Sharon brushed her black dress flat as she sat on the funeral home sofa. She folded her hands in her lap and looked up at the casket of her departed Henry. Her relatives and well-wishing mourners shuffled about in the long weeping line in front of her. Sharon sighed and looked at their shoes. She wondered what she was going to do with all of Henry’s shoes. He liked good footwear and had more pairs of shoes than she. Over their 45 years of marriage he had amassed a collection. There were hiking shoes and walking shoes, dancing shoes and running shoes, painting shoes and slip-on shoes, tuxedo shoes and casual Friday shoes, and now the shoes he wore in the casket.
Sharon shifted on the lumpy funeral home sofa and felt a strange soreness in her back. She figured it was from the two hours of standing she did at the start of the wake as she greeted the early arriving mourners. Henry was a popular man and had so many in this world that would miss him. Sharon was past it. She had already come to terms with Henry dropping to his death at the shoe store. “Damn shoes,” thought Sharon.
Henry’s business partner, Dave Klapper, approached Sharon on the lumpy, uncomfortable funeral home sofa and reached his hands out to her. He kissed her on her cheek and expressed how very sorry he was for her loss and if there was anything she needed, not to hesitate to ask him. Sharon thanked him as politely as she could and he moved off to join his wife Carol. Carol had not offered any condolences to Sharon. She stood coldly as she waited for Dave to join her. Sharon assumed it was because of the affair she and Henry had so many years ago. Sharon had caught Carol and Henry having drunken sex in the laundry room of Dave’s house at a Halloween party just a year after she and Henry were married. Sharon was mortified and was ready to leave Henry that minute. He convinced her however that he thought Carol was Sharon and he was drunk and confused. She let herself believe the lie. She let herself believe all of Henry’s lies over the years.
The sad parade continued to funnel past Henry’s casket and Sharon was bored with it. She wasn’t numb or in any state of denial about Henry’s death, she was honestly bored with it. She decided she needed some fresh air. She stood from the sofa and mildly stretched her aching back. The crowd seemed to stifle as she moved toward the back door of the parlor. A few sad faced people stopped her as asked if she was alright. She smiled kindly and said she was doing just fine, she just wanted to get a little air as she felt it was a bit stuffy. A few offered to accompany her but she declined, saying that she really just wanted to be alone for a moment.
Sharon went to a side door of the funeral home and stepped outside into the crisp autumn evening. She rummaged through her purse and found her cigarettes and a lighter. It was a pack she had been saving for a very long time. Henry had forbade her smoking so long ago but now she realized she could once again do anything she liked. She had smoked in her twenties when she and Henry first met. It was actually at Dave Klapper’s first Halloween party.
She was dressed as Baby Jane from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? but perhaps a bit sexier. She actually felt very sexy that night and when Henry complimented her on her costume and later pressed up against her and felt her breasts she knew she would marry him. He was so kind then. He was dressed as Dracula. Not the most original of costumes, but he looked very handsome in it. He’d spared no expense on the costume though and it looked very authentic. Sharon and he started dating and were married a year later. One year after that she’d catch Henry in the first of his philandering.
Sharon lit the cigarette and took a long satisfying drag. She exhaled and a tiny smile pursed her lips. The wind was chilly and the moon was near full. She looked up and wondered if Henry was in heaven or if she had to forgive him for his failings first, before St. Peter would allow him through the Pearly Gates. He was never cruel to her, or outright mean, he was just a cheater and a liar. Sharon only put up with it because of the children and she didn’t have her own finances to sustain a life, at least the wealthy life, she’d grown accustomed to with Henry. He was very successful after all. She supposed that was why there were so many more business people at the wake than there were family members.
Their children, Max and Simone, were distant from her. She loved them, but she didn’t understand them. Max was supposed to be returning from Thailand for the wake but got delayed in customs. Simone was pregnant and couldn’t fly in from Seattle. They were taking the train, but it wasn’t scheduled to arrive till very late tomorrow. Sharon didn’t worry though. She may not understand her children; she at least knew they were resourceful. She’d tried to make them that at least.
“A beautiful night wouldn’t you say,” said a near-by voice.
Sharon turned and saw a young man in a dark gray suit. He was also smoking a cigarette. She hadn’t heard him approach.
“All things being considered, I would agree. It’s a lovely fall night,” said Sharon.
The man in the dark gray suit nodded and took a drag from his cigarette. Sharon noticed the length of his fingernails reflected in the glow of his cigarette and the almost full moon. She was not afraid. She knew right away.
“Are you here for me too, Death,” she asked.
“Why the shoe store? Why did he have to have a massive heart attack in a damn shoe store,” asked Sharon.
“It was his time,” said Death.
“Who decided? What celestial machinery made that determination?”
Death took another pull from his cigarette. Sharon thought she could see Death’s eyes, blood red reflect the glowing cigarette ember. The cigarette smelled terrible. It reeked of something rotten.
“You know I can’t tell you that,” said Death as he exhaled.
Smoke billowed out toward Sharon and snaked around her. She thought she heard the smoke hiss at her like an angry serpent.
“Well, I suppose so. He did love his shoes. I guess it was only fitting,” said Sharon.
Sharon tossed her spent cigarette toward the funeral home driveway.
“Is that supposed to be a pun? The spirit,” asked Sharon.
Sharon reached into her purse and took out a breath mint. She unwrapped it and popped it in her mouth. She then offered another mint to Death who politely declined.
“I suppose I should get back inside,” said Sharon.
Death opened the side door for Sharon and she stepped back in toward the funeral parlor and the body of her dead husband. She stopped after entering and turned back toward the door as it closed. Death was gone and all that lingered was smoke and a heavy sulfur smell. Sharon turned and headed back toward the lumpy, uncomfortable sofa and sat, flattening her black dress as she did.