It was an odd sized casket with a flag draped over it. It was carried by four men in uniform, though it was hard to tell for sure from a distance what uniform it was, or even if they were all men. There wasn’t room for the usual six pallbearers due to the small size of the casket since it would have made for a comical service to have all six jammed together, shoulder-to-shoulder, crowding around an under-sized coffin. So the extra pallbearers were in the ranks of many others in uniform standing beside a small open grave. The officiant wore a robe instead of a uniform and must have said something because there was a long silence, then a burst of laughter.
The sombre mood had for a while lifted although there were some mourners whose cloaks of mourning been too heavy to be easily shed off for a while. A particular woman stood out. Her grayed hair packed tightly in a bun under a white hat. Her outfit- from the expensive looking skirt suit, to the pumps on her feet, the wristwatch which on a closer look was a Rolex, the jewellery around her neck all screamed money. Her stance was rigid. This was someone who learnt the art of dignified composure from the cradle. The hand that gripped the sparkling white handkerchief shook. The white handkerchief and the white veil covering the lower part of her face completed her all white ensemble. She was the only one in the crowd of mourners dressed in white. She raised a shaky hand to her lips, to muffle the sob threatening to break free. This was a woman in deep throes of grief.
The couple that stood beside her was similarly garbed but in black. It was obvious to any onlooker that they were the bereaved family. The man looked away from the casket and whispered to the young woman who nodded silently as she placed her hand on the elderly woman’s arm. The man turned and walked swiftly towards the cars parked by the entrance, to a black tinted 2020 Cadillac- another indication of wealth. This was no ordinary family.
A distance away, beside a monument of a child kneeling in prayer, stood a couple both dressed in black, their eyes shielded by dark lenses, the woman’s face completely covered with the net spilling from the hat she wore. The man was dressed in a black trench coat with the collars raised. Definitely, these two didn’t want to be identified.
Eyes shielded by the dark lenses watched the man walking briskly to the car, the trench coated man’s lips curled up in derision. He shook his head slightly as he felt pressure on his hand. His partner was drawing his attention. He turned towards her and she uttered one word. “Look.”
He looked and saw the men place the casket by the grave, one adjusting the flag so it didn’t slip off. As the men stepped back, his eyes caught the brief flash of hand of one of the pall bearers. He knew what it was. They had all held it one time or the other. It was a medal of bravery. He and these men had dined and laughed together often. A pity they had to be pall bearers today. They had dreams, dreams that didn’t include today but then life happened. The present curtain parted. It was four years ago.
N.B. Parapgraph 1 was a writing prompt for Owl Canyon Press Short Story Hackathon #4 (AKA Flashathon) 2020 and this piece was being developed to be submitted but eventually wasn’t submitted.
Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash
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