Remains by Dick Bentley
Gerald Hughes’ wife Gloria dies. Now he is alone. He kisses her hands and leaves the hospital room. A nurse runs after him.
“Sir, are you going to make arrangements for the deceased?”
“Then what do you want us to do with the body?”
“That’s not our job, sir.”
“Give it to science,” he shrugged.
“Sir, you’ll have to sign papers, legal papers. They take a while to draw up. Can you wait in the guest lounge?”
“I don’t have time.”
Hughes stepped into the elevator. He needed to see Flora as soon as possible.
Going down to the first floor he reflected on his marriage. It had to be counted a success, he thought. Of course, there was the problem with John McIntyre. Gerald Hughes sometimes thought that Gloria had had an affair with John McIntyre, but at other times he doubted it. McIntyre was too shy, too gracious to be considered an adulterer. Not like Flora, his friend, with whom he had shared hotel rooms many times.
A few months later, Gerald Hughes went to the cemetery to look for his wife’s grave. There was no grave, and it occurred to him that perhaps there had been no body to bury. Still, it was the family lot, and he could honor her memory by leaving some flowers somewhere, perhaps under the bushes.
After a few years had gone by, Gerald Hughes decided he had made a mistake. He wished he had made some marker where she was-or-was-not buried. But this cemetery was the burial site of most of the townspeople, so she must be in it somewhere. He paid a visit to the cemetery office and spoke to the Director.
The Director tapped lightly on the keys of his desktop computer. He studied the screen with a squint and shrugged. “Her name was Gloria Hughes?” He said, “It doesn’t come up on my screen. But I’ll keep trying.”
“The quicker the better,” Hughes said. He still regretted his behavior at the hospital, but he had been pressed for time, having made an appointment with Flora at a small hotel down the street.
One day the cemetery called him. The Director said, “Mr. Hughes, did you say your wife’s first name was Gloria? We have a Gloria, but she has no last name. She is buried in lot 47E. I doubt if a visit would establish her identity, but you’re welcome to visit.
Gerald Hughes drove to the cemetery and was given a map. The Director had carefully marked out the path to lot 47E. When Hughes first entered the lot he saw nothing but a field of gray gravestones. Gradually a headstone marked “Gloria” came to his attention. It seemed a lighter color than all the others, almost flesh-toned.
Then he noticed the stone next to it, practically on top of it. It read, “John McIntyre 1936-2016.” On the back of the stone were chiseled the words, “requiescat in pace.” He noticed the same words – requiescat in pace – carved on the back of the stone marked “Gloria.” Then he noticed, beneath the sign marking lot 47E, a brass plaque with the words, “McIntyre Family.”
He leaned against his cane, staring at the two stones. “So there they lie,” he thought, “death has brought us hideous truth. McIntyre the shy adulterer, with his decaying putz stuck — installed — in my wife’s rotting pudenda for all eternity.”
He rushed home, determined to find Flora, whether by internet or mutual friends. He could resume their relationship. Perhaps she had died by now, and was buried somewhere.
If so, he knew exactly what he would do.
Dick Bentley has published fiction, poetry, and memoir in over 260 magazines and anthologies on three continents. His books, Post-Freudian Dreaming and A General Theory of Desire, are available on Amazon. His new book, All Rise, contains, along with poems and short stories, samples of his inventive “wall poetry” —- poems that are displayed as part of paintings and graphic art. These fresh and unusual works have been shown in collections and art galleries.
Dick has served on the board of the Modern Poetry Association (now known as the Poetry Foundation). He’s a Pushcart Prize nominee and was prizewinner in the Paris Review/Paris Writers Workshop International Fiction Awards. In 2012 and 2013, Dick gave readings of his poetry at the famous Paris bistro, Au Chat Noir. Before teaching writing at the University of Massachusetts, Dick was Planning Director for the Boston Housing Authority. He is a Yale graduate with an MFA from Vermont College. For further information, visit his author website at: www.dickbentley.com.