Beneath the Trojans

by Kip Hanson

There's a train track runs through the place. It slices diagonally across the entrance, past the old stone arch then down around the back where the mausoleum sits brooding. Every four hours or so the Union Pacific roars on through with its loads of grain or Japanese cars or durable goods but this bothers no one; to be honest, nobody in the park really gives a shit when the U.P. comes or where it's going. On either side of the track lie lumpy borders of snow-covered ice, frozen and melted and frozen again until the bums that prowl the grave-sites can walk high above the rails, a crunchy sidewalk to nowhere. And off the track a ways in the sprawling port-wine shaped field of dirty white with its granite markers and blowing flower stalks sits an occasional pile of dirt next to a man-sized hole, waiting patiently for someone to come fill it back up again. On really cold nights, the dirt freezes up hard enough that in the morning the tractor stalls embarrassingly and they have to pay the bums a couple bucks to help chip the dirt loose so they can cover the poor schmuck lying quietly below.

On a gray day in late February, the third procession of the morning arrived at the gate to find the U.P. running later than usual. They had to wait, staring at the back of the hearse with their dead brother, son, nephew or cousin lying inside as the train rumbled slowly past. Mrs. Anderson, Trish to those who knew her well enough to breach her suburban defenses, sat rigidly in the front seat of the family wagon, waiting on the brink of a fragile sanity to bury the wrecked remains of her oldest child. Her husband Al sat behind the wheel, tentatively stroking the hand of the woman with whom he'd shared a bed but little else for the past twenty-three years. In the back seat, their remaining child Kyle bored holes in the back of his mother's hundred dollar perm and counted the minutes until he could go home, only to then start counting the days until he could move away from the whole mess. Finally the caboose winked past and the procession started up again, down the long curving driveway between skeletal, rattling trees to the pile of AstroTurf-covered dirt marked ANDERSON. As the car stopped, Al hurried around to extract his wife, his arm around her as the back door of the hearse swung open and their son slid out and her legs gave way beneath her. While the mourners shuffled along behind them, huddled against the cold like a grounded flock of crows, he dragged her across the ice toward the waiting chairs and the minister, the wreaths and the flowers, the gleaming wooden box containing their son.

As he watched his mother drop into her seat; watched her shoulders heave and noted the way the tears formed little rouge-colored icicles on her cheeks, Kyle thought about his brother's sock drawer. Two weeks ago he sneaked into his brother's room; had listened to Raymond's music and snooped through Raymond's stuff while soon-to-be-dead Raymond was away at work. And in the bottom of the sock drawer, filled with socks which would never grow holes, he'd found hidden three Playboys, an unopened box of Trojans, a small bag of weed, and finally the pistol and the box of shells which now sat locked away in the evidence room of the Bloomington Police Department. Kyle had taken the pistol out; he'd counted the bullets and spun the chamber and sighted along the shiny chrome barrel at Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band. In a fair imitation of Dirty Harry, he'd said "Make my day." And now, as he sat listening to his mother's ragged weeping and watched the dancing flakes of snow trickling down the wooden sides of his big brother's casket, he wondered if it hurt when Raymond pulled the trigger.

BIO: Kip lives in sunny Phoenix, where he wastes time chronicling the life of an exiled Nordic Warrior King at http://misterass.com. He’s been published in Bartleby Snopes, Every Day Fiction, Every Day Poets, Six Sentences, A Twist of Noir, and a few others, and also makes a few bucks on the side by writing boring technical articles (but don’t tell the IRS that). He writes to keep the flying monkeys away.