Today is Karl Albert (with a French accent) the second’s great grandmother’s funeral. Caroline Albert was a survivor of the famous Titanic, the unsinkable sunken ship. She was able to claw her way out from among screaming women and children and loud cries from adult men to board an emergency life saving raft. Caroline made plans for her future, her daughter she was determined to have in order to carry on her legacy of leading a women’s rights activist community. She went on to have Karl’s father, Karl, who now works at the University of Idaho teaching Women’s Studies.
“Caroline will be in our hearts and may her wings soar higher than her love of adventure.” Karl read the yellow banner from the church pews. He found this ironic due to the fact that Gammy’s least favorite color was yellow and she was the opposite of religious. She had lost her faith in a god while she was sitting soaking wet in a life raft waiting to be rescued from the sunken Titanic. He followed after Gammy’s love of buddhism which was not to be put in the genre of religion.
Valence loudly entered the room with several potato chips in her mouth and placed a greasy hand on Karl’s shoulder. There was a large barbeque reception in the gathering hall of the ancient church, and Valence was a sucker for free buffets.They stared at Gammy in her small black casket. She was 5”6 as a young adult but somehow managed to let gravity shrink her down to 5”2. The casket looked cramped like Caroline’s toes were curled. He wondered if she would be comfortable enough. Karl’s parents had decided to go with the tasteful open casket. Caroline had died from a nose job gone terribly wrong, but when they were finished she looked better than Karl could have ever imagined her. Her orange spray tan was fresh and kept her from looking too grey. They had the morgue’s beautician do her nails and makeup. Karl was convinced for a good two minutes she was alive but in a deep sleep. He studied her chest, looking for the slightest movement.
“It really is too bad. She looks younger than she did twenty years ago. What a perfectly terrible accident. You know Bob, I cancelled my appointment at Dr. Keeler’s. I don’t want to end up like old Caroline here,” murmured an old lady in the pew behind them.
“I’d have to agree. Joan, your face looks perfectly lifted for my taste. Silly Caroline-- always finding ways to attract more attention to herself. Only this time she finally went too far!” hollered the old man next to Joan.
“Could you have some respect, please. That is his grandmother up there. She is dead. This is her funeral,” let out Val, stating the obvious with a terrible soured face and a greasy finger pointing at Karl’s constipated face. The grief from his grandmother’s death had left him with an outbreak of eye jarring pimples.
The old couple’s faces morphed into two cherry tomatoes. They stood up in a rush and hurried out of the room, the tennis balls on the end of their walkers thumping along with them.
“That was unnecessary babe. Gammy was the most crazy, attention seeking human being I have ever had the pleasure of being related to. Except for Uncle Norman who was a self-diagnosed schizophrenic,” said Karl. He nodded in agreement with himself. Valence left the room in a huff.
Karl has been self-conscious of his pale, slender body since he was fifteen. He has always made up for it in extremely vibrant narcissism which he had contracted from his father’s side of the family. He had been determined to lose weight even, or get a nose job (much like his grandmother), though he has always been quite happy with his bouncy baby face and matching button nose. He often found his body staring back at himself in the mirrors and windows of wherever he found himself, and each time he did he became more bored with his figure and face. He wondered how anyone could spend eighty years staring at the same face, age sprouting like spores of molding cheese. The fact that his favorite person in the world had just died, (himself being second, and Val as close third), confused Karl. He had often thought of death, as he was in love with the strange indie films he watched so often, so much filled with suicide. Karl started to imagine death, gazing blindly at the stained glass windows in the church. He saw the long hanging coat of black, ratty fabric ridden with the smell of mothballs and baby powder creep over the sunlight that had fallen over the room that had been keeping him warm. The overhang of the figure’s cold shadows taking sips out of his melting soul. Karl could hardly imagine the smothering sinkhole of frigid water his temporary life will melt into once he’s no longer a man of the living. He stood up abruptly and walked out the door. He turned himself around to walk back and leave a note in Caroline’s casket. He had written it twenty minutes before the funeral. It had heartfelt puns and risqué humor that only Gammy would appreciate.
He came to the realization that Caroline would never call him up on the phone to ask complex computer questions with simple answers and talk of the week’s events. Karl had a deep feeling of darkness. His spine started to rattle, his bones were moaning, and his head had just been impaled. Thoughts were oozing out of his frozen cracking body, slimy, yellowish, grim thoughts. He was not afraid of death. It had always been a topic of discussion while intoxicated with strangers at bars and the time he did one too many psychedelic mushrooms.
Karl is very talented at making irrational decisions. When he was fourteen, he set a match to a large box of Fourth of July fireworks, leaving his left ear completely deaf. He spent the next eleven years making more reckless decisions that would lead up to this very moment. Karl started to wonder what was after death. He wanted to know. He slid into Baby Blue, his 1986 Audi. Karl had always had an obsession for the 1980’s. He drove briskly to a small bridge over a small creek in a small park. Karl and his friends used to come to this small park in the 11th grade to drink large amounts of cheap beer under the small bridge. Once they we all too inebriated they would spend nights on end finding comfort on pillow shaped rocks and using ripped paper bags from the liquor store as blankets.
Karl parked his blue car in a patch on yellowing grass and sat in the car. He imagined the white noise rolling over his stiff body. He shivered as the silence stung his spine. He opened his glove compartment and collected a post-it note and random blue razzleberry crayon from an Italian restaurant. His nephew had left it behind.
He wrote “I am stuck in my head. I haven’t always been this sad. Just confused. With all the love in the world.” He signed his name with a curling K and rubbed the adhesive of the pink post it on the horn of the wheel. He walked slowly to the small bridge, as wide as a school bus but as tall as a three story house. He stepped over the sharp metal fence that held him back from an impact of death. He fell from a perfect swan dive, (he had taken diving lessons at his local YMCA when he was 12). A long beige hand caught a young and naïve Karl. He saw himself from an eagle’s eye view. Bouncing like a popcorn seed in a microwave, the palm stretching below as an elastic trampoline caught his small body from the impact of jagged boulders and stones.
Karl had just died, and lived his whole life over again in a span of 4 seconds. His mind had gained an abundance of clarity. He understood there is nothing to understand. Karl was no longer confused or distressed. Karl was content.