had once read somewhere that according to data accumulated from the
black-box flight recorders of crashed aircraft, the last words spoken
by pilots, upon realization that they were doomed, were most often,
did it say about human frailty, about the transparent peel of civilization,
about the state of evolution, about the dominion of body over mind,
when, at the moment of their imminent death, modern, educated, affluent
men were moved to an evocation of excrement? That as the axe abruptly
fell on their mortal lives, technologically sophisticated commanders
of multimillion-dollar flying machines usually uttered no proclamation
of sacred, familial or romantic love; no patriotic sentiment, no cry
for forgiveness, no expression of gratitude or regret, but rather,
a scatological oath?
likely, it said very little. Almost certainly, the word "shit" was
issued without the slightest conscious regard for its literal meaning.
On an unconscious level, the oath might be significant, but one would
have to be a fairly fanatical Freudian to propose that it indicated
the persistent domination of an infantile fixation on feces.
event, though he might imagine Bobb Case uttering something of the
sort (Bobby was a Texan, after all, and had cut his teeth on dung),
Switters -- mildly appalled by the information -- vowed that no such
phrase would mark his final exit. "Oh shit" lacked grace, lacked class,
lacked charm, lacked imagination, lacked any hint of enlightenment.
It was simply vulgar, simply crude, and while Switters could appreciate
profanity's occasional value as verbal punctuation, as a highly effective
vehicle for emphasis, he was scornful when louts swore as a substitute
for vocabulary, youths as a substitute for rebellion, stand-up comics
as a substitute for wit.
his end came, Switters had always trusted that he would improvise
something original if not profound; something appropriate to the specific
situation, which was to say, something dramatically correct. If nothing
else, should time be short and inspiration shorter, he would, he had
vowed, bellow WAHOO! -- one final, culminating, roller-coaster-rider
whoop of defiant exhilaration.
ambition, perhaps. Yet when the spook viper bit, when the internal
fireball exploded, when he lost contact with the earth and went spiraling
off into an electrified darkness, he did no bellow "wahoo," let alone
anything remotely resembling famous last words. The only sound, in
fact, to escape through the bubbles of blood that were forming on
his lips, was a kind of wavery squeak, as if Minnie Mouse had glanced
at her boudoir window and seen the Hillside Strangler there.