Richard Horton ~ The Funeral

1. What They Were Doing That Day

After their time on the floor pallet in the hot darkened living room taking a nap, Mama told the kids they could go outside in the yard.

“Someone isn’t here!” said Linda when they got there, and Robert and David hung their heads. But then they thought of a game. They would dig a fort in the yard, yell, run around, and pretend to shoot each other. When they were good and dirty, Mama opened the screen door and yelled, “Come in now! It’s time!”

They got sad, but when she went inside, they yelled and played some more, threw clods of dirt, made gun noises, fell down, then laughed and jumped back up.

Mama came out again, brushing her hair. “Get in here!” she yelled, “I’m going to whip your butts! Aren’t you sorry about little Jimmy dying?” The kids minded her then.

“We got to put on funeral suits,” said Robert.

Linda said, “Come on, David! Let’s go to the faucet!” Robert watched them walk away, all slow, and go wash their arms and legs at the faucet at the side of the house.

2. Linda’s Dream About The Faucet

I’ve got to wash my arms and legs at the faucet at the side of the house. I will obey and do it. Now I’m at the side of the house. The boards are painted gray. Shadows of tree leaves move back and forth on the boards. The faucet has something it wants to say or give, something in its mouth and the something is coming out, a worm, no, not a worm, an arm, a baby arm. The rest of the baby is trapped in the faucet. The hole is too small. The arm sways and reaches.

3. The Dirt He Sat On

Robert pushed his hand into the dirt he sat on. It was damp and cool. He thought of dead Jimmy, the time he sat under the pine tree next to his daddy’s car, playing with a hammer. He was little, he couldn’t talk, but he smiled at Robert then took and hit his daddy’s car with the hammer. There was a crackling noise as chips of paint spit off the metal where the dent was. Robert saw when Jimmy’s daddy came out after his nap and yelled, “Damn if I’ll ever let you have a hammer again, boy!” Jimmy’s face made its own darkness. Jimmy sat still, in the darkness.

4. Leaving In The Funeral Car

They were all sitting in the long black funeral car. Mama got in. “Who did I forget now?” She counted all the kids, who were trying to behave and sit straight. They
were itchy in their funeral clothes. “One, two, three! Robert, what’s wrong with your face?”

Linda said, “Mama! He’s making his face do something!” Robert was trying to make his mouth go funny. He was thinking of Jimmy sitting under the tree, the daddy’s hand reaching down to take the hammer.

Mama turned away quick. A strand of hair on the back of her head lifted like a spider leg. She looked back to count the kids. “Who did I forget? I know someone isn’t here!”

Mr. Madison from the funeral company got in behind the wheel. The fine wrinkles on his face made him look sour. His suit-sleeved arm threw forward and his hand dropped on the gear shift.

Robert looked out the back window as the funeral car pulled away. Someone was running after it. “Hey, we did forget someone!” he said.

Keeping his eyes carefully on the road ahead, Mr. Madison murmured, “Well, if he couldn’t be on time, he’ll just have to catch another coach!”

After a minute Robert looked back again. “He’s still back there!” he said. “And he’s catching up!”

“All right, we’ll just go faster!” said Mr. Madison. He accelerated, and the car roared along, passing fields and clumps of trees.

Staring straight ahead, Mama said, “Robert, don’t look back there at him any more!”

Pretty soon they started hearing the pounding of feet at the side of the car. Mr. Madison muttered, “I don’t know how someone that small can run so fast. I’m doing 60 already. If I go beyond that, I’ll exceed the speed limit!”

Mama screamed, “Don’t anyone look at him!”

 

Richard Horton began publishing fiction in Austin, TX in the late 70s, got a lit degree at UT Austin, and has recently published in Southern Pacific Review and Meat For Tea.

 

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