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Thursday, November 13, 2008

His Name is Raoul

This is Part 3. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Monday morning, November 14, 1983, Tom Skulan calls me at FantaCo and asks me whether Dee had called me. I thought this was a peculiar question. Dee, who was Raoul’s ex-girlfriend but still friend, had never called me to that point. Tom told me Raoul had died the day before, and I said, "Okay" and went back to work. About 10 minutes later I decided I should call my ex-girlfriend Susan and tell her. After letting her know, I realized, "Oh my God, Raoul died," and I never mentioned it again that day. You would think that would be difficult, given the fact that I was going to be working the front of the store that day, but Raoul was working a Tuesday to Saturday schedule, and most people would not have expected him on Monday. They didn’t ask; I didn’t bring it up.

The next day we were faced with how to let people know that Raoul was deceased. While he was actually on vacation, most people would figure he was scheduled to work. Fortunately, his obituary had appeared in that morning’s newspaper. So as I sat at the front counter and people invariably asked me where Raoul was, I could point to the obit which I had taped to a piece of black construction paper and had hung on the wall opposite the counter.

Invariably, the first thing that came out of almost every person’s mouth was "You’re kidding!" Naturally, they didn’t mean that literally, but I heard that phrase a whole lot that day. It was so much easier just to point than to have to say the words again. But I attempted to comfort the customers who needed to process this awful news. Later that day, Raoul’s mother Betty and Raoul’s sister Maria came into the store along with Maria’s boyfriend. Maria hugged me for about four minutes, which felt like a LONG time. She and her mother asked Tom and me to be pallbearers at the funeral.

Raoul's Nostromo Cap poster, recently discovered by Bill Anderson
Thursday evening was the wake. Fantaco employees Broome Spiro, Bill Anderson, and a number of others went over to the funeral home in Troy. Open casket. Damn. Eventually I made a quick pass at the lifeless body, but mostly talked to people as far away as I could from that part of the room.

Friday, the store was closed, of course, as we attended the funeral. The priest gave a homily that, while pleasant enough, didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Raoul we knew. He talked about Raoul drawing pictures of Christ and other fiction. But worse, he kept getting his name wrong. He repeatedly referred to him as Ralph. Ralph did this, Ralph did that. We all grimaced. Finally someone, and I didn't even know then who it was, yelled, "HIS NAME IS RAOUL!" The priest continued, but at least he got the name right. After the ceremony, I went with a number of people from the band Blotto to a restaurant in Troy and we swapped tales about our friend Raoul.


ROG

4 comments:

Lynn said...

Raoul was a super nice human being to everyone he met. It was a real shocker when he died at such a young age. He is still missed.

Anonymous said...

Terrific tribute, Roger! I really enjoyed it, and I think you caught Raoul's personality.

Great work!

Best wishes,

Michael T.

Anonymous said...

After all this, he still is missed.

From one of the other pallbearers,

John Mahoney PO Box 881,Broadalbin

Anonymous said...

After all this, he still is missed.

From one of the other pallbearers,

John Mahoney PO Box 881,Broadalbin