Meanwhile, on earth..
Mother was in a schizophrenic state of catatonia, accompanied by severe catalepsy. She was so deep in shock that she completely froze up, in the most thorough of scenarios. No one was there to help assist her or the boys, so Henry, Caulfield and Edwin did their best.
She sat in her green, well-worn recliner. Her left foot was planted flat and the right one was up on her toe mounds, heal up off the floor. Both palms of both hands were up and open, with her right knuckles on her upper thigh and her left knuckles on her left knee. Her mouth was ajar and her glazed eyes remained open, glancing slightly downward. Dressed in her massive nightgown, the kids had fun taking turns decorating her. Currently, there was a rifle placed in her open hands and Christmas tinsel draped around her neck and head. The cat that should hate her with what’s left of its few lives, sat on her lap, tail wrapped around the shotgun, purring ever so gently.
This had been her state for two days now. Family would come and go, often speculating that she was faking it.
Driving home in their station wagon, packed with kids, Cousin Doreen mused to her obese husband Lance, “Well, she’s obviously acting. After all that trauma, I guess I kind of get it but considering the entire family witnessed the same horror, why aren’t we all drooling zombies?”
Lance scratched at his beard, fumbled with opening a Twinkie, took a bite then replied, “Ya, she’s a great actor. I remember when we were dating in high school and…” Doreen cut him off by clearing her throat loudly then saying, “Um, excuse me, Dad?” Her eyes darted back and forth to the backseat. In a whisper, she said, “You quit your friggin’ high school banter and you stop it now, Lanny!” And that was just one of the many judgmental family members untrusting of Mother’s state.
Henry, Caulfield and Edwin watched television for the most part over these days, also sensing Mother was faking and knowing she allowed them only limited viewing times. This was their way of sticking it to her, and also enjoying the fruits of television mind melting. The sweet bliss.
Occasionally, dialogue would break out amongst the vegging. “What do you suggest we do with Peter’s corpse, Hank?” Caulfield didn’t like the idea of it rotting in its box in the backyard. They had skillfully lifted the body back into the casket on the day of the funeral, but they left the lid off. It hadn’t rained since so they figured all was well.
Henry, still staring at the television screen, said, “I reckon we need to cremate it ‘cuz no one in this town can deal with another déjà vu job.”
Caulfield looked over at Edwin, then back to Henry. “And how in tarnation do we do that? You mean just us, like in the backyard?”
“Heck yes, Einstein. We ain’t got money for an official burning. I figure our bonfire pit is big enough. We put a big ol’ mess of cake pans and cookie sheets under the grill, you know… to catch the ashes.” Henry looked at his brothers, who looked baffled.
Edwin asked, “What do you mean ashes, Hank?”
Caulfield chimed in. “He means when Peter’s body burns. The leftover ash that was Peter.”
“Well, do we have to watch it burn?”
Caulfield questioned, “It??”
Edwin adjusted. “I mean him, I guess. He’s so dead. He doesn’t feel like a ‘him’ anymore.”
“I know what you mean, Eddie.” Henry spoke with a mild sneer.
There was a minute or so of silence. All that could be heard was the dull roar of the television and the cat purring on Mother. Then Caulfield broke the quiet. “Okay. Let’s go do it now.”
They all stood up in unison. Henry and Caulfield found the pans and Edwin grabbed the propane torch. Edwin also picked up a bible that was sitting on the coffee table beside Mother.
They all filed outside and approached the pine box, as reverently as possible. One by one, they peered inside. Their brother was still there, but he appeared greasy and pale. Bloated and dirty. An ant scurried across his cheek and the three boys shuddered simultaneously. Little Edwin reached out and smacked the corpse’s cheek, missing the insect completely.