Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Prompt

Am I the only one who sees this?


  1. I swallowed. Keeping my voice as low as I could, I said, “Mom, go away.”

    “I’m you mother, don’t you talk to me like that.”

    I narrowly avoided stamping my foot or rolling my eyes. Things I would have done if she were really here. “My dead mother.”

    There was a hiss behind me. I turned to look. Aunt Wanda crossed herself. I smiled lamely, pretending I wasn’t the one who said it.

    Aunt Wanda stared me down. It was eerily similar to my mom.

    Great. Now I was being given ‘the look’ from both sides of the fence. Could this day get any worse?

  2. Lol! At your hands, it probably could.

    : )

  3. Funerals are bad enough, but some funerals, you just shouldn't go to. This was one I should have stayed clear of. I think that's what she would have preferred, too. Florence.

    I was hanging back from the crowd. I noticed that no one else was paying any attention to her, so I didn't make a scene by hooping and hollering and asking, "Hey, any of you seee this? Anyone? Am I the ony one who sees this?"

    The only one who sees Florence?

    The woman for whom this funeral is being held in the first place?

    She was standing by a headstone -- not her own. A heavy-set older woman, she wore a gramma's pink casual outfit and a mother's patiently stern arm-crossing pose. Her face was largely expressionless, but I was struck by her bright eyes.

    Florence stared at me with an intensity in death that she never had in life.

    I paused. That wasn't quite right. In fact that wasn't right at all.

    Florence peered at me.

    I sunk back a little deeper into the crowd. I wasn't sure what else to do. It seemed wrong to totally evade her, but I didn't want to confront her, either.

    It was true that she had never stared at me like this in life, but, "in life," is a peculiar expression under these circumstances.

    Florence remained motionless, but I sensed a dry amusement coming from her.

    The last few of the funeral guests bumped into me as they walked toward Florence's grave. Their grif made them careless. I understood. I didn't mind.

    It wasn't quite an audible sound, but I had the distinct impression of Florence saying, "The least you can do is cut my family some slack if they bump into you out there, buster."

    I trailed along behind those folks. When we arrived at the graveside, I continued to float on the periphery. I could feel Florence's eyes on the back of my head as they lowered her coffin into the ground. I looked over my shoulder. She was still there, still watching. Her arms crossed. She jerked her head towards a young couple. I took her meaning, and walked around to stand near to them and listen as they talked.

    "Were you able to go to the viewing before I flew in?" the man asked.

    The woman shook her head. Her face was tear-marked. She wasn't wearing any makeup. If she had been, it would have likely been all over her face. "Yes and no," she said.

    The man looked quizically at her. His face was strained. "Yes and no?"

    "It wasn't really a viewing. It was a wake."

    "I suppose there was a viewing the first time wasn't there?" the man asked.

    She answered, "Yes, there was. I guess most people don't have a family service for this, but I think Aunt Florence would have liked this."

    I looked behind us. Florence was still staring at me. I wasn't quite sure what she wanted.

    Suddenly, as if prompted by my internal uncertainty, the man noticed me. "Oh, hello," he greeted awkwardly. "Are you family?"

    It was now my turn to be awkward. "No," I managed after a less meaningful gurggling sound first escaped my lips.

    The young man turned to look at me. "How did you know her then? Were you a neighbor?"

    "I was a friend," I lied. Florence's accusing eyes burned the back of my neck. I corrected myself, "Well, not a friend exactly, more of a medical acquaintance."

    The couple looked confused. I snuck a glance back at Florence. She was stamping her foot. I think. She still wasn't moving. Just the same, I could tell she was stamping her foot at me. She was displeased.

    "What sort of medical acquaintance?" the man pressed, his innocent curiosity more dramatic in the grey context of the funeral.

    I chickened out and fled. I made my way hastily away from the couple to another spot where I could not possibly overhear any other conversations. I looked back at the couple. I think they had lost interest in me already. I read their lips as they resumed their conversation.

    "Why wasn't there a second viewing?" the man seemed to ask.

    "I don't know," the woman appeared to answer him. "Tony says he looked int the coffin anyway and she was still in a big black bag."

    I bit my lip and turned away. Florence had moved. She was near me. She wanted me to go back to that couple.

    How could I do that? How could I tell them that I was the reason there was no viewing. That Florence's body had been in a bag because it was in pieces. That what was left looked nothing like a human being, let alone like their aunt. How could I tell them that I had destroyed their loved one to such a degree that they could not see her again before putting in their ground.

    Florence was unsympathetic. She wanted me to go. Feeling as though I had no choice, I returned to the couple.

    I waited in silence as the ceremony wrapped up, and then I touched the man's elbow before he had a chance to walk away. I motioned in a general direction, and starting to walk slowly. They followed.

    "I'm sorry," I told them. "I'm so sorry."

    "What do you mean?" the woman asked, her voice in a panic with the stress and fear that any serious words can bring out at a time of such grief.

    I leaned against a tree and forced myself to confess. "I never knew Florence."


    "I mean, I never knew her personality," I explained. They didn't seem to think that was much of an explanation. "I knew her physically," I added.

    They took that entirely wrong, and I had to clutch at their retreating shoulders to stop them. "Wait," I begged. "That's not what I meant."

    "Then spit it out!" the man demanded.

    I answered through closed teeth. "I dissected her," I said. "She was my cadaver."

    They were stunned. They couldn't seem to find any words to say.

    I filled the silence. "I'm sorry," I said. "I cut your aunt's body and I handled her organs and I studied her. I never knew her, not the real her. I only knew her body."

    "Why did you come?" the woman asked. There was no accusation in her voice. "Why come to her funeral?"

    I shrugged. "I felt like I owed it to her, after everything I did to her."

    "Did to her?" the man asked.

    "You don't know what it's like," I told him, my voice cracking as my mouth dried. "Dissection isn't pretty. It's not neat and tidy. I took your aunt and I used her for my own study and when I was done, what was left of her had to be kept in a bag in the coffin."

    Again they found words difficult, but the woman placed her hand on my arm. "But you came here."

    The man interjected, "Look, her death wasn't pretty. We already lost her. That wasn't neat and tidy. Dissection? That's nothing. The hard part was losing our aunt."

    "But --" I tried to object.

    "But nothing, she donated her body to science, and it sounds like science made good use of her body."

    "But --"

    "But," the woman said softly, "you came to her funeral. That shows me that you respected her. You said you used her. I don't think so. I think she offered her body to you as a way to help you learn, and you graciously and respectfully accepted her gift."

    Suddenly, unexpectly, it was me who was at a loss for words. My jaw quivered. The corners of my eyes dampened. I grew weak in the knees. Finally, I stuttered, "But it was inhuman. It was inhuman."

    The woman shook her head. "It was perfectly human, and it was just what she wanted. I'm glad you came."

    I slumped against a nearby tree and fought back tears. I looked around. Florence was gone. The couple was still there, though. They knew I was sharing their grief. I was relieved to know that they were letting me.

  4. Wow, two totally different directions, Heather and CN! Fantastic stuff. Should not have read right before bed...

  5. Boy are you right, Christy! About as different as day and night (or any cliche of opposites, for that matter!) But the emotions were believable and they were both terrific!

  6. Bravo!!! Those were fantastic pieces of work!!
    Heather, you are the master at delivering a complete story in the shortest post!
    Nevets you had me going in a few directions. I loved it.