It Will Be Much Nicer to Have It at Home
“People don’t do it this way very much anymore,” Mama says, “but it will be much nicer to have it at home.”
So we put the coffee table in front of the piano, and Joe took the door off the kitchen pantry and we laid it across there, and Mama put a nice table cloth on top. Then Mama washed him as good as she could and dressed him in the suit he bought to wear when Aunt Bella died. He never even washed the shirt after he wore it that one time. It smelled a little musty, but Mama said if musty was all it was, we should be thankful.
Barbara came over from Jersey City. She went to cosmetology school for a semester. She quit after she fried all the hair off of a Negro woman trying to give her a permanent, but Barbara said she could do make-up OK. She brought her little paint box and after we got Grandpa all laid out on the door with his hands crossed across his chest, she painted him. He looked a little orange if you asked me, but nobody said a thing, because of Barbara. If anybody brought up the hair-frying incident, she cried, so nobody mentioned Grandpa’s brick-colored cheeks.
Some folks came by. Some brought flowers, still in their cellophane cones with that little pack of powder still rubber-banded to the stalks. That powder was supposed to make the flowers last longer, but as we didn’t even go to the trouble of putting the flowers in water, it didn’t make no difference.
It wasn’t that we didn’t want the flowers to last a long time—or that we didn’t appreciate the thought. But Grandma got this idea in her head that to fuss with them was not polite to the folks that brought them. Like you were telling them you didn’t think they were perfect enough just the way they were.
The police, or somebody, came to get Grandpa the next morning. I don’t know what they did with him after that. But before they come and took him, I went downstairs in the middle of the night, just to sit next to him and smell his musty shirt.
Frances Augusta Hogg lives and writes in Cuenca, Ecuador now, but she used to make bear costumes in New York and play in a bagpipe band in Michigan.