I Won’t Lay Dave to Rest If He’s Naked | Kenny Mitchell
My father threatened to haunt me for eternity if I buried his corpse. I don’t know, it was about the chemicals they pump into your skin that weirded him out, or something like that. He was a man with leathery flesh who billowed at the gut, with tattoos disfigured by years of stretching skin. The urn I selected out of some strange sense of obligation seems unfitting for such a man; unless you think a hummingbird skittering above a patch of daylilies perfectly describes Dave. He definitely would not have approved. But hey, he’s dead. And I like hummingbirds. I didn’t put too much thought into the container my dad was going to chill in.
And I don’t see why it matters.
The urn is small in my lap. Surprisingly small. Small enough I’m questioning whether the crematorium gave me all of my dad. He was too broad-shouldered to fit in a fancy terracotta jar, even if he had returned to dust and ashes. They presented him to me in a translucent bag—a funeral suit too skimpy to properly honor the dead. As if Dave were naked. And now, Dave is clothed in a jar depicting the tiniest of birds.
As I amble up my driveway, sun setting, grasshoppers fluttering, I’m not quite sure I want to keep him. I don’t have storage space for an urn. I just moved out of his house, so my dad moving in posthumously is unsettling. I’ve already purchased the urn, and the crematorium did emphasize urns were nonrefundable. There’s no one else to take him. It would make a nice pot for a fern, maybe an aloe plant. I could replace my battered umbrella stand with it. No one needs to know.
It’s peaceful in my driveway. The birds chitter, and the grasshoppers are hissing, probably in response to their feathered predators. Dave’s favorite joke was about taking me on a trip to a nudist beach, so I could finally get some action. I could never understand him; he wore so many layers like it was frigid, and barriers were the only warmth he knew to embrace. He wore so many layers—
I start to pour my dad onto the concrete. Slowly at first, a sprinkle, but you can fit a lot of dust in tiny urns. I turn the jar upside down, disrobing him. I thought he’d flutter away with the breeze, but he just sits there, nude with no showmanship—fitting. I can somehow stomach the sight. A grasshopper lands on the pile of ash, small and mighty. From above, a starling glides to the earth with an open beak, swooping toward the grasshopper. The swoosh of the speckled wings spreads the ashes for me. The grasshopper, alive and well, is a few inches to the right. He escaped.
About the Author:
Kenny Mitchell (He/Him) is a third-year student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Airgonaut, JAKE, The Gorko Gazette, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Kenny drinks (inhales is a better word) an obscene amount of coffee and has been described as “the world’s most violent typist.” He (semi-occasionally) tweets @kennymwrites.