A Funeral Carries Secrets

May 25, 2009
By Lauren Suminski BRONZE, Saint Charles, Illinois
Lauren Suminski BRONZE, Saint Charles, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The mahogany glistened as the sun hit the polished wood. The cherry pine poplar was lined with silk pillowed fabric, comfortable enough for any cadaver it carried. The hand-carved wood suspended in mid-air awaiting its decent into the chilled soil. The casket carried ten toes, ten toenails, two tattered feet, two legs, two knees, one torso, two arms, one unhealthy heart, ten fingers, ten fingernails, one neck, one bulging jaw line, one mouth, one nose, two ears, and two hazel eyes. Each element lay lifeless. The body weighed 175 pounds before the corpse would start to decay.

The widow looked at the casket and wept. She carried extra tissues, Puffs plus lotion to tend to her constantly dripping nose and watering eyes. The wife carried both sorrow. She carried her engagement ring tucked under her clothing, draping from a golden chain fastened around her neck. She received that ring 15 years earlier on her husband’s sailboat. They sipped champagne from crystal as they swayed subtly. Water crashed against the side of the boat, and the wind pushed their hair behind their ears. Toasting to the sunset, the crystal clanked with the touch of the tips of the glasses. She felt uneasy as he professed his love for her. He knelt before her and asked her to spend the rest of his life with her. Well maybe not his whole life. The last year of his life was spent with his mistress.

His son carried resentment for the way his dad left. He carried and supported the household throughout high school. At the funeral he carried tissues, a worn-down leather wallet, a handkerchief, an antique pocket watch and an old photograph. The picture had a worn crease down the center from folding, and the edges were slightly bent from it roaming in his pocket. The son and father moment, captured on film, portrayed a dad with his arm slung around the broad, athletic shoulders of his child. The dad’s fists clenched tight to get a good grip of his boy in a bear hug. The son’s crooked baby teeth reached from ear to ear. His ocean blue eyes sparkled, revealing joy. He held a pocket watch up to the camera. The son remembered receiving that pocket watch. It ticked quietly as the second hand reached each number around the outside circle. Scratches scattered along the back of the brass covering. His father told him the watch belonged to his father and the son vowed to keep good care of it. He had kept good care of the photo as well, until his father left abruptly. At the graveyard the son placed his hand in his pocket. He grabbed the photograph firmly and tightened his grip, crushing the photograph, crushing the memory of his childhood.

The dead man’s mother carried her rosary. She clung to the cross with all the strength she could muster. Oh how she wanted her son to go to heaven. She carried her bible, roses, black and white photographs and her hand stitched handkerchief. She gave a similar one to her son. It took her three days. All day she stitched with thimbles on the tips of her fingers. She presented the finished product to her son, overwhelmed with joy and pride of the work she crafted. He managed to mutter a “thanks” and crumpled the hankie in his pocket ungratefully. Tears swelled up in her eyes, but her wrinkled eye lids managed to hold the water in.

The niece of the corpse stared blankly with little emotion. She carried a Dooney & Burke clutch filled with essentials. She carried foundation, blush, eye liner, mascara, eye shadow, Chap Stick, lip stick, lip gloss and lip liner. She carried tweezers, a comb and her cell phone. She carried the pressure of her mother’s words in her conscience. She cared more about looking presentable than her dead uncle. Her mother warned her she was running out of time to find a suitable mate. Even at a funeral, any young, remotely attractive man with no wedding ring became a target. She felt no sympathy for the man soon to enter his grave. She saw him on Chreaster, Christmas and Easter. Other than that she knew nothing about him. A quality uncle. She carried a compact mirror. She checked her appearance every seven minutes on the dot. She couldn’t spare to go longer than that. Glancing in the reflection she layered on another round of plumb passion lip gloss. The last time she wore it was Easter, the last time she saw her uncle. He gave her a hug and called her by the wrong name. She loved that.
The business associate carried a briefcase, personal organizer, pen, notepad, pager, files, laptop, business cards and a watch. He was to conduct a meeting in Tokyo. To his knowledge his plane would depart in two hours. But he waited. He wanted to see the dead man lowered into the soil, never to return again. He glanced at his watch every two minutes. This wasn’t the first time the dead man had kept him waiting. He often strolled into work, like no big deal, an hour after the work day began. Jacka**. But what could he do? He couldn’t fire him. His mother would wring his neck. She told him to always be nice to his brother. What a load of bull. He carried jealousy for his brother. He carried doubt of the way he lived. He carried unanswered questions in his mind. He pondered the words, when was he ever nice to me?
In a distance sat a black 650i BMW convertible. The car’s tinted window remained cracked slightly and a swirl of constant smoke rose from the vehicle. Mysterious in nature, the car drew the attention just two people, the mother and son. Only they knew who watched from the car. Long red fingernails flicked the bud of a cigarette into the grass. No more than ten days before those long nails carried a plastic card. The card carried more money than she’d seen in her life. Swiped with a smile, the mistress got the exact car she wanted. But, she carried guilt. She carried guilt for leading a nice man on and away from his family. She carried guilt for using him for money. She carried guilt for fighting with him two days before the funeral. But she also carried anger as he told her he was having second thoughts about leaving his wife. If he wouldn’t have had those thoughts, he still would be alive.

All attendees of the funeral carried a grudge against the man in the casket. Yet, the graveyard carried twenty-seven mourning acquaintances, each person waiting to see him descend into the ground.

The author's comments:
This story is based on "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien.

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