It wasn’t a request, more like a requirement. You see I was only eight years old. Normally I felt no opposition to anything my Mother wanted of me. But this was different. We would be attending a funeral, my first. I instantly wanted no part of it. But I said nothing, apparently, the man who died was my Godfather. I did not remember him, did not know him. But it was important to my parents. I said nothing. I had no experience with death, not with a human anyway. I was in our backyard, there is a large redwood there. I was lying on the ground just staring at the sky as some children are wont to do. I was playing with a stick. I heard a thump behind me, something had fallen out of the tree. I sat up. Then stood. On the ground, near the roots of the tree was a bird. A Large Black Bird, it lay on its side, its other wing drew up weakly. I stood over it. In a moment it stopped moving altogether. I came close, I touched it with my stick. It did not move. It wasn’t a Raven, it was too small and its beak wasn’t thick enough. I turned him over with the stick. He was perfectly intact. His black feathers were flawless, I abandoned my caution, my curiosity taking precedent. I touched the bird, his beak and eyes were clean. His feet a solid grey-black. There was nothing wrong with this bird, nothing that I could see. I looked up into the redwood. It occurred to me then that I had no idea what made him dead. On the heels of that and even more frightening thought. I had no idea why or how he was alive in the first place. This was true for humans as well. My mother was a devout Christian and my father a fervent atheist. I was confident that neither of them knew for sure. The dirt under the tree was too hard. I dug up some soil under the dogwood also in our yard. I buried him there, crying. I didn’t tell my parents. They would try to explain the death to me, each in their own way. As time wore on I realized how little they actually knew.
The day came. My mother and I had rented a suit for me. She was tying the tie around my neck. It was dreadfully uncomfortable, still, I held my tongue. She finished, snapping her fingers. She stood and turned me toward the mirror. The black suit looked quite regal and formal. I smiled despite my discomfort. I put my index finger through the collar. My mother took my hand away. She told me not to touch it. My mother wore a long black dress, black stockings, her long straight hair laid at either side of her face. I don’t remember the car ride, I just remember being in the house. The parlor was large, the walls were painted a dark green. The hardwood floor was shining. People were speaking in groups and pairs. I looked up, my mother was speaking to a woman who was much older. They were speaking quite fondly, I decided not to pay attention to what they were saying. I can’t remember where my father was at this moment. I could see the coffin and the man lying in it, at a distance. I turned away. There was a man sitting behind me in a chair, he was staring at me. He had a drink in his hand. He was a large man, he had a square face and a thick handlebar mustache and eyebrows. He must have been tall because he looked somewhat like a daddy long legs sitting there. He smiled. I smiled back. He beckoned me over. I obeyed.
“Are you ok Kid?” The Man asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Did you know him?” He asked.
“He was my Godfather,” I said.
“But did you know him?” The Man asked.
I shook my head.
“Kid, I wasted my life, I always did what was expected of me and I was never happy.” The Man said.
I didn’t know what to say, so he continued.
“Follow your passions, fall in love, young man, please don’t compromise.” He said.
“Ok,” I said.
The Man finished his drink. He put it down on the side table. He got up. Yes, he was tall, 6.4 if I remember correctly. He walked to the front door and walked out. My mother put her hands on my shoulders. I looked up at her. She smiled.
“Time to pay our respects.” She messed my hair. She began to march me across the room. I wanted to jump out of my skin and run from my life. But we trudged forward to the coffin. I noticed that the coffin seemed quite long. My mother went down on her knees in front of the coffin. She brought me down to my knees as well. She crossed herself and began to pray. I put my hands together, but I couldn’t help but notice an ice tray under the coffin. Large chunks of ice gave off a smoky haze. Why ice? My mother opened her eyes and stood. I got up with her. We were close now to the body. He was very well preserved. My eyes widened. His handlebar mustache was thick as well as his eyebrows. The man I had spoken to just moments ago and the Dead-man were one and the same. My Godfather Claude.