I exited the car and stumbled through the gravel―to the spot where I buried my friend, Anthony, long ago; I knelt on his grave and reflected on our friendship. . . .
Anthony was a good guy, who never rushed into anything. Actually, he was quite slow. He loved to eat, always wore his little green hoody and was the keeper of my secrets. Most of his time was spent relaxing on his favorite rock with his little popped eyes closed. He never seemed to tire of listening to me―mostly complain about my brother Jim, six years older, whose favorite activity was annoying me.
I was devastated when Anthony died. Jim said I was responsible, but I was only eight. How could I know Anthony would inhale the toxic fumes from the ammonia I used to clean the rocks and windows in his little house?
Now, I had to make the biggest decision of my life―choosing an appropriate casket for Anthony! Mother suggested the penny match box that came with her cigarettes, but it was scratched from striking matches and just not good enough. Her suggestion sparked my idea for the perfect choice―which would not only be appropriate, it would be stunning―elegant―fit for a king; and it would take my entire weekly allowance to obtain it.
Jim appointed himself “Funeral Director in Abstention” (which meant he could tell me what to do, even though, he would not be attending). He claimed his prior plans to play pool with his buddies could not be changed. So, I tried to follow his instructions: “wear black, invite friends and most importantly, say something nice about the deceased before the burial.” I think he called it, “Giving the Lost Rice.”
My best friends, Mildred and Iris helped me with the preparations. Iris lined Anthony’s casket with the white cotton she took from her father’s Aspirin bottle and Mildred drew yellow tulips on his construction-paper blanket. I placed Anthony gently in the middle of his casket, the nickel match box I purchased from Dan’s store. I slid the top closed and sealed it with Scotch tape.
Mildred wore her Sunday-go-to-meetin’ dress, and Iris wore her black patent leather shoes. Well, she didn’t exactly wear them, but she did sneak them out of the house rolled up in her sweater and clutched them during the entire ceremony. She said she was only allowed to wear them to church. I, of course, wore all black (mother’s silk pajama top which hung to my ankles).
The three of us stood in a circle around the hole I had dug in my backyard. With bowed heads, we thanked Anthony for his friendship, placed our right hand over our hearts and recited “The Pledge of Allegiance.” As we finished, it started to rain and the hole quickly filled with muddy water. My friends and I were happy―we knew the watery grave would please Anthony―because turtles love water.
Now, he could swim his way into heaven!