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Parting

In their small south-Mississippi hometown,
my husband hugs his brother. Pats his face
in the casket. “Don't leave me now. Please
don't!” he weeps. Bees killed Troy. He was
mowing on a tractor, on a Friday, in late June.
Troy died in ten minutes. Before the hot funeral,
three days later, we went to see the unparalleled
personality's body. No wake, no family gathers
in any of several private, available funeral rooms.
Troy's body is stored in an office, “to keep it cooler.”
One woman clerk keeps coming in, pulling out
drawers, banging and fumbling to get paperclips or staples.
The man running the place, Jimmy Boyd, in his
drawl says, “It's time t'git on go. We gotta' load
him up fer the church.” Once there, hundreds
wait to see. No chance for the only two siblings
to be alone. It's nearly a state funeral in a country
town. Seven eulogies. First my husband's, then
the Director of NASA's, the astronauts’ (never seen
before in person in this hamlet) and on and on. One
had been on Apollo 13. It all lasts three hours.
After the procession from the burial, there's fried
chicken, ham, southern peas, cornbread, homemade
cakes at the church hall. All I could think about
was that before, back at the house, I had asked
my spouse if he wanted to go to Troy alone, to be
by himself with the only man who called him “Bro.”
No. He wanted me to be with him, he said softly.
Once there, what I saw when in heat we reached
the cold office that held the body in a box was
bloodless, pale, stopped. Troy was always on fast
move. His blood ran swift and parched. His hair was
parted for us and everyone at the sweltering church
to notice not the way he wore it, but on the wrong side.

- Like That

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