To The Dead!
By Parson Thru
The two friends stood looking down into the grave as the first shovels of dirt clattered on the coffin lid.
“I tell you, if time keeps passing like this, we will soon both be dead.”
“I know, Carlos. I can see this with my own eyes. But what can we do?”
They watched as Miguel’s daughter was led away by her husband to a waiting car. They didn’t really know her. She barely knew her dead father and the funeral had been a sombre and quiet affair. Miguel would have wanted nothing more than this.
Javier turned and saw that his friend was looking intently at him.
“Why do you stare at me, you old fool?”
“I want to remember your face.”
“What? Are you crazy? You’ve seen me every day for the past year and a half. And I can’t even remember how many years we've known each other. Why do you need to remember my face? Are you losing your memory?”
Carlos merely smiled.
“I want to remember you, in case you are next to go into the box.”
Javier turned and walked away. Carlos took one last look in the hole and followed Javier towards the cemetery gate. He crossed himself secretly, hoping no one would see.
Behind them, the grave-diggers stood up and made ready to finish the job started by the few family mourners that bothered to turn up.
Soon, the friends were seated at a small round table outside a cafe on the edge of town. An empty seat remained at one point of the triangle.
“Hola! Carlos and Javier. How was the funeral?”
The waiter received only a shrug in return.
“Did the daughter show up?”
“Yes.” replied Javier. “She came with her husband.”
“And where is she now?”
Carlos waved a hand.
“Gone. Back to the city to count the money, I suppose.”
Javier rounded “Miguel had no money. You know as well as I do. He could barely feed himself. But she… She has enough money to feed us all. Did you not see the car they arrived in?”
“Maybe it was a funeral car.” offered the waiter. “Hired for the day.”
“No.” growled Javier. “She has enough for all of us. Enough to have given Miguel a decent roof over his head. He told me. She was ashamed of him – that’s the truth.” He spat on the dry earth.
“Hey Javier!” cried the waiter. “You’re not at home now. Watch your manners.”
“Be quiet, Juan, and bring three wines.”
The waiter shook his head and walked into the shade of the café.
Carlos played like a bored child with the ash-tray on the table, spinning it with his finger. Still staring at the ash-tray he said “Your eyes are blue. I never knew that.”
Javier pulled the brim of his hat down, ostensibly shading his eyes from the sun. “Then you must be blind. These are the same eyes I have always had.”
“Then what colour are mine?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. What does it matter?”
“It will matter if I am dead tomorrow and you can’t remember.”
“Jesus save me from this lunatic.” muttered Javier under his breath.
The waiter returned with the three tumblers of wine on a tray.
“Juan! What colour are Javier’s eyes?”
“I don’t know. Why does it matter?”
Javier shrugged his shoulders and kicked Carlos’ chair. “He is gone mad. Ever since the coffin went in the ground he asks these stupid questions.”
“It’s the grief, Javier. It affects people differently.”
“He thinks, now that Miguel is gone, that we will all die. Well I am going nowhere.”
The waiter set down the glasses, the third in front of the empty seat.
A gentle breeze blew the heat of the afternoon across the patio and into the faces of the men. The waiter mopped the sweat from the back of his neck with a towel.
A car drew up in the street and presently a man that the two recognised as one of the mourners walked into the café and sat at a table. Carlos and Javier shuffled their chairs slightly to get a better look. Javier pushed back the brim of his hat.
The waiter took the man’s order and disappeared.
The visitor looked across at the pair and noticed the full glass of wine between the two empty tumblers.
“Hola! Buenos dias!”
“Buenos dias!” replied the two in unison.
“I saw you at the funeral. Were you friends of Sr. Gonzalez?”
“We were his friends.” replied Javier, picking up the full tumbler and drinking from it. Carlos reached out and took the glass from him before he could drain it.
The waiter brought out a coffee and set it at the stranger’s table.
“Are you by any chance Carlos Sanchez and Roberto Javier Rodriguez?”
They nodded quietly.
“Roberto?” enquired Carlos. “How so?”
“Shut up!” snapped Javier.
“These are those two men.” said the waiter. “I can vouch for them.”
Javier flashed a look from under his brim.
“Are you a policeman?” asked the waiter, suddenly concerned at his thoughtlessness.
“No.” replied the stranger. “I am a lawyer, acting for the family.”
The waiter shuffled.
“There is a Will.”
Carlos spilt the wine, which ran down his chin and into his silvered stubble.
“A Will? But Miguel had no money. He told us. Have you not seen how he lived?”
“You will need to come to the reading on Friday at my firm’s chambers. I’ll leave you my card.”
He drank the coffee and dropped a small handful of coins in the dish, then laid his card on the table.
“Friday. Eleven o’clock, prompt. Sr. Gonzalez’ family have instructed me to honour his wishes to the letter. I must go. Adios!”
The two friends stood up awkwardly, rattling the wrought-iron table on the floor, and watched after the besuited man as he left and drove away.
“Three more wines, Juan.” Javier called to the waiter.
“And one for yourself.” called Carlos after him as he hurried into the darkness of the café.