Finite

The funeral home had an odd smell to it. Rationally, Marie knew that the morticians did their work downstairs and behind closed doors. Still, though, she felt like the never-rotten scent of formaldehyde was tingling the inside of her nose.

Her stockings didn’t fit, and she felt them sliding down. Surreptitiously, she tried to grab the waistband and hoist them up through her scratchy black wool dress. Marie had almost gotten the nylons back into place when she felt a sharp elbow dig into her ribs.

Marie squeaked and turned around, coming face to face with her cousin’s angry stare. With just a look, the cousin sternly scolded Marie for fidgeting too much.

Rolling her eyes, Marie turned back to face the front of the line.

Funerals creeped Marie out, they made her hair stand on edge. Unconsciously, she tugged at the delicate gold chain and ring hanging around her neck in discomfort. On the rare occasion that she wasn’t wearing the necklace, she was known to rub her clavicle raw for lack of something to fidget with.

Peering out of the line Marie could see the funeral home director standing stiffly in the doorway, checking his pocket watch whenever he thought no one was looking. The service was running long.

Outside the windows the sun was setting, and orange light began to fill the room. Marie tugged harder at the chain around her neck. Though the line moved Marie dragged her feet, until her cousin prodded her forward.

Then, there was only one person in front of Marie. One of her distant uncles. He seemed pretty upset, she watched as his shoulders shook and a few quiet whimpers escaped. Marie felt like his pain was disingenuous. Did he even know her, talk to her more than the occasional holiday?

After a few melodramatic minutes her uncle finished his faux-mourning. He walked off towards the larger room, where there was a rapidly dwindling refreshments table.

And there it was. Marie felt her throat close as she considered the polished wood in front of her, set with the lid propped open. A dust mote flew into her windpipe, and she repressed the urge to start coughing. Another sharp cousin-elbow to her side, and Marie awkwardly stepped forward.

Marie walked up to the casket and peered inside. Time to say goodbye, she guessed.

The woman inside was old and shriveled, no amount of makeup could cover that up. Marie noted the crusty age spots dotting the woman’s face, her deflated thin lips, a protruding nose in a sunken face. Again, Marie smelled the tingling formaldehyde.

A shaft of orange sunlight hit the old woman’s face, though it wasn’t enough to make her beautiful again. Marie had begun twisting the ring on her necklace around and around, the metal chain straining against the pressure.

The light reflected off something on the old woman’s chest, and Marie leaned in closer to get a better look.

The chain around Marie’s neck snapped.

 

Posted 24 September 2018
Updated 4 December 2018

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