Dancing a Jig

The limousine crawled its way closely behind the hearse containing my father’s remains, following the circuitous routes that all cemeteries seemed to have. Greenlawn was a modern low maintenance facility with no upright tombstones and a peaceful industrial park sort of flare. An eight lane highway roared in front of  its main gate while a busy bypass polluted the western border. There were shrubberies and trees with berms that were effective noise barriers, so it was quiet enough. The biggest claim to fame for this particular garden of perpetual care was at the front of the Pond of Serenity-  the crypt of the Fabulous Moolah, a professional lady wrestler from the 1960s and 70s. It was a huge stone gazebo with MOOLAH carved into it with an art deco script. Everyone else had a brass plaque on the ground to facilitate mowing, so even in death she was indeed fabulous. I told this to my ancient Auntie Virginia when we rounded the S curve between the outrageous monument and the lake filled with geese.

“I think it is disrespectful of you to speak like that at the funeral of your father,” she said in her basso profundo voice. She spoke with the same slow, old fashioned Charleston cadence as my father.

“I’m sorry but am I supposed to be sad about this? Did you miss the part where Alvin called me an abomination to God all my life? You were there the year he and Betty Jo gave me a gravesite for Christmas, right? They gave their only son a grave for Christmas!”

“That was a valuable gift, Johnny. Graves don’t grow on trees.”

“That grave was Granny’s. She bought it years ago. Daddy made her buy another one over here instead of at Elmwood Cemetery so there was one to spare. They not only gave me a grave, they were too cheap to pay for it so they gave me a second-hand plot.”

“It was a thoughtful gift.”

“The card read ‘For the Abomination to God From Mama and Daddy’! They wanted me gone! They wanted me dead! ”

The funeral procession snaked its way over to the tent where the hole was dug, ready for the graveside services, Daddy’s last view of the sky. My sister Mare leaned up to me from the third row and said, “I hope they’re burying him face down. I’d hate to think that he couldn’t see where he was going.”

“Now that is enough from the both of you! This is a solemn occasion and your ill will is putting a taint on it.” Auntie Virginia rumbled.

“To tell you the truth, this whole day is putting a taint on me.” I slid out of the limo door and helped her walk across the uneven ground.

We all gathered by the casket which had been unloaded and wheeled over to the tent across a lawn slick with goose shit from the flock that lived at the Pond of Serenity. I sat in a small folding chair while a minister who never knew my father said generally kind and unbelievable things about him, and praised his generous and loving nature along with stellar parenting skills. 

Stellar? The Abomination to God stood up. I felt my feet scraping across the grass, through the tiny torpedoes of goose excrement and burgeoning fire ant mounds to the edge of the bowl of dirt from Alvin’s grave, covered tastefully with green cloth. There was a crick in my chest,  A feeling started,  like I needed to belch  or vomit but instead I started humming the Mexican Hat Dance. My feet felt warm then hot. I took off my shoes and danced around his coffin, wiggling my toes in the earth, feeling life in the warm fecund soil.


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