Early in the evening, the young man goes with his best friend Ted to the calling hours at Seaside Memorial Funeral Home. Chris’s mother is sitting about three pews back from the casket next to a man. She is bone thin and wearing a gray pantsuit. The man must be her second husband. Her first husband died of cancer when Chris was in seventh grade. Chris did not get along with his stepfather—at least, that’s what the young man has heard. They were in family counseling near the end, the three of them.
About two weeks before Chris’s death, the young man’s girlfriend Ashlee told him Chris had tried to sell her speed after a National Honor Society meeting. She was also the one to call him on a Thursday in tears to say that Chris had died by suicide.
The casket is on a rostrum three steps up from the main floor. Overhead lighting spotlights it. The young man and Ted walk up the aisle, climb the steps, and step forward to the casket.
The casket is open.
Chris is in a dark suit, white shirt, and tie. He looks nothing like himself. His right cheek is swollen, almost as though a golf ball sits in it. Chunks of flesh-colored makeup are caked heavily on his eyes. His hairline looks uneven, and his hair looks fake. His lips are puffy and painted pink. Though not as swollen as the right, his left cheek is also swollen.
Ted makes the sign of the cross. The young man whispers a prayer. They turn together and walk down to Chris’s mother. She is teary-eyed and holding a tissue.
“Very sorry for your loss,” says the young man.
“Yes, ma’am,” says Ted.
Out in the parking lot, they are walking to the young man’s Caprice Classic when Ted says, “I’m sorry, but that was ridiculous.”
“He looks like crap. They did a terrible job on him.”
“You think so? You probably mess yourself up when you shoot yourself in the head.”
“Dude, my uncles run Memorial Garden. I’ve never seen a job so bad. Just inexcusable.”
“Seaside is supposed to be the best.”
“All I know is my uncles would never trot out a body like that. It’s horrible. They should be ashamed.”