Peeking back inside, Joe noticed that his body was leaning slightly toward the chapel doors. It was almost as if Joe’s spirit was a sheet flapping in the wind, hanging on by a single clothespin and pulling the clothesline, his body, whichever way. That metaphor gave Joe a shiver; he never cared for the flimsiness of clothespins.

He flew hard to the right of his body, making himself lean into Eunice B. a bit. She leaned back into him and spirit Joe couldn’t feel it at all. This won’t do. Joe headed back to himself and settled back into his body. The same old aches and pains came back from before, but with Eunice B. nestling against him, Joe stood a little taller, a little lighter than before. And with his new knowledge and revived perspective, Joe smiled around the ‘oooh’ that he intoned.

Later, when the collections passed through the choir loft, Joe let go of Eunice B.’s hand and slipped a fifty into the plate. He looked forward to more of Father Thompson’s inspirations.


During the day, Michael Cluff sits at a financial institution and can feel his creative soul slipping away. Redemption comes at home with his family, where he can focus on his real passion of writing and drinking fancy rootbeer. Michael is also the co-founder of Fiction Vortex, a spec fic magazine.


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