Piggly Wiggly Goes to the Funeral HomeWe ride the Pullman car in silence from New Orleans
to my Daddy's home in Alabama. We are in front,
with Daddy in the box car. Mother's blue serge pants
and sweater pick up lint; she pecks at fluff with her fingers
in a capsule of silence.
The main street of my father's resting place in Alabama stretches
twenty limos: the First Baptist Church, high school, funeral parlor
and grocery store elbow one another. The 4th of July parade lasts just
fourteen minutes. It's a hardware-booster-club-kinda town: Yes Sir, Yes, Ma'am.
Nails by the pound. Everyone wants to join the Worthwhile Club.
The funeral director of the home has stuffed his girth into polyester,
his belt rides high, Humpty-Dumpty style. In his pine-
sided office, he mumbles about the casket and a mumoreal
tray. "Repeat that, please," I say. Memorial tray, he spits out his gum;
his words still collide but I understand. Fits in right nice over the body.
"What's it for?" Letters, the departed's special things. Kids
usually get teddy bears, you know...heck teenagers get car keys, favorite
C.D.'s. Stuff like that. He pushes the plastic container in my direction,
the size of a T.V tray. It might accommodate a few of Daddy's favorite things:
cheddar cheese, a pint of gin, or crayfish etouffee. I imagine him happy in his sarcophagus below,
chowing down Pharaoh-style, with the T.V. remote control,
reruns of Amos and Andy, endless possibilities, only a coupla hundred dollars.
"We'll pass on that." I speak for my sister who is struck by N.L.S.,
(nervous laughter syndrome: a family failing.) Inside the chapel, easeful
roller skating musak flows around the chairs, bumps against whorled pine paneling,
then curls up next to the coffin. We look at Daddy. His mouth is curdled,
a lumpy mattress look. The director apologizes for losing his teeth;
they stuff his mouth with cotton, something I wish I'd done
when he was still alive. Folks filter in with their sorry's, tears,
their flap doodle. Mother is seated in her dirge-blue clothes
still soiled and hand-out looking. In the hall, drawling cousins hiss
and gossip, brought back to life when "Rock of Ages" is cut off, mid-stream.
Just as the director garbles on about "the deceased," a crackling
sounds in the back of the room, insistent and loud.
I turn to see shoppers from the Piggly Wiggly next door.
Came in to see who it was, one whispers to a cousin in the back row.
Don't know him, but we like to give support.
I place my face in my hands and rock. A pat from a hand behind soothes
me: Bless Your Heart. I barely make it through the words, then to the limo,
finally to the Quaid-encircled graveyard, plastic flowers blown against the fence.
Just as we exit for the last rites, mother speaks:
"A baby was born yesterday with two heads."
"It must have been hell to nurse." I say, just as the doors of the limo open.