The Wise Ones (Part One)

A man spoke at the front of the crowd. His voice was quiet and refused to carry more than two feet away from him. The words didn’t matter anyway. A few devout people strained as they tried to hear him. They would never hear the words over the conversations of their neighbors.

People all around the gathered congregation carried out their own private conversations. It was as though the mourners were divided into their own pockets of society.

Death is supposed to bring people together. I shook my head at the notion as I listened to the cousin I had barely met ramble on about unimportant particulars in the row just behind me. It wasn’t as though she knew the deceased any better than anyone else. I scowled.

A man in front of me turned around. I recognized him as an uncle on the other side of my family as the cousin behind me, though I couldn’t remember his name. I knew him about as well as I knew my cousin—or anyone else that was present for that matter.

“Hey,” he said, voice coming out in a raspy whisper.

“What do you want?”

“When do you think we’ll get to the will?” he asked.

I frowned. Is that the only reason why so many of these has-beens even bothered to show up? “They haven’t even buried the body.”

My uncle scowled. “You have to do that first?” he demanded. “What has this world come to? Back when my father died, the undertaker sent a post card to all members of the family, you know to let them know if they were in the will? Well, if we weren’t in the will, we didn’t bother to show up.”

I didn’t have to ask to know that he hadn’t been in his father’s will.

It was then that this uncle’s wife turned around. She was, of course, my aunt. I found myself wondering which one of the two I was actually related to. Perhaps it was neither. At least, they didn’t resemble other members of my family in the least bit. I frowned again.

“Oh come on, honey,” she told her husband. “He’s mourning, don’t be so blunt.”

“I wouldn’t exactly call it mourning.” I shrugged.

“Oh so you came for the will as well, dear?” the wife asked.

“I’m not shallow.”

My uncle frowned and snorted. “I see why they keep your kind separate,” he remarked before turning back around with a huff.

His wife batted her eye lashes at me almost apologetically before turning back to the front.

I sighed and turned my gaze back to the minister addressing the crowd. If anyone hadn’t known the deceased well, the minister hadn’t known him at all. So what gives you the right to speak at his funeral? He hadn’t even been a pious man. The thought of being buried with a church sermon would have made him laugh. I smirked at that. Laugh indeed. Maybe he is.

My shoulder was tapped on then and I turned around, jumping back instantly when my nose ended up being less than three inches from my noisy cousin’s.

“What’d he say?” she asked.

“Wanted to know when we can get to the will.”

“No, no,” she said. “Not your uncle. I mean . . . .” her voice trailed off.

I glanced over my shoulder to the coffin that had recently had the lid closed. The minister was no longer speaking either. Perhaps they were getting ready for the burial. I turned back to my cousin.

“Didn’t say anything about you.”

“Not about me!” She threw her hands into the air and shook her head.

The boy next to her leaned forward so that I could feel his breath against my cheek as he spoke. “About the Landing,” he whispered, eyes darting side to side to make sure no one heard him, before drawing back. He was a face that I didn’t even recognize. Perhaps he was my cousin’s boyfriend.

B. Valdez 1.26.14



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