Until yesterday, I never gave much thought to my death. Then again, prior to last night I hadn’t talked to “Zero” Moskowitz in 35 years. And I probably would’ve passed another three decades without communicating with him if it hadn’t been for the mistaken “friend” request I sent on Facebook (having confused him for someone else).
I knew Zero from Camp Cherokee, the sleep-away “paradise” I first attended as a ten-year-old. That’s where Zero earned his nickname, the operative word being “earned.” Since he wasn’t exactly a friend of mine there (more of a victim, to be perfectly honest), I’ll admit to some surprise when he accepted my Facebook request. I felt even more astonished, and suspicious, when he sent me a private message referencing our camp days together and inviting me to give him a call, “to catch up.”
I couldn’t imagine anyone, much less Zero, wanting to “catch up” by reminiscing about stories which would undoubtedly begin: “Remember the time we did ___ to you?” So when Zero asked me to telephone, my first thought was: insurance salesman.
Nonetheless I called him, mainly out of a sense of morbid curiosity. A woman answered the phone and I said: “Is Zero Moskowitz there?”
Her reply caught me off guard: “This is the Moskowitz residence, but there’s no one here named ‘Zero.’ You must’ve dialed the wrong Moskowitz family.”
Before she could hang up, I heard a distant male voice announce: “I think it’s for me.”
A moment later, a rather perturbed Zero announced: “Richard, I’m an adult. People call me by my name, ‘Alan.’ Nobody’s called me ‘Zero’ since I was a kid.”
Will surprises never cease? I guess it never occurred to me his nickname wouldn’t stick for life. Indeed, I would’ve expected his Rabbi to use the moniker in Zero’s wedding ceremony, in the unlikely event he ever married (which he had, so he claimed).
As I’d surmised, Zero didn’t want to talk about the good old days, other than to tersely advise how he hadn’t eaten peanut butter for 35 years – a reference to the backfiring of a particularly gruesome prank. Instead, he quickly reached his real reason for catching up, asking me: “Richard, have you made plans for your death?”
Ever the wise-guy, I replied: “No, but judging by the argument my wife and I had last night, I expect she has.”
That’s when I learned Zero does not sell insurance. He sells gravestones! And as of last night, one of his particularly fine granite specimens has been earmarked for yours truly. I told Zero I’d get back to him later … with the closing date.
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Where Zeros were welcomed!