Rigor Mortis


No one wanted to believe Grandpa was really dead. So when his body shot straight up, torso poking out of the casket, the others rushed it, Eddie fumbling with his wrist, screaming, “There’s no pulse, no pulse” like he actually thought there’d be one. Only Theresa stayed in her chair, staring at her hands, slowly tracing the wrinkles of one with her fingertips from the other. She, you see, knew Grandpa had died sitting up.

She was there.

Just as the others were leaving, assured Grandpa would make it through the night, the old man had reached out and taken Theresa’s hand.

“He didn't want to worry you all,” she said, for Grandpa had seen the death angel. And as he cleaved to his eldest daughter, his other arm pointed. “I see it,” Theresa told him, looking toward the empty space. “It’s okay, Daddy. Go.”

And so he did, the fatigue across his face turning to curiosity, his eyes moving up then down.

“I wish I’d thought to move him,” Theresa later said, “do something before the rigor mortis sat in.” But instead she just stared at that empty space, at the place where her father had gone but she did not.

“Can you go to Heaven sitting down,” asked Eddie’s little boy, his father continuing to grapple with the body, attempting to unfold Grandpa.

“Five bucks he died that way on purpose,” said their sister, “just so he could do this.”

“Where’s the funeral home man,” Eddie grunted, “aren’t they supposed to handle this,” shoving and prodding while he swore under his breath.

Yet Theresa just sat there, looking at her hands, staring at her fingers and the space now in between them.  

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