A Final Farewell

A Final Farewell

A Story by Stanley R. Teater
"

Death usually brings sadness for the ones left behind. Sometimes it also opens their eyes.

"

Jake Barnhill’s father had asked that there be no funeral. His mother granted this last wish without hesitation  -  she had her husband cremated as quickly and cheaply as possible. “Funerals are for the living,” she said to Jake, “and I don’t want to mess with it any more than you do.” Since she had never bothered to ask Jake’s opinion about it the last part of her comment might seem surprising, but it didn’t surprise Jake. His mother never asked his opinion about anything. She barged through life, eyes straight ahead, cocksure of her own infallibility, expecting everyone else to either agree with her or get out of the way. Jake had spent most of his twenty-two years getting out of her way.

The ashes were put in a tin box with “Thurgood And Sons Funeral Home” printed on the top. Jake watched as Mr. Thurgood handed it to Ella Barnhill, and noticed that there was a look of genuine sorrow on his face. It was sorrow, Jake was certain, not for the death of a man he had never met, but for the fact that he had, despite a fervent sales pitch, failed to upgrade her to the “Prestige Service” or even the “Forever Cremation” package. As a result, Thurgood and Sons had made very little money. Jake’s mother accepted the box with shoulders erect, a look of well-practiced dignity on her face, and a single tear in the corner of one eye. She dabbed at it with a silk handkerchief, nodded to Mr. Thurgood, and walked away.

Once they were back in the car Jake’s mother turned to him. “I hope you don’t have any plans this afternoon,” she said. “We need to pay someone a visit.”  

“I took the whole day off.” 

“Good.”

“Who are we visiting?”

“Just drive south on the interstate. I’ll tell you where to get off when we get there. It’ll take about an hour.”

Jake turned on the ignition and drove off. The car was quiet, each of them lost in thought, she staring out the passenger side window, he tapping his thumb on the steering wheel as he maneuvered the car back and forth between lanes, passing slower cars, hurrying to get, where? The silence left him feeling uneasy and Jake reached down and switched on the radio. His mother immediately turned it back off. He sighed.

Growing up, Jake had often imagined that the hospital had made a mistake and accidentally switched him with another newborn, sending them both home with the wrong parents. During the holidays when he spent time with relatives, Jake would study them, seeking a familiar nose or similar build, some visual hint of kinship. He never found it. He had considered himself a freak, an accident of nature, a pale, blond, blue-eyed waif of a boy with two sturdy parents " a brown-eyed father with hair the color of coal and a green-eyed mother with flame-red hair. Once he even asked his father if he was adopted. His father just looked away and said, “Genetics can be funny sometimes.”

As a child Jake had been well and properly cared for. He never lacked for food or clothing or presents on his birthday. But there was no real affection. No tenderness. Smiles were very rare. He and his parents were distant, like they had only an address in common. At school Jake knew kids who had nightmarish lives and told tales of brutish, self-absorbed or drunken parents so he always tried to convince himself that, though certainly not ideal, his family life could be much much worse.

The morning after Jake’s high school graduation he and his parents sat down at the kitchen table. His mother had made what she called a “post-graduation celebration breakfast”.  It was Jake’s favorite, French toast with cinnamon apples and bacon.  After the meal, while his father cleared away the dirty dishes, his mother made an announcement. “Jake, now that you’ve left childhood behind, your father and I believe you need to take the next step. Independence.”

“Independence?” he asked.

“Yes. It’s time for you to be living on your own. You have thirty days to find a place. We can help with the deposit and the first month’s rent, can’t we, dear?” She glanced over her shoulder at her husband who was standing next to the sink staring out the window. He turned toward them and nodded.

“I see,” said Jake. “And what if I can’t find a place in thirty days?”

“Oh, you will,” his mother answered. “We have the utmost confidence in you.”

As Jake drove the car he thought back to that day and that first apartment, a one-room efficiency in the university area.  At first he had felt abandoned, but before long he began to enjoy the sense of freedom that came with making his own decisions. He hadn’t always made the right ones, but at least they were his.

Finally, the heavy silence in the car was broken. “This is the exit,” his mother said. She navigated for another ten minutes until she finally pointed and announced, “Here we are.” He pulled into the driveway of a pleasant little frame house in a middle class neighborhood.

His mother got out of the car and said, “Come with me.”

As they walked to the front porch, she took the top off of the can of ashes and handed it to Jake.  He looked at his mother quizzically.

“Ring the bell.” He did. A moment later the door was opened by a woman.

“You’ve always wanted him,” said Mrs. Barnhill in a calm cool voice. “Well, now you can have him.” She then threw the ashes in the woman’s face, turned and walked back toward the car. “Come along, Jake,” she called.

But Jake didn’t move. He couldn’t. He was frozen to the spot. He just stared at the thin blue-eyed woman as she brushed the ashes off her pale face and blonde hair. 

                       © 2016 Stanley R. Teater

                             All rights reserved

© 2016 Stanley R. Teater


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Reviews

pretty darn good story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Posted 4 Years Ago


A surprise ending to the amazing story. I liked how you set-up the final action in the story. You create good characters and realistic end. Thank you for sharing the outstanding story.
Coyote


Posted 4 Years Ago


Nice twist. I enjoyed reading this story, but it felt like a long build-up just for those last few lines. I suppose it does do well at "[opening] their eyes", as was the intended message of this story.

Posted 4 Years Ago


i enjoyed reading this great story..

Posted 4 Years Ago


I felt the moods and the intensity all through your words. Thank you!!

Posted 4 Years Ago


I hate to say it but this is written so well and although morbid, a super write with meaning. Valentine

Posted 4 Years Ago



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Added on August 30, 2016
Last Updated on September 7, 2016

Author

Stanley R. Teater
Stanley R. Teater

Cedar Park, TX



About
Writing fiction has always been a dream. After 36 years working in television station marketing and advertising I grew tired of writing 30-second commercials and promos. I retired and I now write fict.. more..

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