Branches #4: Notes On a Funeral

I don’t know how to begin writing fiction, so . . . I’m not. I’m leaving the beginnings up to other authors, and branching off — from whatever I wind up underlining, dog-earring, generally wanting more of.

Currently reading: Tuesday; An Art Project (Issue 3): “Grief And The Imaginary Grave” by Rowan Richardo Phillips

* * *

Gone gone gonegonegone I choked
on the thought of ending this song.

Understoried. Dead and buried. Do you
hear me from where they buried you?

From where they buried you do you
hear the rhyme I bury for you?

It may or may not have been raining at your funeral, but I knew that this is how I would remember it. It is always raining at funerals, the coffins typically made with a cherry-type wood.

I see damp sod, clinging to the edge of the earth. Your gleaming mahogany casket covered in, let’s say, roses. Slowly descending into nothingness. It’s much nicer this way; there’s a purer truth to the expected. In the rare event a participant does not herself recall the weather or the quality of casket-wood at a funeral, tell her how it was. Your description will fill in the blanks, manifesting it in her memory. Like dandelion seeds, taking root, making room — occasionally other, smaller truths are sacrificed, but such are the casualties of war in a paradigm-centered world. Now she retells the tale. In her story, from now on, there will be rain.

A slow, gentle rain, she’ll say. When it slid down the windshield it was reminiscent of tears. Like the car was crying. Plop, the trees are crying too. Plop, the gas station is crying. Plop the church-top tiles, plop the edges of our umbrellas, plop plop plop the whole world understands. As you can see, the specific volume and speed of the rain are key. Mist may have the appropriate sense of theater, but it lacks catharsis. Hail is overly surreal and besides we would have to move our cars which would be decidedly practical. Thunderstorms are possible at a funeral, but only if you are a demon; they are otherwise too aggressive or ominous and we are not here to tell ghost stories about you — in fact, we yearn for your spirit. We cannot stand you being away forever like this. There are so many parties we were going to invite you to. There are so many times we’d planned on crying in your arms.

Become a ghost. Please. Sift down through the grey clouds like flour and drift into our apple pies. Curl into a rain drop and slide down our windshields. Hover around like mist if you have to. I will conjure you now, with my Ouija board.

Figure 1: Acceptable Comments to Make Into a Microphone During a Funeral
1.) He was a good man.*
2.) His passions for mountain-climbing, bear-fighting, and endangered-wildflower-saving were quite inspiring.
3.) He loved to laugh. His laugh was memorable in some fashion.*
4.) He never said a thing he didn’t mean. He never meant a thing he didn’t say.
5.) I envied him his rubber boots.
6.) He will be missed, but of course, we are glad to see him out of his pain.*

* These comments may be considered the requisite attention-getters, theses, and concluding statements, respectively: and could, on a less original day, form the skeleton of your paper.

Oh hey, as long as we are on the subject of writing and putting down the record, let it be said that I don’t recall the first time I saw you. Or the second, or the third. You made no impression whatsoever in your newness, and you failed entirely to look familiar. What I do remember is the first time you touched my shoulder.

“Hey, wait,” you said. Your hand landed in a gentle grasp.

I turned around.

How would you appear to me now, my conjured darling? A softer, blurrier version of your previous self? Mere dust particles hovering in dark air? A glow, a feeling of coldness, a slamming door? You will spell things out for me and I will follow you to the ends of this earth.

Figure 2: Unacceptable Comments to Make Into a Microphone During a Funeral
1.) Well, no one really believed he could eat the whole thing in the first place. Am I right. Am I right!
2.) And other assorted brash jokes relevant to the cause.
3.) The other night I cried in the shower. The hours wasted away.
4.) Weren’t there others, he loved?
5.) And if so, where are they today?
6.) “Mortality or timelessness!” I finally thought to myself, leaning against the tile. “Choose your poison.”
7.) I turned off the water, grabbed a towel and emerged a remarkably clean woman.
8.) Which brings me to my central question:
9.) does anyone here know whether he loved me?
10.) There is dirt under my fingernails, there are sharp pieces in my eyes.
11.) But seriously, folks.
12.) The water is useless, it won’t rinse them away.
13.) Just before he left he shrugged. Don’t you even try to suspect I didn’t catch that.
14.) (Painful smile, a shake of the head.)
15.) Also, of course, he married her. Hey.

You may notice that the list of can-nots is always longer than the list of cans. Sorry, that’s just life.

In the memory, I sneak away from your funeral, cleverly using the terrain to my advantage. White skin camouflages against wet birch trees. Black-gloved hands like ravens, huddled atop angel statuettes and granite blocks. I skitter from tombstone to tombstone with few difficulties, until your procession is nothing but a parade of glum eraser-bits on the horizon. I throw myself behind some shrubbery, poke my head out from behind a frosty pine, and make a break for the back wall of a family crypt.

In my hand there is a clutch, and in the clutch I keep a tiny notepad and a tiny pen. I plunk down into the wet earth and I write you the letter I’ve always meant to write: the letter I have been composing in my head since the day you left. It takes me as long to write it as it did to live it.

I scrawl your name onto my paper bundle, and underline it with a girlish swirl.

What do you do with such a letter? Bury it, of course.

Conveniently, we’re in a cemetery.

Let’s end it with this possibility. I have returned from your funeral, and I am setting my things down in my apartment. Let’s say I live alone. Let’s say I am surrounded by ancient bookshelves and knotted rugs, let’s say there is a large marmalade cat making eager infinity symbols around my legs. I have said it all to you at last, and have no regrets: not about a single word in that letter, not about keeping them from you for one million years, not about hiding behind some poor family’s crypt and burying my confessions in their yard. Everything is quiet. I change out of my rain-soaked wool and tattered nylons, and put on a kettle of tea.

The rain stops.

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  1. Wait a minute. Let me get this straight.

    In your blog, you’ve commented on another blog, that commented on your blog.

    I think that this world has become far too meta for my tastes. Post-modernism has replaced gravity. Checking out for now. Pardon me, I’ve got GOLD to pan for! GOLD, I tell you!

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