1. Reminder: you are replaceable.
2. And now, in time of pandemic, there is such a good chance that you’ll become a pandemic casualty that plans must be made.
3. Anything you have begun must eventually be completed—if not by you, then by others.
4. (Anything you haven’t begun, anything you’ve merely dreamed about? Ha. It will never be done. You absolutely may not designate others to finish your unbegun dreams. That would be selfish—especially as you yourself were never going to begin them, let alone complete them.)
5. (For you are not your dreams: you are your half-finished projects, a sad person shuffling through all the garbled plans you’ve made.)
6. As you know yourself best, you may certainly designate your successors.
7. But we have recommendations.
8. You are a teacher. You “teach creative writing.” Okay, sure. The most important succession in times of pandemic is to designate the person who will take your place in the classroom—who will be taking your reins midstream, as it were. Designate who you will, of course. But we suggest Ross Gay. No, he doesn’t teach fiction, but he’s amazing, a huge inspiration to students. Or maybe Aimee Bender? Your students would be so thrilled!
9. (Don’t worry about finding a successor to mentoring your graduated students—mentors like you are easy to find.)
10. In terms of your, ahem, tennis playing. We understand you’re concerned about this half-started project—we’re less so, but fine. Let’s review: it’s true, perhaps, that you’ve made progress on your backhand. Why not designate Charles Pasarell (the youngest)? He doesn’t even have to think about the mechanics of his backhand, he just does it. (Which: wouldn’t that be better? To do, to act, without having to think?)
11. We think you’re making good progress so far!
12. In terms of calling your mother and sister and brother and their various partners and children to check in, to express your love, to be warm, to be caring, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a successor who can improve upon your work here. We think someone akin to Jim Hanks. (You met him the once, he read your story aloud in that bar, remember? Jim might do it—this is voice-work, his oeuvre, and he’s such a nice guy.) To be fair, the choice of person to carry on your so-so performance to this point as son, brother, and uncle is, of course, your own.
13. Just be sure to make it. By Thursday next week.
14. Onto your novel. Yes, you have a complete draft… but it needs a lot of work. Who wants to work on someone else’s mostly finished six-hundred page novel? Perhaps someone used to cutting things. Your cousin Mackenzie, the hairstylist—we suggest you give the novel to her. At least she’ll make it look pretty on the outside.
15. Who will pet Mishka in the morning? Who will chase Clancy around the house? Oh, you—many, many people are capable of these things. (This one’s that important to you? Interesting.)
16. Your high school friends will be just fine.
17. At this point we’re wondering: do you even do anything else? Watching and commenting on television is not something in need of replacement. Eating, no, we’re sorry. Drinking neither. Walking alone and “clearing your mind” to “find a way to gather up the experiences of life ‘in times of pandemic’ or really any times, all times” is also not something crucially in need of replacing. Sorry. Request for successors in these areas: denied.
18. Right, right, you give to charity. Ha. That’s fine, charity is covered. (You don’t give that much.)
19. Your wife, though—she will need someone else.
20. By Thursday, remember.
21. As you designate your various successors, you may feel a temptation to submit succession lines for other people. This temptation comes from bitterness—you’ll want to submit succession plans, mean and judgmental ones, for the very people who have asked you to create your own succession plan. Perhaps, you’ll write in these succession plans, ————- can be replaced by the greasy crumbs at the bottom of a bag of cheddar-sour cream potato chips, and ——- can be replaced by the headless body of a Bratz doll. Do not do this. They may find it threatening, and, worse, your actual goal – that they take a breath, step back, and reflect a moment on what they’re asking; that they consider their appalling lack of humanity in asking us all to understand that we’re all replaceable – and to designate our replacements – in a world where we’re all fearing and facing our own mortality: this will totally pass them by.
22. The good news! The good news is that you can do all this quite easily. What day is it today, you ask? It’s Sunday—you have until Thursday! And today’s not just any Sunday, it’s Easter Sunday! It’s a lovely day, a cool and drizzly morning. A quiet morning, a good one for working on your succession plans. You have no distractions—your students and families and friends are all off, without you, in secret unsanctioned gatherings, even in the time of pandemic, in the time of death, just as Easter is a time of death. Their conversations are hushed but almost hopeful: Has the curve flattened? Is the end, they ask in tentative voices, in sight?
What, on Easter, is the end? We’re glad you asked! Let us show you. Come here, come this way. We have prepared for you a nice dark room. Lie down here. It’s a nice quiet space, isn’t it? Almost, even, cavernous. We’ll shut off that light in the doorway, we’ll roll the stone into place—and then, out there, beyond this dark quiet space, the world will go on. We thank you for being so amenable—for understanding that without you, life will just be life, as if you weren’t ever even there. We thank you for helping us to prepare for the un-you of it all (by Thursday, remember). It’s not so hard—it’s almost, even, easy.
Don’t you feel better now?
Good. Have a nice long fucking nap.