Thursday, January 12, 2012
The banging noise filtered through the sound effects of the game, and just wouldn’t go away. Cody finally hit PAUSE, pulled on a pair of sweat pants, and went to see what was what.
Tim, Sara, Tina, and Kelly stood at the front door of his old house. “What the fuck?”
“Sondra’s funeral,” Tina said. “We thought you would want to pay your last respects.”
“To your wife,” Kelly added; Sara elbowed her.
“Aw, shit,” Cody said. “Yeah. I’ll be right out. Come on in. Or something.” He walked away, leaving the door open.
Tim shrugged, then walked in and gestured for the others to follow him. It smelled a little musty inside, but better than most of the houses in the subdivision. The others sat on the couch; Tim walked back to the bedroom.
“Hang on,” Cody said through the closed door, “almost ready.” Tim waited; Cody finally opened the door. His black jeans perfectly matched the black t-shirt; the shirt had a picture of a little boy holding a huge power plug, with the caption “SKILLET - COMATOSE.” The clothes Cody had worn the night before were piled at the foot of the bed with uncounted wet wipes. All looked bloody.
Tim refrained from commenting and looked at the screen; it showed an aerial view of a farm and several biplanes frozen in mid-air up ahead. “You playing something?”
“Barnstormer. It was Sondra’s favorite,” Cody said. “I just can’t get into the shooters right now. Not that I’m getting into this one, either.” The 8/8 in the corner of the display confirmed Cody’s assessment.
“Yeah. I can imagine.”
“No you can’t.” Cody gave Tim a defiant look.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Tim said, suppressing the urge to mention Rebecca, “but that’s not the point. Sondra deserves a proper send-off, and that means you have to be there. For her.”
“F— yeah.” Cody turned off the display, then the Playstation.
“Where did you get the console?”
“Neighbor kid had it,” Cody said. “He lived a few doors down. Not like he needs it anymore.”
“What about the generator?”
“One of those camping generators we had laying around. It’s enough to run the game, not much more, so I pretty much forgot about it until last night. Let me go shut it off.”
Reverend Patterson stood over Sondra’s body, wrapped in blankets and plastic packaging tape, lying in the open freezer that was now her coffin. “I’ve never conducted a funeral under these conditions,” he said, “but I’ll do what I can to honor the memory of our fallen hero.” Everyone in Laurel waited for him to continue.
Cody stood. “I’ll say a couple of things, if you don’t mind.”
Cody walked to the front and looked down at Sondra. He caressed her cold cheek, speaking too quietly for most to hear. “Sondra was… when the trucks came, and there were only three of us, I thought I was happy. The people at school who hated me, because I wasn’t like them, were gone. My mom and dad wanted me to be a different person, and they were gone too. Finally, I thought I could be who I wanted to be and not have to worry about anyone else.
“Then Sondra came. I don’t know what it was anymore… maybe it was the way she looked at me that kept me looking at her. But I knew one thing: I was in love. And she loved me back…” his face crumpled for a moment; he rubbed his eyes and continued. “And then I knew I was happy. I had a place here, and I had someone who loved me the way I am. What more could anyone want?
“But I guess… I guess there were people who hated the idea that someone might be happy. Or just not like them. They’re gone, but they took Sondra with them. And now… now I… I don’t know what I’m gonna do with myself.” He sank to the pavement and sobbed.
The preacher reached down and laid a hand on Cody’s shoulder. “Sondra was a hero, in the old sense of the word — her courage was superhuman, and some might say her ability with a gun was also superhuman. But she was also a hero in the sense that she was the one who saved the day for our community. Not just yesterday, but in the first days after chaos swallowed most of the human race.
“But there was more to Sondra than that. We honor her today not just for her heroic deeds, but for how she loved this community — and especially the love she had for her young groom. Had she lived, she would have no doubt been the mother of a new nation — as this young man may be destined to be the father of nations. So today, we consign the remains of Sondra Lucado-Sifko to the earth, along with the weapons of her enemies as befits a hero fallen in battle, but her soul has risen to join her Maker… and her memory will be before us, always.”
Cody stood. “Amen,” he muttered, and shuffled back to the others.
Delphinia worked her way from the back of the circle and approached the coffin. Her hood hid her face, but her slumped shoulders betrayed her sorrow. She looked down at Sondra and caressed her face, brushing back a wisp of hair a stray gust of wind had pushed out of place.
Caitlin, standing with her Jenn-mom, watched the Strange Lady. She looks so sad, she thought. I thought she didn’t like Sondra. But… I’m sad too. She must have been special, for Cody to love her like he did.
Delphinia removed her hood and ball cap; her golden hair cascaded to her shoulders. She looked at Cody, and he was lost in her eyes — a deep blue that could drown the world. Without realizing, he found himself approaching Sondra’s makeshift coffin again.
“Sondra,” she said, still looking at Cody across the freezer, “you were the first wife of the Father of Nations. Even though you bore no children, your deeds, your love for this young man, and his love for you, will be remembered through the centuries to come. Your story will be the root of legends for the new age.” Her voice rose, carrying to them all. “Thus says the Oracle: remember Sondra, all of you. Tell your stories to each other, and let them grow as stories do. Men of this place, remember her strength and bravery, that you do not claim such qualities as yours alone. Women of this place, do you likewise and strive to be like her. All of you, remember her love and devotion. Thus will you honor her memory.” She paused and looked down; Cody thought she was finished, but then she raised her face to the skies and sang. As at their wedding, it was breathtaking: a pure and clear soprano soared over them. Again, many swore that they heard it accompany itself.
True and brave, our fallen one,
Her final race has now been run
Take heart, all you who stand and mourn:
Her spirit has rose unto the Son.
She has gone, and we are left
We all mourn, we stand bereft
Our love, our light is gone away,
Taken by the cruelest theft.
In Heaven with her Father, dwells
Our fallen one, whose deeds we’ll tell
And as we mourn our loss below
We know with her soul all is well.
Rejoice, all people! Lift your face!
Our Sondra’s in a better place!
We shall see her once again,
When on Earth we’ve run our race!