Excerpt: Wake

“God, I wish I didn’t have to do this!” Eric muttered. 

The windshield wipers beat a constant rhythm across the glass, almost hypnotic in their regularity.  Eric watched the drops of water disappear as the blades made their way across the windshield, only to reappear again after the wiper had passed.  Hundreds of them appeared in the matter of a second, only to be wiped clean again by the returning windshield wiper. 

Is that how it works?’ he wondered.  ‘We appear from nowhere, to be wiped off and reappear again, over and over and over?’

He shook his head to clear such thoughts from his mind.  ‘This is no time to be getting stupidly philosophical,’ he thought.  Surely if he wanted to get philosophical, he could have come up with something better than that. 

He watched the raindrops splashing into the many puddles that dotted the nearly empty parking lot.  They emptied out in streams that rushed toward the gutter, tiny torrents being pulled toward the storm drain.  He wished the rainwater would just wash him away too, down the drain, to reappear somewhere; anywhere but here. 

He sighed and looked at the stone building in front of him.  “Smith & Sons Funeral Home” the sign said.  There was a sidewalk from the parking lot to the dark wooden doors, which were framed by etched leaded glass lamps.  The heavy clouds made the day dark enough that the lights were shining.  A warm glow emanated from inside the building.  ‘How ironic,’ he thought. 

“I guess there’s no delaying anymore,” he said out-loud.  He was alone in the car, and there was no one in sight to see him talking to himself.  He saw his mother’s Lincoln parked near the front doors, his sister’s minivan parked next to it. 

He fastened the buttons of his overcoat, and pulled the collar up around his neck before stepping out into the damp February chill.  He put up his umbrella the second he stepped out of the car, and dashed toward the entrance. 

The front hall of the funeral home was wide and welcoming, decorated in warm colors of mauve and rose.  He shook the water off of his umbrella, then removed his overcoat and also shook the water from it.  He hung both on the nearly empty coat-rack nearby, smoothed his black suit, and took a deep breath before striding toward the parlor to the right.  There was a mirror on the wall just past the coat-rack, and he glanced into it as he passed by, making sure that the rain hadn’t displaced any of his carefully arranged blond hair. 

His mother was standing with the funeral director near the entrance to the parlor, wearing a long black dress that hung to the middle of her calves, with a white collar and white bands at the wrists.  She smiled weakly when she saw her son enter, and gave him a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek.  “Hi honey,” she said, her voice sounding a bit deeper than usual. 

“I’m sorry I’m late, Mama.”   

“That’s alright,” she replied with a kind smile.  “We still have 15 minutes before anyone is supposed to get here.”  She didn’t mention that he was supposed to have been there 45 minutes ago. 

“Mr. Smith, this is my son Eric,” she said, and the funeral director shook Eric’s hand. 

“I’m terribly sorry about your loss,” Mr. Smith said in that soothing funeral-director style. 

“Thank you,” Eric replied, his voice flat.  He wasn’t sure just how much of a loss it really was, at least to him.