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Something about this was really wrong. The last time he saw Kate, she had a giant zit on her chin, and now it was gone.
Kaput. Vanished. Pulled a Harry Houdini.
She was just lying there, still as those really cheap licorice sticks that will not bend no matter how hard you try to make them twist.
“She looks good, doesn’t she?” Her father mumbled.
Good? She looked good? Mr. Garbo was looking at him expectantly through red-rimmed eyes, so Jonah searched his mind for an appropriate comment.
“Oh yeah. Her…her dress looks nice.”
Not. In all the years he knew Kate, he had only seen her wear a dress once, and that was when he took her to Junior Prom.
“She hated dresses, but her mother-“ Mr. Garbo sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes. “That’s what she wanted.”
Kate’s mother was in the hospital, Jonah remembered. Getting treatment for some kind of mole cancer.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Garbo,” Jonah said, tears finally welling up in his eyes.
“I just loved her so much and I don’t think she knew that.”
“I’m sure she did. She always talked about how much she loved you.”
”Really?” Mr. Garbo smiled through raw skin.
“On our first date, that’s all she talked about,” Jonah deadpanned, remembering her half-hour monologue about how great her daddy was. “So don’t worry, she definitely knew.”
“Good,” Jonah allowed himself to be drew into a hug from Mr. Garbo, and then pulled away after a few seconds.
Jonah found himself standing alone at the casket, after Mr. Garbo spotted his mother-in-law.
He leaned forward, at the same time wondering why he even came. He was by far the youngest one here, except for a solemn, green eyed brunette in the row behind him, and he was wearing a too-big black suit, which was tied up by rubber bands and a little bit of gum.
“Totally fake, huh?” He heard in his left ear.
“Whoa!” He jumped, and grabbed onto the edge of Kate’s casket for support.
“Chill out, Power Ranger.” The brunette from behind him grinned, exposing a gap between her two front teeth and a cleft in her chin.
“Geez! You scared me, that’s all.” Jonah said, clutching onto his heart for proof.
“But doesn’t she?” The brunette asked.
“Doesn’t she what? Who?”
“Katherine.” She said patiently. “Doesn’t she look so unreal?”
“Well, look, she’s dead, okay? I’m almost positive she’s supposed to be unreal.” Jonah said, crinkling his thick eyebrows.
“Oh, really? Thanks for that.” She rolled her eyes, as if to accentuate what she thought of that comment. “No, I meant she looks totally unlike herself.”
“So? It’s her funeral. They probably want to make her look better than she did.”
“That’s my point!” She exclaimed, snapping her fingers. “Isn’t the point of funerals so we can remember the deceased as they were in life? Not how we wanted them to be?”
“Liberalist, aren’t you?” Jonah finally asked after studying her face.
“No,” she sighed, “best friend.”
“You’re Haley?” Jonah asked, surprised.
“The one and only.” She paused, “in this room at least. You must be Jonah, the ex.”
He winced. “Oh, don’t get all pissy now. I only meant the ex boyfriend. Would you really be ex, since you technically didn’t break up?”
“I knew that.” He put extra disdain on the second word of the sentence so she would get the sarcasm. “And I have no idea. Probably.”
“I went to her school. Which would probably explain why I never met you.” She narrowed her eyes and studied him in a way that made Jonah feel like she could see his underwear, the only well-fitting thing about his outfit today.
“I heard about you, though.” Jonah offered, mainly to deter her probing eyes.
“Oh, I heard about you too, buddy.” She swept her long hair back into one of those clam clips, and placed her hand on Kate’s down in the casket. “She had a zit last week. Do you think zits can heal when you’re dead?”
“I wouldn’t know.” Jonah said, pondering the question. “Maybe the embalmer took care of it.”
“Want to know what I think?”
“Sure.” He sighed, tuning out the dull murmur of everyone else’s voices as he strained to hear Haley’s.
“I think God did it.”
“You think God zapped her zit?”
“Well, sure, why not?” Haley said.
“You don’t think He has more important things to do?”
“What could be more important than getting rid of a giant zit on some dead sixteen year old girl’s face?”
“It wasn’t that big.” Jonah felt he had to defend Kate. Although the zit was kind’ve mammoth.
“Did you see the zit?” Haley asked. “It was huge!”
“I think God felt bad.”
“About what?” Jonah asked, enjoying this very ridiculous conversation.
“About killing her.” Haley said. “I think He looked at her up in Heaven, saw that big honker of a pimple, and said: ‘You know what, Katherine? I feel so bad about sending that taxi in at just the wrong moment; I’m going to zap that right off your chin. How about that?’”
“Really?” Jonah asked dubiously.
“Totally! And you know what Kate would have said, don’t you?”
“Why don’t you tell me,” Jonah said, and Haley was off and running again.
“She would have looked him straight in the eyes, and said something like: ‘Well, God. Let me tell you one thing about Katherine Marie Garbo. I don’t take charity from anyone. Maybe I want to be buried with a giant zit on my face. Ever think of that, Buddy?’”
Jonah laughed in spite of himself. “You think Kate would have sassed the Big Guy Upstairs?”
“Did you know Kate at all?”
Jonah thought about it and found he definitely could see Kate telling off God. It was just so Kate.
“She did not like handouts.”
“Oh, but God knew that. That’s why he made it seem like it wasn’t a handout. Kate called it charity.”
“Do you even think God gives out handouts?” Jonah asked, looking down at Kate. Her eyes were closed and she had a slight smile on her face. “Can you imagine Him popping that pimple?”
“No.” Haley admitted. “Maybe He’d make Jesus do it.” She grinned, showing her gap again.
“Oh my gosh.” Jonah snorted, hoping no one noticed. “That was bad!” He laughed again, grabbing his sides.
“What Would Jesus Do?” Haley prompted.
“Pop It!” She laughed, and looked down at Kate too.
“Maybe. I like to think that when we die, God tries to give us everything we wanted in life but never got.”
“That means I’ll be zooming through the clouds Up There in a vintage Cadillac convertible.”
“And I’ll be married to Orlando Bloom and be a millionaire.”
“Not like we’d ever take God’s handouts, though, right?” Jonah asked.
“Oh, no, definitely not.”