A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2009, vol 5 no 1

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Renee Owen

Hattie's Funeral

The adults stand like stiffs in the darkened front room, no one sitting on Uncle Ralph's barely-used antique chairs. "A damn mausoleum," Uncle E.C. mutters to my father, between breathless puffs on his stinky cigar. I never once saw my grandma or grandpa in that fancy room. MeMaw spent her days in the kitchen, and PawPaw, the living room, with its worn recliners and their large bed. My father, one of the youngest, got stuck with a cot in the hall. The upstairs bedrooms were jammed full, what with eight kids, and the relatives my grandmother took in during the Depression. Over a dozen of them shared one tiny bathroom. She spent from dawn till dark cooking to make sure no one went hungry, not even the hobos. They marked the curb in front of her house with a chalk X, sign language to their brethren to go 'round back for a home-cooked meal.

Ball canning jars—
after butter beans
full of fireflies' light

The sickly sweet smell of too many flowers fills the house, as the cousins and I fight over one last piece of MeMaw's pound cake. PawPaw wanders from room to room, his confused eyes coming to rest at times on her empty snuff spittoon. At the funeral, my uncles all cry, which gives me the willies. That and my grandma's ghostly pale, cold body. I touch her flesh then jerk away and run out the door. The eldest aunt arches her eyebrows in protest, but my mother whispers, "Let her be. She's paid her respects."

For years, PawPaw cries at the mere mention of her name. To cheer him up, we play cards, just like we used to. Only now we stack the deck, to hear his whistle when we deal him the Rook.

from the front porch
the whoosh of rocking chairs
warm Virginia night

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