The Glass Casket
By Matthew Kirkpatrick
And there were great parades. Confetti and fireworks, red, white, and blue, shattered the sky. And Grant unveiled Abraham’s glass casket, a slipper, a vase, a display case showing the shards of his skull arranged around his head like a crown.
And they will wait, some for days, to see him. They will stand in line and some will grow ill and die craving a glimpse of the corpse.
They will wait and when they see his face through the glass smudged from their oily fingertips they will say that inside he looks just like a painting, a portrait sleeping or simply closing his eyes behind a dirty window. So close, they will count his eyelashes and study the crevices in his face.
And they will imagine kissing his waxen lips to awaken him. They will imagine climbing inside and cradling his skull, covering the hole in his head, comforting him with their hands.
Some will yearn to straddle his long body and put a hand on his cheek and bury their face in the place where his neck meets his shoulder. They will inhale the fabric of his last coat and wonder why he already smells like something posed in a display at a museum, why he smells like a basement thing. Some will yearn to inspect him; they will move their hands around the hair on his temples to the back and fill the cavity with their spindly fingers.
And they grinned at the ribbon cutting. They will erect new monuments and rededicate old ones; they will carve new faces on the old statues. They will rewrite plaques and rename ships. They will polish the stone boots new and declare them all Abraham.
And they draped wreathes and bouquets of wild flowers. They carried potted plants and wrapped vines around their necks. They carried funeral cakes and deep pots of stew and jugs full of exotic oils to offer the body.
He will change his name to Abraham, and his children’s names to Abraham, and he will command them to name their children Abraham until all children will be named Abraham, though few will remember why.
He waited in line with the others and rubbed his hands together, anticipating the taste. There he will age, waiting, and there he will grow hungry and thin.
When the crumbs in his pocket are no longer enough to sustain him he will wake with the body, floating on calm waters in a glass boat to an unknown destination. And they will wait and fade together, sustained by each other’s flesh.
Matthew Kirkpatrick is the author of Light without Heat (FC2) and The Exiles, forthcoming from Ricochet Editions in 2013. He lives in Forest Park, IL.