PALLBEARER - melissa o. howley

Whenever anyone came to visit, my grandfather opened his kitchen cabinets and dragged everything out, everything he had to offer. He laid them out on his 1950s Formica countertop, trimmed in chrome and plastic. Stale moon pies and fig bars wrapped in sandwich baggies. Ginger snaps with no snap left, soft enough to bend. Milk from the ice box, colder than sleet, poured to the tippy-tops of jelly jars.

You received them with thanks, like communion. It’s been a hard fit for you. But you try. For instance, you’d never clutched a fish in your hand while it gasped, gills flaring; slick skin skidding over big chapped hands.  

The handsome man in sunglasses smiling outside of the funeral home made me think of you, but in reverse. Because this man did not seem comfortable in a suit.  The morning of my grandfather’s funeral, my father drove into Walmart to buy a tie. He bought two, and let you hash it out. Mr. Working Stiff. Mr. Pallbearer, bearing our load. Between my own grim cousins who barely spoke to you.

I pull over and cry—a thing like that.

Melissa O. Howley
Tallulah: My Autobiography
Tallulah Bankhead