Home > Things we Left behind

Things we Left behind
Author: Lucy Score


Funeral Burrito



he swing creaked rhythmically under me as I used a toe to push off against the porch floorboards. The chilly fingers of January slipped their way under the blanket and through the layers of my clothes. But the joke was on them because I was already frozen inside.

The droopy Christmas wreath on the proudly purple front door drew my eye.

I needed to take it down.

I needed to go back to work.

I needed to go back upstairs and put on the deodorant I’d forgotten.

Apparently, I needed to do a lot of things. All of them felt monumental, as if going back inside and climbing the stairs to my bedroom required the same amount of energy as trekking to the top of Everest.

Sorry, Knockemout. You’re just going to have to deal with a librarian with body odor.

I sucked a breath of razor-­sharp air into my lungs. It was funny how I needed to remind myself to do something as automatic as breathing. Grief had a way of infiltrating everything, even when you were prepared for it.

I lifted my dad’s Opposing Counsel’s Tears mug and took a fortifying sip of breakfast wine.

I would be spending the rest of the day in the cloying heat of Knock ’Em Stiff, Knockemout’s irreverently named funeral home. The funeral home’s thermostat never budged below seventy-­five degrees to accommodate the thinner blood of the elderly crowds it usually entertained.

My breath left me in a silver cloud. When it dissipated, my view of the house next door was restored.

It was a nondescript two-­story with beige siding and utilitarian landscaping.

To be fair, my whimsical Victorian made most homes look dull in comparison with its wraparound porch and unsubtle turret. But there was an emptiness to the place next door that made the contrast more notable. The only signs of life for more than a decade had been limited to the crew that came to maintain the yard and sporadic visits by its obnoxious owner.

I wondered why he hadn’t just sold it or burned it to the ground. Or whatever ridiculously wealthy men did to places that held shadows and secrets.

It annoyed me that he still owned it. That he still stayed there on occasion. Neither one of us wanted to be saddled with those memories. Neither one of us wanted to share a property line.

My front door opened, and out stepped my mother.

Karen Walton had always been beautiful to me. Even today, even with fresh grief painted on her face, she was still lovely.

“What do you think? Is it too much?” she asked, doing a slow twirl in her new little black dress. The dignified boatneck and long sleeves gave way to a flirty party skirt with dark tulle that sparkled. Her sleek blond bob was held back with a velvet headband.

My friend Lina had taken us shopping a few days ago to help us find our funeral outfits. My dress was a short, fitted ebony knit with pockets hidden in the seams of the skirt. It was beautiful and I was never going to wear it again.

“You look great. It’s perfect,” I assured her, lifting up a corner of the blanket in invitation.

She sat and patted my knee as I covered us both.

This swing had been at the center of our family forever. We’d congregated here for after-­school snacks and gossip. My parents met on this swing for a weekly year-­round happy hour. After the Thanksgiving dishes were done, we’d all lounge out here with our favorite books and cozy blankets.

I’d inherited the ridiculous beast of a home with its olive-­green, purple, and navy paint two years ago when my parents moved to DC to be closer to Dad’s doctors. I had always loved it. There was no other place on earth that would ever feel like home. But it was moments like this that made me realize that instead of growing, our family was getting smaller.

Mom blew out a breath. “Well, this sucks.”

“At least we look good while it sucks,” I pointed out.

“It’s the Walton way,” she agreed.

The front door opened again and my sister, Maeve, joined us. She wore a no-­nonsense black pantsuit and a wool coat, and she clutched a steaming mug of tea. She looked pretty as always, but tired. I made a mental note to harass her after the funeral to make sure nothing else was going on with her.

“Where’s Chloe?” Mom asked.

Maeve rolled her eyes. “She’s got it narrowed down to two outfits and told me she needed some time with each one before she could make her final decision,” she said, squeezing herself onto the cushion next to our mother.

My niece was a fashionista of the highest caliber. At least the highest caliber a twelve-­year-­old on a limited allowance in rural Virginia could achieve.

We rocked in silence for a few moments, each lost in our own memories.

“Remember when your father bought the Christmas tree that was so fat it couldn’t fit through the front door?” Mom asked, a smile in her tone.

“The beginning of our porch tree tradition,” Maeve recalled.

I felt a stab of guilt. I hadn’t put up a porch tree this Christmas. I hadn’t even put up an indoor tree. Just the now-­dead wreath I’d bought from Chloe’s school fundraiser. Cancer had made other plans for our family.

I would make up for it next Christmas, I decided. There would be life here. Family here. Laughter and cookies and alcohol and badly wrapped gifts.

That was what Dad had wanted. To know that life would go on even though we missed him terribly.

“I know your father was the pep talk giver,” Mom began. “But I promised him I’d do my best. So this is how it’s gonna go. We’re going to march into that funeral home and give him the best damn funeral this town has ever seen. We’re going to laugh and cry and remember how lucky we were to have had him for as long as we did.”

Maeve and I nodded, tears already welling in our eyes. I blinked them back. The last thing my mom or sister needed was to deal with a volcano of sad from me.

“Can I get a hell yeah?” Mom said.

“Hell yeah,” we answered in quavering voices.

Mom looked back and forth between us. “That was pathetic.”

“Geez. Sorry we’re not chipper enough about Dad’s funeral,” I said dryly.

Mom reached into a pocket in the skirt of her dress and produced a pink stainless-­steel flask. “This should help.”

“It’s 9:32 a.m.,” Maeve said.

“I’m drinking wine,” I countered, holding up my mug.

Mom handed my sister the ladylike flask. “As your father liked to say, ‘We can’t drink all day if we don’t start now.’”

Maeve sighed. “Fine. But if we’re going to start drinking now, we’re taking a Lyft to the funeral.”

“I’ll drink to that,” I agreed.

“Cheers, Dad,” she said and took a nip from the flask, wincing almost immediately.

Maeve handed back the flask, and Mom raised it in a silent toast.

The front door banged open again, and Chloe vaulted onto the porch. My niece was wearing patterned tights, purple satin shorts, and a ribbed turtleneck. Her hair was styled in two black puffs on top of her head. Maeve must have lost the makeup battle today, because Chloe’s eyelids were a deep shade of purple. “Do you think this will take too much attention away from Gramps?” she asked, striking a pose with her hands on her hips.

“Dear lord,” my sister muttered under her breath and stole the flask again.

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