Russell Parker drifted silently in the winter air above his freshly dug grave. The mourners shivered and wrapped their coats tighter around tense goose-bumped skin. Russ thought it strange that he never received this much attention when he was alive. There stood his brother Donald, face bland, eyes bored and Russ noted from this perspective that the old boy was going bald.
As he floated closer to the group he saw the deeper lines etched around his mother’s eyes. A black muffler and hat covered everything from her nose down. She was carefully ignoring Donald’s steadying hand while wiping her shiny eyes with a lace hanky. And Celie, a frozen, dead rose and indigo alligator tears, a widow now, after all. After years of Celie’s red-lipped sarcasm, Russ was pleased to see another expression on her face but malice.
But it was his daughter, Jamie, nine years old, her fingers clasped in Celie’s bony hand that moved Russell the deepest. Jamie’s wind chapped cheeks glistened with big tears and dark circles shaded hollows into her face. That child suffered more at Celie’s demand than he ever had. Russell saddened at the thought of the life his young Jamie would now lead. He wondered if he mourned for Jamie more than Celie mourned him.
Russ hovered slowly above the thirty some people and looked for Earl. There, over there by that oak tree, staring at a stray dog. Russ stopped in front of his buddy and gazing at the beard stubbled face, understood finally that Earl had used him most of his life. Rising up and turning, Russ figured most of that crowd wished they had been better to him when he was alive. Russ felt no anger at these semi-strangers, only gladness that a brief flicker of mortality clutched at each heart.
Russ drifted back to the graveside and stared down at the ornate brass and mahogany casket. A small ironic smile touched his wispy face. He had lived poorly and wanting most of his life. Now, his final resting place, new, glamorous satin and pillows. He was confused at the order of events but knew enlightenment was near. Looking skyward, Russ took one last glance back at his mother and daughter and barely noticed the dog pissing on Earl’s leg as the last prayers were being said.