How Cold the Morning, How Heavy the Waltz

By Pat Foran

The mother and father stand, alone and together, above their dead son.

The dead son is on the floor, under a blanket that can’t keep him warm.

What we will do is take him downtown, the man from the funeral home says. Where our refrigerators are.

While the man is talking, music bursts from his breast pocket. A weightless waltz, a ferris wheel of a song, dipping in and out of time.

Daaaa da, da da

Daaaa da, da da

The man’s words rise and fall with the whirligig plinks, they rise and fall with the one-two-three one-two-threes. They rise and fall and float like a feather duster over the dead son.

The mother and father look at each other, they look at their son. They look at the man, who talks as he struggles to shut off his merry-go-round ringtone.

I’m sorry, he says.

The mother looks at the father. The father extends his hand. She looks at his fingers, watches them dangle.

The man from the funeral home says he likes to give families privacy before taking their loved ones downtown. He’ll wait in the other room.

Take your time, the man says.

The mother and father get down on the floor so they can be as close as they can to their son. The mother on his left, the father on his right.

The mother runs the fingers of her right hand through her son’s hair. She kisses his forehead, kisses it again, says I wish and I hope, says I am so grateful for you. She says she loves him and kisses him under both of his eyes.

With his left hand, the father gently touches his son’s left cheek. The cheek is cold as a grieving moon. Cold as unheld hands. Refrigerator cold. The father says to his son this world was so lucky to have you, says we were so lucky to love you. The father says he loves him and kisses his son’s forehead.

All set? asks the man.

The mother and father exhale and sigh and slowly pull themselves up and off the floor.

The man tells them it’s best if the family is not present when their loved one’s body is being retrieved, that they should step into the other room.

In the other room, the mother and father stand, alone and together. They hug uncertainly, then let go. They hug and let go. Hug and let go.

The mother and father try not to hear the sounds of retrieval, but they hear the front door open, they hear footsteps, they hear voices. They hear clanking.

They hear the merry-go-round. Plinks in 3/4 time.

Again? Shoot, they hear the man say.

The mother extends her hand, a May I have this dance? hand, to the father.

By the light of the cold morning sun, the father looks at the mother, he looks at her hand. He sings:

Daaaa da, da da

Daaaa da, da da

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Pat Foran is a writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, His work has appeared in Milk Candy Review, Okay Donkey, Little Fiction, WhiskeyPaper and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter at @pdforan.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Pen and Ink)

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