My Father Was Buried

My Father Was Buried

A Story by Michael Carr
"

Written for a Advanced Writing Class, emulation of George Saunders style, ended up kinda doing my own thing. Enjoy

"

My father was buried today. It was a quiet affair. The build up to the ceremony wasn’t particularly suspenseful for we’d been expecting it some time. But even though we knew what to expect and were prepared, we still didn’t expect it, and were certainly not prepared.

 

Not many people came. Not that many were invited. Perhaps they were unsure of the date, my father sent out so many different invitations. I didn’t expect to get particularly choked up. It was kind of what I’d imagined. I’m not sure what Mom expected.

 

When they lowered the box into the dirt there were a few sniffles. Don’t get me wrong, though we’d been through so many discussions and so many therapies and so many doctors’ visits, that’s not to say Mom didn’t cry. That’s not to say I did.

 

He came back six hours later.

 

***

 

“I like this one.”

“Really? It’s a little cramped, don’t you think?”

"Cramped is good, I won’t roll around too much.”

 

My father lay inside the open coffin. His hands rested across his chest, fingers joined together. His eyes fluttered a moment and he unclasped his hands to scratch the tip of his nose. He lifted his upper half from the box without struggle. His eyes remained shut. In that moment I pictured him draped in black, skin bleached white, baring fangs and hissing at the ambient lighting that filled the room. Then he turned around to adjust the fluffy contour-adjusted mini-pillow that clung to his neck and the image was ruined.

 

"It’s not like you’ll be lying in the back of a flatbed when we’re moving you.”

 

He rolled out of the box with a groan and readjusted

his suit. The wig he wore to cover the now vacant dome of his skull had shifted to the side. He straightened it with as much discression as a cheap wig allowed.

 

“I want this one, “ he said. He clicked the bell that sat beside the coffin selection.

 

A few minutes later and the portly gentleman who owned the funeral home poked his head out from beyond the nearby corridor. He wore a suit several times too small that cut his wrists, exposing a cornucopia of fat rolls. I wondered how much of our conversation he'd listened in on.

 

“Sir?” the gentleman said.

“I’ll take it.”

“Sir,” the gentleman said.

 

I leaned over the box and inspected the inside. A few scraps of wood lay at the foot of the coffin, chipped away from what I had to assume was extended use, though I was unsure how that could be. Someone had carved their name into the side of the wooden viewing panel.

 

“Dad, are you sure about this one?”

 

My father reached into his suit pocket and withdrew a black permanent sharpie. He popped the cap and bent down, scratching out the name and replacing it with his own.

 

“It’s mine."

 

***

 

There’s a silence when I get home.

 

I don’t know what to do. Mom is with her sister and brother-in-law and their fat child who smells like expired milk even though he’s lactose intolerant. I don’t enjoy their company, I prefer the silence of my apartment. I think there’s a word for that.

 

Right now I’m staring at the chair I’d promised my father over a month ago to repaint. There’s the ugly brown wallpaper that we put up before we got the news. My father always loved the design. I feel I should leave it up for his memory.

 

I take out the scraper.

 

The wallpaper’s almost off when my father appears. Honestly, it’s a bit of a shock, especially considering he bursts through the wallpaper on entrance.

 

“You know how much I liked that design.”

 

My screaming lasts for quite some time. I feel sorry for the neighbors. I can hear a broom beating against the ceiling of the floor below. I didn’t think people did that anymore. He attempts to calm me by placing his hands on my shoulders but the chilling feeling, coupled with the fact that they pass through me, doesn’t help.

 

“You’re like a ghost, right?” I ask.

 

My father shrugs. His hair spills across his eyes. Real hair, not one of his cheap wigs. Something to be grateful for.

 

“I suppose.”

“Alright then.”

 

I stop my work on the wallpaper and grab a pail of paint from the closet. I start on the chair as the two of us converse, I know how much he’d always hated that seat's color.

 

***

 

Dried leaves crushed between the hard ground and the rubber soles of my father’s dress shoes. He stomped the earth several times. His brow arched with the frown that formed.

 

He clapped his hands together and let out a shrill laugh. "Yeah…yeah, this is nice. Nice and strong. Be hard for any guys thinking of robbing my corpse.”

“What?” I asked.

"Corpse robbers, been a rash of them lately around the area, read about it in the paper.”

“You realize how hard it’ll be for us to dig the hole, right, how much time it’ll take?”

“Do you have stuff planned for later that day?”

“Thinking of consoling Mom.”

“Good.”

 

A bird let out a beautiful song that carried through the clearing. Sunlight shone down upon the stone that lay out before the outline of the future gravesite.

 

My father turned to me and spoke. “You know you don’t need to dig the hole yourself, right? I’m sure we could just pay the guys who work here to do it.”

“I know.”

 

Together we made our way back to the car. Nothing more was said.

 

***

 

“I noticed you didn’t cry today.”

 

It’s night now. My father’s back. He hovers a few feet over me. I can’t see through him, as one might expect, but he’s decided to accessorize on his journey back into this world. A think length of chain cracks along my headboard as he swings the line through the air and moans. The phantom link slinks itself along my skin. It’s quite cold as well.

 

“Did you want me to?” I ask.

My father replies, jingling his chains and speaking in an exaggerated tone, what I’d assumed was his attempt at humor. “Well. A little compassion would have been niiiiiice…”

“Why are you doing that?”

“It’s a contractual agreeeeement…”

 

I push the covers aside and slide my legs over the side of the bed. I unfold my reading glasses and return them to my face. The missing nose bridge scratches my skin.

 

“You need to get those fixxeeeeed…”

“Oh come on now.”

“I’m done. Big Man’s a stickler for cheap jokes.”

“Why are you still haunting me?”

 

The chains fade. His floating hair falls to his shoulders. He levitates his way across the room and plops himself back down on the chair I finished repainting a few hours previously.

 

Careful, that may still be wet,” I say without thinking.

“I don’t mind.”

“You know Mom misses you. Why don’t you visit her?”

 

He takes a while to reply. He doesn’t seem to want to.

 

“You can handle the stress,” he says.

“How are you so sure?”

“How am I so sure? You’re my son.”

“And how much longer will this be going on?”

He shakes his head and chuckles. “Not much longer, I’d think. You gotta promise me just one thing.”

I scoot down along the edge of my bed and rest my chin upon the back of my hand. “And that is?”

“Promise me you won’t screw up too bad.”

“I’ll try my best.”

"That’s all I ask.”

 

I notice I can see through him now, at least a bit better. The rungs of the chair’s back appear. The last strips of the ugly brown wallpaper I’ve yet to take down glare at me through his transparent suit and tie.

 

For a moment I think it’s just another one of his lame attempts at humor, but the fading doesn’t stop. I can barely see him now. His disembodied head bobs from side to side.

 

There’s a tear, I can feel it, running down my cheek. I know I should say something but only the worst words ever come.

 

“We should have had more of these talks,” I say.

My dad’s head nods. “We should’ve.” And then he’s gone.


© 2011 Michael Carr



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Reviews

That was a good story, I really enjoyed the humor and melancholy of it.

Posted 3 Years Ago


I really enjoyed reading this.

Posted 4 Years Ago


I can see the dad is leading the whole course that is inevitable; and the hardest thing is when its inevitable, ---mishel

Posted 5 Years Ago


Opening:

“My father was buried today.”

A great idea, but it could hook readers even more. The first line is the same as the title, so it has less of an impact to the readers because they read it twice.

Something like, “We buried him today.”

The readers still know who he is talking about because of the title of the story.

This re-word also avoids the use of the passive words like “was” and this improves the flow of the sentence.

Words like “is, was, were, am, had, have, are, be, been” and so on are passive words. They tell over show, and add no meaning to a sentence. Almost any sentence can be re-worded to drop these words without losing the meaning of the sentence.

For example, “It was a quiet affair.”

This too utilizes a passive word.
However, since most funerals are typically quiet, perhaps this whole sentence is unneeded to develop the scene.



“The build up to the ceremony wasn’t particularly suspenseful for we’d been expecting it some time.”

This is a great way to weave information into the story about the death. However, it could be even stronger if the sentence was compressed a little.

The phrasing of this makes it a little difficult to follow, as the word “build up” could almost refer to the ceremony itself until readers get to the end of that sentence.

Something like, “We expected this ceremony. The days before it held no suspense.”



“But even though we knew what to expect and were prepared, we still didn’t expect it, and were certainly not prepared.”

A great idea, but somewhat difficult to follow. Perhaps breaking this up into a few sentences will help clarify what is going on.
For example, something like, “We prepared for this. We knew what to expect. Even still, we didn’t expect it. We weren’t prepared.”

The shorter sentences add more impact to each idea, more emphasis on each point is is made.




Structure:


A lovely piece, but it does tend to leap between past and present tense. Past tense (some action has “happened”) is one that readers are used to reading.
Their eyes slide over words without any issues.

Present tense tends to cause little hitches, stops. If one switches between them, it can feel awkward to the readers, even if they can’t quite put their fingers on why it doesn’t feel right.

For example, “My screaming lasts” is in present tense, indicating that some action is happening/happens at the second that one’s eyes read it.

A past tense version of this could be, “My screaming lasted” which flows a little smoother because most of this work is dominated by the past tense.

The present tense stands out a little as unneeded.



“He came back six hours later.”

There is a slight confusion as to what this is referring to. This suggests that the future is occurring, but the scene after this is the choosing of the coffins which occurs before the man is laid in the ground.

Perhaps something instead like, “As if he’d stay there” which is a comment that the man’s son doesn’t believe that his father could stay dead in the ground and makes more sense before the jump in time.



“I feel I should leave it up for his memory.”

A great idea to contrast the sentence that occurs after it. However, words like “feel, hear, sense” don’t really give the reader what the character feels/hears/senses. This tends to simply announce that the character feels something. Simply dropping these words, and stating what the character sees and feels could suffice.
For example, “I should leave it up for his memory.”

Directly connecting to the character is acceptable in the first person perspective. It’s part of what makes the character so close to the readers.



Overall:
This was a real treasure and pleasure. I hope that my review can help to aid in this lovely work.
Please feel free to message me and contest any points made here, or to ask for more clarification.

~Melinda


Posted 6 Years Ago


Omg that was an amazing piece! I loved it a whole lot. i loved the context and the way it read

Posted 6 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

d****t...this one was humourous but bit at the heartstrings at the end. excellent work

Posted 6 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on March 11, 2011
Last Updated on March 11, 2011
Tags: family, buried, humor, loss, sad, drama, love

Author

Michael Carr
Michael Carr

Prosper, TX



About
My name is Michael Carr. I'm 20 years old now, god help me, attending UTD on a full ride scholarship in the Biology pre-Med program. IF YOU ARE READING THROUGH MY WORK FOR THE FIRST TIME, PLEASE HE.. more..

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