The living are not yet dead -- that's what it says. But if you're anything like me you know that "not yet dead" can mean "not wholly here."
Consider the case of Moe. Late one afternoon, just before dark, he went out to his car and put the key in the ignition. As he started to roll backward he noticed something was not quite right. He pulled the car back up toward the garage and got out. Sure enough, a flat tire.
Moe went back inside and knocked on the door to the upstairs apartment. Stevie, the renter, came downstairs and opened the door. They looked at one another. Moe finally spoke. He asked Stevie to take the money he was holding and go to the drugstore for him, pick up some cough medicine, and "get this prescription filled." He said he wasn't feeling too good. He said he didn't want to drive the car feeling the way he did.
So Stevie took the money and went out to the car. He got in, put the key in the ignition, and started it up. He began to back the car out, but right away he felt something funny. So he pulled back up to the garage and got out. He walked around the car, looking carefully at everything, and then at the tires. Wouldn't you know it? One of them was flat.
Stevie, none the dumber than you or me, got the picture right away. Moe had started to go to the drugstore, discovered the flat tire, and wasn't strong enough to change the tire. He was pushing eighty. That's eighty years of age. So Stevie opened the trunk, took out the spare tire, the tools, and the jack. He changed the tire and said nothing about it. He drove off, got the prescription filled, and came home. He gave the prescription to Moe, along with the change.
Moe asked how the car drove. Stevie wanted to know what he meant. Moe said he was speaking English and speaking clearly and wanted to know how the car drove. Stevie said the car drove like a car: roll roll, brake brake, stop stop: the car was fine Stevie said.
Moe looked at him. His eyes showed that he had expected a tirade, a major venting, a loud remonstrance. His eyes showed that he had known the tire was flat, that he knew that Stevie would be what is known as an "asshole" and change the tire. But he did not expect Stevie to make like nothing had happened. So Moe's eyes showed his "guilt." Moe's eyes showed that he was good at this little game -- the I'm an old man game -- that he had done this many times before. But it was no big deal. Would you have expected Moe to change a tire? Too heavy.
The guy, Stevie, Mr. Helpful, who ought to have gone inside and tossed the keys to Moe and said, "You got a flat," and gone back upstairs to his apartment, instead went right to work changing the tire. Imagine Moe, looking out the window. Could he believe his eyes? Stevie is out there changing the tire! What a great country, huh? Just when you need a jerk, there he is, with the tire iron, looking like George Washington!
Okay, so that's the guy upstairs. He left, he went to the drugstore. You thought it's over, right? . Just then, just when you think it's over, the guy's wife comes downstairs. "Where's Stevie? What did you want with him?"
Moe hates to talk to wives. "Hi, sweetheart -- listen. Stevie's a great guy. He went to the drugstore for me. I can't drive. You know that."
"You should be in a home."
"Get outta here, I'm not going into a home." Moe has a way of screwing up his face as if he's in great pain or trouble.
"Stevie belongs upstairs with me and the children."
"I'm sorry." He learned somewhere that, once you say you're sorry to the wife, you can sit back and watch it all turn sweet. "Stevie's a great guy, he went to get my prescription for me. What would we do without him?"
"You know what I mean. I'm not such a bad guy myself."
"Do your daughters know you belong in a home?"
"I'll shoot anyone who tries to put me in a home."
"No you won't."
"Yes I will."
"What will you really do?"
"Grab their necks and pull taffy."
"What's pulling taffy?"
"You kids don't know nothing. You grab their necks and pull them like taffy, you gotta pull taffy to make it. I don't know. Get outta here."