Home > Funerals for Horses(7)

Funerals for Horses(7)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

I walk a pattern, rolling out in ever-widening circles until I find another. I clear the grass aside to discover a knot of plastic tape still attached, as if the remainder had been carelessly torn away, with a little tail flapping in the breeze.

The tail contains bits of faded words: DO NOT CR

Within minutes I’ve paced off the four corners of the site. The fourth stick also contains a strip of police tape. It says: LINE DO N

I remember the first time I ever saw my brother Simon cry. We stood under a scrub oak, something like the one above me now, holding the little board box Simon had made for Andy. We were affording Andy his promised proper burial, the day after the police tape disappeared from around that tree.

“How do you cry, Simon?”

I was so in awe of him, the things he could do that seemed like foreign currency to me. Shoot baskets. Bench press seventy pounds. Cry.

“I don’t know,” he said, wiping his eyes and nose on his sleeve. “You just do.”

I bend now to touch the sun-bleached scrap of tape, afraid to walk into the rectangle of my brother’s misfortune.

How do you cry, Ella? You just do. But my stomach is tight, my head tingly, my eyes dry, and I just don’t.

I step inside, to the center of the area, now clean of my brother’s clothes, long since entered into evidence when a scruffy rider of the rails found himself in custody for attempting to pass Simon’s checks.

I sit down hard to ease my dizziness. The hawk screams at me.

I feel a sense of lightness, which is very much what I feared. I feel a release, an end to worldly tension, to remorse. I feel a letting go. I suppose this could mean two things. Simon has left this world. Or, wherever he is, Simon is happy.

If Simon has left this world, I will walk off the edge soon enough myself.

I hear DeeDee’s voice in my head, as I have often since Simon’s disappearance, as if she must speak louder with only one sibling to listen.

She says, but you wouldn’t be dead. Would you? Of course I would. Without Simon? Absolutely I would. What would I be without Simon?

I decide that, wherever Simon is now, he is happy.

THEN:

Our mother attended the funeral only because our father dressed and dragged her. He stood in the middle of her bedroom, supported her around the waist with one arm and slipped a black dress over her head with his free hand.

We only peeked in for brief moments at a time, skittering back and forth from living room to bedroom, wondering which was the worse spot to light.

In the living room was our father’s lady friend, and both halves of that term only loosely applied to Sheila, transfixed by the task of polishing her nails. She wore her hair piled on her head like an exotic dancer or a waitress, her skirt too short. Long after our father had loaded Mom into the passenger seat of his new car, Simon and I respectfully silent in the back seat, I pictured Sheila, long legs crossed, extending one hand with spread fingers, blowing on the wet polish.

“Isn’t this a lovely day for a wedding, Gabe?” our mother chirped as he pulled away from the curb.

“We’re not going to a wedding, Betty, we’re going to our daughter’s funeral.”

She turned her face to him, showing us her warm smile in profile. “This will be just like old times for us, won’t it, Gabe?”

She patted his cheek.

Our father said nothing, just shot Simon a sidewise glance, as if my brother had intentionally withheld details of our mother’s decline, as if it had always been Simon’s job to keep the measurements and tell the tales.

I retained only one detail of DeeDee’s memorial service. I felt I should remember every nuance as a way of proving I would never become my mother.

But only this one moment remained.

The rabbi, standing before the bereaved, announced that we gathered to mourn the tragic loss of Deborah Naomi Ginsberg.

Simon and I exchanged a glance.

Nobody, but nobody, called DeeDee “Deborah,” despite the fact that it was her given name. In DeeDee’s world, people could be maimed for lesser transgressions.

There was a time when I truly believed that I stood and offered the proper correction aloud, with such firm authority that the rabbi could hardly do other than to apologize to our sister’s lost soul. I ran it by Simon years later, who informed me, with tenderness, that we both sat frozen and lifeless, and uttered not so much as a peep.

I felt engulfed in hopelessness at that moment on my sister DeeDee’s behalf. Imagine DeeDee, of all people, forced to lie in a box and endure such insult without recourse. Surely death is the most helpless and irrevocable of states.

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