Continued from: Death Tours: Part 1 — Welcome to Death Watch
The recognition of death would hit him in different ways. Sometimes it was a flash of a name, or of a time, or of a place. Sometimes it was all three. Sometimes it was just a feeling of an empty pocket in the air, about to be filled. The drop of the stomach signifying death’s sudden appearance.
Picture Nick Bishop as a child, a ten year old playing basketball on an old hoop affixed to a telephone pole in front of his childhood home on Mystic Island. Each dribble a practice in concentration as the ball kicked aside tiny stones on the blacktop, each stone threatening to kick aside the ball in kind. Picture him stopping in front of the crooked rim and, in his best Johnny Most voice, saying, “D.J. passes to Bird…” Nick pivots toward the hoop, cocking his arm, about to shoot, but he stops, the boy seeming to sense something. He looks behind him at a dog sniffing at a bush.
Sometimes Nick would get a sense of death weeks or days ahead of its appearance, but sometimes, like when that dog interrupted his basketball game, he would get the sense of death at that very moment. Don’t ask him for any scientific or philosophical explanation for any of it, because he has none. And don’t think that plenty of people—from researchers to government officials to Oprah, herself—haven’t tried to get the answer from him whether it be by money or force—or in the case of Oprah, both. The fact is, he has no idea how he is able to do it. As for me telling you, I will only tell you this talent is nothing new. The Oracle at Delphi, the witches of Macbeth, Nostradamus… Hell, there is even a cat at a nursing home in Rhode Island that can predict when the residents are going to die. The cat jumps up onto a resident’s bed, and the next morning, that resident just never wakes up. The person dies peacefully during the night. Now, you would think that when the cat walked into a room, the room’s occupant would grab the thing by the tail and throw it yowling out the door. But that never happens. The resident just lies back and falls asleep. Sometimes knowing one’s time has come is a comfort in itself. A chance to prepare, to brace for the coming end, to reflect on a life well-lived. With this knowledge you can be afforded the chance of dying with grace. The opposite is what happened to Paula Reece, who you all witnessed being mowed down in a Manhattan street on Death Watch. For her, knowing wasn’t a comfort at all. Knowing only made her completely freak out. It’s all in what a person does with the knowledge. You only die once, it’s a shame if you fuck it up. No, Nick Bishop wasn’t the first person with this knack of realizing the when or where of death. He was just the first person to put it on Prime Time.
So back to the dog. Nick watched the thing pee on a bush and trot off down the street. Nick followed the thing at a slow, steady pace, and as he did so, the dog eyed the boy suspiciously, the thing trotting into another yard for more sniffing. The dog had actually caught the scent of a young bitch in heat’s urine, and he was very eager to know in which direction she was heading. Nick looked off toward the street running perpendicular to his own street. He then looked back at the dog, the dog glancing nervously back at Nick. The dog was having a hard time keeping track of the two instincts now running in its brain: finding the bitch or keeping an eye out for potential danger. The bitch, as usual, was winning. Nick bounced the ball with one loud air-filled report, startling the dog into action. The dog darted into the street that ran perpendicular to Nick’s street. It was immediately run down by a car in a squeal of tires and yelping.
The car’s driver got out of the car. He looked at the dog dead in the road and then he looked at Nick. The driver said to Nick, “This your dog?”
Nick shook his head.
“I didn’t even see it,” The driver said. The statement is what all drivers say when hitting something.
“And it didn’t see you,” Nick said, turning and dribbling off toward the NBA finals, where Bird had the ball.
“Hey, do you know whose dog this is?” the driver called after Nick.
“Nope,” Nick called over his shoulder. His next words were in the gravelly voice of Johnny Most about to announce another Larry Bird buzzer-beater. The driver stood shocked at the kid’s coldness toward the dog’s death. But the truth was, Nick had just gotten used to death making its appearance. However, there was no getting used to what was to happen two weeks later, when death came home.
Continued in: Death Tours: Part 3 — Beach Day