256 Words

My Best Friend Died Last Week

M. Stanley Bubien

My best friend died last week. The funeral, today.

I recall removing my rain coat as the priest sprinkled holy water over the grave. But everything was soaked already, chairs, flowers, grass---even the dirt. More water? Unnecessary. I clenched my fists with each shake of the spatula.

People spoke, lots of them, as if they knew him. I heard nothing---not worth remembering. When it came my turn, my name stated from the grave head, I held up my palm, unable to pull my mouth into more than a thin, red line. A gust of wind blew. Those around me bunched their jackets about them as I steeled forearms beneath useless cotton sleeves, and the next speaker took his place.

Mulling after the ceremony felt surreal. Like a movie, and we were the background actors, the extras, filling frame-space to give a sense of realism. Ironic. I pinched my cheeks with a black glove.

At the car, I reached into my coat for the keys. Not there. I had left it, draped over a chair. "Be right back," I mumbled, though the auto could not hear.

Halting at the edge of the makeshift tent, I noted my coat. Beside the grave, however, three men shoveled soil onto the casket. Peculiar looking fellows, smoking and dressed in morning coats, sharing stories between breaths like real chums.

Jesus, I thought. This is what it's come to. Three strangers dumping dirt on him.

The earth fell, and I remained still, even as rain pattered again upon the tent.

Thanks to Matthew Modine and James B. Harris.

Copyright ©1999 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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October, 1999
Issue #42

256 Words