Fifty three people packed the pews of the small church on Sycamore Road, most of them dressed in their Sunday best, all tinted black. Black ties, black dresses and black veils, all for the man laying in the open casket at the head of the room.
“Marcus Steven Reynolds died at 27 years old, slightly drunk and walking with his best friend, Aaron Parker. Some might say he died doing what he loved. Marc might say he died doing what he barely tolerated, but he was always funny like that.” Aimee paused to dab a fat tear from the corner of her eye. Aaron sat in a pew in the back corner, away from other people, his head cradled on a pretty young woman’s shoulder. He giggled softly into her chest, his face a rictus of agony.
“Marc was the best man I knew. He used to say he hated people with every fiber of him, but I never saw a trace of it. He was the best listener I ever met, and never said an unkind word about anyone. I used to love our road trips together, he’d sit in the passenger seat and pretend we’d just flown off of a cliff, or something like that.” A few of the gathered mourners chuckled at that, many of them having experienced his frenzied attempts to draw laughter, from them. “He always knew exactly how the people around him were feeling, it was amazing. I barely had to walk into a room, and he just knew. I loved Marc. I . . .” Aimee’s too-red lips twisted as she tried to hold back tears, and failed. “I . . .”
The pastor stood, slowly placed his hands on her shoulders, and gave her a reassuring squeeze. His eyes held no light, no sympathy. This was a man doing his job. Regardless, Aimee seemed to take comfort in the gesture.
“I wish I had told him more,” the whisper ghosted from her lips, barely picked up by the microphone. The speakers transmitted the feeling, if not her actual words.
Aimee stepped away, and from those gathered, another young woman stood. Brev, wearing a bright pink-and-yellow sundress made her way to the front. She stepped lightly up the steps, her weight barely registering on the creaky carpeted stairs.
“Brev would like to say a few words now,” the pastor said. It seemed that the gathered mourners missed the joke.
Extreme Brevity placed her hands on the polished wood of the podium and ran her fingers over it, feeling the grain and seeming to forget where she was and why. Scattered attendees coughed, trying to bring her attention back to the task at hand. It didn’t work. It took her another two minutes of feeling the pulpit before she snapped back to reality.
“Marc didn’t talk much,” Brev said. She looked down, her eyes tracing the grain her fingers had only a moment before finished with. Every now and again her eyes darted to the casket and back to the podium, never for a moment touching the congregation. “I liked him.” Those brief words were enough for her. Brev nodded, smiled, and stepped lightly back down the stairs.
The pastor stood and approached the pulpit. He looked out at those gathered with a sigh, and opened his bible. The congregation listened to varying degrees as the pastor did his best to reassure them that Marc had moved on to a better place than this earth. Marc would have argued with him, even with all of these people gathered.
Aaron’s laughter turned genuine, if only for that moment. It surprised him that Marc wasn’t rolling over in his grave at the words spoken over him. Of course, he wasn’t there yet, but still.
“Yea,” he said, “though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for the lord is with me.” A lord Marc had never believed in. Aaron looked around the room to see those who knew him best squirm a little in their seats at that. In the back, sitting away from everyone else, there was a man he’d never met. He’d been at the bar a few days before, passed out in his own puke on the floor. Aaron wondered how he knew Marc, but didn’t spend much energy on it. The man was clearly in mourning, and didn’t need any more stress.
“In a few moments, we will close the casket for the final time, and proceed to the gravesite.” He cleared his throat. “Those wishing to say a final goodbye, please feel free to do so now.”
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