“I would assume the Landing is in his will.”
“No!” my cousin protested again. “You can’t will that! The Landing can’t be willed!”
Several people turned to stare at her and her companion elbowed her in the ribs. So much for being subtle.
“Well?” she pressed, voice dropping.
“He didn’t say. And it won’t be in the will if it can’t be willed.”
“Then why am I even here?” she asked. “If not for the Landing, there’s no reason to be here—no reason to pretend I cared about him.”
“I don’t quite think anyone cared about him.”
She shrugged, a silent agreement. “But the Landing,” she began again, “the Landing is passed to a direct blood relation.”
I shrugged too. I knew that. “But he had no children.”
She frowned. “Then who gets the Landing?”
“As if I know.”
“You were the closest thing to him.”
“Considering none of you made the effort.”
She opened her mouth to respond but I kept talking.
“And now all of you are after the same thing. The will or the Landing.”
“If I may,” the boyfriend said, leaning forward again. “You just said that you didn’t care about him either so why would you care if we cared?”
I avoided his gaze. Perhaps I cared about the deceased more than I liked to admit. I said nothing to that.
“Hey,” my uncle’s voice said again.
I held up a finger to my cousin, the classic sign that meant just a minute, to turn and speak to my uncle again.
“See that?” he asked once I was facing him.
He frowned and pointed to the front of the congregation. I peered around him. Beyond the raised platform, the coffin had been lowered into a hole in the ground. The head stone was small, unassuming, and unimpressive. A few men with shovels moved to heap fresh dirt onto the box. The funeral was almost over.
“The will,” my uncle said then, drawing my gaze back to him.
I was curious then. My cousin wanted the Landing. But what could be in the will that my uncle was so desperate to get? “What is it you want?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I mean, why are you so anxious to hear the will?”
He barked a laugh. “Are you crazy?” he asked. “Or stupid?”
“Probably both,” his wife replied as she turned around.
I didn’t respond.
“Don’t you know that he was loaded?” my uncle asked.
I nodded slowly and gave him a dismissive wave. My uncle and his wife turned back around. I stared at the back of his head for a moment, wondering which wires were crossed in his brain. All these people want are money and the Spiritual Landing of the Wise Ones. I watched as the gravediggers heaped more dirt into the hole. While they had all been members of his family—and mine—none of them were Wise Ones. Except me. Of course I had inherited the Landing. I could feel it even then, pressing against the edge of my consciousness as the spirits of the graveyard tried to break into our world.
Guarding the Landing would be a hard job. No wonder he died. Though, I was certain that the pressure of the Landing hadn’t been what had killed him. No. He would have died much sooner if it had.
To be wealthy and to guard the Landing. These people I called my family were anything but wise.
As the last shovel full of dirt was piled onto the fresh grave, I stood and began working my way to the end of the row. No one else moved, except maybe my cousin as she called after me, as I stepped into the aisle. I turned my back on the grave, a single tear sliding down my cheek. Rest well. I moved down the aisle of crisp white chairs, somehow out of place in the dreary graveyard. I would guard the Landing with my life. I wondered then if the spirits of Wise Ones, like him, ever approached the Landing. Maybe I’d get to see him again.
But then, most likely not. The spirits he had kept from our world all these years were bound to devour his spirit in anger or for revenge. His spirit would crumble to dust just like his bones would when freed from his decaying flesh. I paused at the end of the last row, next to an older woman that I was almost certain had to be my grandmother. I glanced over my shoulder, the small grave appearing to be only a loose pebble lost among the green grass. You won’t be forgotten.
B. Valdez 1.26.14