American Chimera – 18.2

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It was January of 2086. My husband Al had just died.

It never snows anymore, not really, and the pathetic dusting we had on the day he was cremated just made me want to cry all the more. The stupid, crazy, adorable man had wanted his ashes to be buried in a musty, old roasted peanut tin, and the Lord in all his power decided it was going to snow that day.

My daughter patted me on the back. “It’s time, Mom.”

I looked to her face, realized how many wrinkles she’d accumulated, and realized that even my own child was old. I’d created something that was just fated to die, probably only 20 or 30 years after me, depending on if the world lasted. She was right – she was fucking right – but I didn’t want to let go. Al was just a crazy nut tin full of ashes, and…where did that leave me? He’d gone ahead of me, left me alone.

So I cried. I hugged the tin to my chest and refused to leave my seat until both my kids picked me up and forced me out. They tucked me into the car, a middle seat, and piled in on either side of me. Their spouses were in the back, and Al’s favorite grandchild drove us to the cemetary.

Stop looking at me like that. Favorites are inevitable.

We got out of the car. The cold bit into my ankles and I wished for better socks, socks like I could have worn back when I was young and my circulation was better. Back when they had nearly infinite materials to choose from. I walked through this “snow” to the hole in the ground where the preacher was.

I took a moment to look around at the crowd that had gathered. During the funeral at the church, where the preacher gave the sermon and I stumbled through my garbage eulogy that should have been better, I had been too distraught to look at who had come.

There were many faces, far too many to count. People from all over the world had come to celebrate Al. People of every color, nationality, language group – they were there! People from his old work, people from jobs he’d completed in dozens of countries. Everyone knew Al, and almost all of those people liked or admired him. He’d kept up with hundreds of contacts over the years.

And almost all of them were old.

Dying.

Many with genetic lines now extinguished.

And yet here they were.

Words were said, things were done, and I somehow forced my chilled fingers to place the nut tin into the hole. They covered it, said some more words, and I fell to my knees next to the hole. I didn’t care if my old bones never got me back up.

Bereaved guests offering condolences whispered in my ear. Some of the spouses of dead people understood, but they couldn’t help. There was nothing anyone could do for me now. Those whispers and sympathies given were sometimes memorable, but I don’t suppose you care about most of them.

Dani, as you probably suspected, was in that line. She folded her claw and thumb-like appendage over my shoulder. She said, “I didn’t know Mr. Worthington very well, but if you even loved him half as much as you do me, then he was a lucky guy.” She gave me a hug, and I felt the looseness of her exoskeleton near a molt. “If you ever need a place to put some extra love, I’ll come down to your office!”

I didn’t smile at the time. Even now, it’s hard to feel that pure, innocent desire quite the way Dani intended it.

Dani walked away. I took the opportunity to look around, both at the line waiting for their attempt to console the bereaving ancient and the straggling few walking down the hill to the parking lot. There were only a handfull of children, and we were a well-off family who had known plenty of well-to-do families. The old crones and fogies like me and Al far outnumbered the young. I had two great-grandchildren and hopes for a couple more, so my legacy would continue. Al’s legacy would continue.

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