A convoy of three black vehicles plows through the MDW traffic. Of all the days to have a funeral, this just had to be the one. If there had been clouds, or hail, or just a little bit of thunder, it would have been fine. If a train had crashed, a plane had fallen from the sky, if there had just been something to make the world realize that today isn’t just another happy spring day, this would be bearable. Instead, outside the passenger window, the sun smiles on the blossoming spring with golden light. You sit at the front of the trailing limo, half of your sad family behind you, your face buried in your hand.
“Ever seen such weather for a funeral?”
“Every week,” the driver replies, not taking his eyes off the road.
He cruises the freeway, calm and professional. He introduced himself as Manny, but his nametag says Emmanuel. You wonder why he doesn’t just get a new one. He was soft spoken when he gave his calculated condolences to the family, but you detected an apathy that said: your mother may have just died, but to me, this is business.
You recline in the limo’s leather seat. It’s black, like the rest of the interior. Behind your back, your family mutters softly amongst themselves. You feel hot.
“Anyone mind if I lower the temp?” you ask, over your shoulder.
Your family responds softly in the negative, and then continues whispering in air-conditioned voices as you adjust the temperature from 71 to 70.
The limo ahead carries the other half of your family. Your Dad, brother, and sister are amongst them, leaving you in charge of the distant cousins, aunts, uncles. Leading the convoy is another black vehicle, elongated and deformed, which houses your Mom’s dead body.
The freeway splits a quarter mile ahead ‒ south towards the water or north back upstate. Manny follows the leading limo, going south, like everyone else. When the four lanes funnel into two, the congestion doubles. There must be an accident. The other cars notice the convoy and try to merge right to get out of the way, but the movement is so slow that the space is swallowed up faster than the cars can merge. Everyone is in your way.
The leading limo accelerates. A red VW weaves out of the right lane into the left to pass a van, then sneaks back in.
“Jesus! Can’t they see we’re mourning here?”
“There are many people on the road today.”
“And they’ve got the whole other lane.”
When Mom died, she went quick. You can’t really call it surprising, but it had still felt so sudden, so final, that you were all stunned. Dad had asked, “Is anyone ever ready?” in a rambling eulogy that tried to salvage meaning from her passing. He held Mom’s dying hand until the bitter end, even as he had been losing ground on the cancer front. There had been tears, of course, but he had seemed sort of relieved, once it was over.
As the cars in your lane pull ahead, the same VW bolts back from the right lane and wedges itself between the limos.
You reach across Manny, beating your hand against the horn.
“Do not touch the steering wheel, please.”
“Haven’t they seen a hearse before?!”
There is sweat on your collar. It bubbles up from your pores and beads around your neck, damp and sticky. You adjust the temp from 70 to 68.
“I understand why you are upset.”
Manny’s eyes never leave the road. His hands are steady at 10 and 2. The face he wears is neutral, though the ends of his lips taper up in a crude sort of half-smile.
“You have lost someone that matters to you. This is not easy. Some things seem to have no reason-”
“Like this asshole’s driving?”
“You wonder, how can God be so misunderstanding? How can he do this to me? But it is not for us to know the will of God.”
In the right lane, the cars are lined up to the bumper. There is movement, but it is a sort of perpetual inching, the empty spaces disappearing as soon as they appear.
“I promise that even though the people in these cars may not know your loss, they know what it’s like to lose-”
“Then they should DRIVE like it!”
Your fist bangs against the window. Fuck. Breathe. Look over your shoulder. Your relatives smile uneasily with their hands in their laps, their concern buried under the ugly silence.
“Everyone grieves in their own way,” you mumble, adjusting the climate from 68 to 66.
The convoy continues to trudge along as the cars crawl forward under the sun. You pass a truck plastered in the mug of a cartoon beaver with a big, toothy grin. He appears to be selling the generic brand of ice cream. You hate him immediately.
Ahead, on the freeway’s right shoulder, there are cop cars and service trucks. They are scattered around a pair of cars totaled against each other, parts strewn randomly from the crash-
The red VW suddenly breaks. You reach over Manny and slam on the horn. The distance between the cars evaporates. You cover your eyes as the people in the back of the car scream…
Metal collapses into metal.
The dashboard explodes in your face.
Manny shouts against the panic, but it’s too late.
You pull yourself out of the limo. The right lane swerves out of the way as you step into traffic. They honk their horns. It doesn’t matter. This bastard is going to pay. You storm towards the car-
The red door bursts outward. Inside, next to a panicked man drenched in sweat, is a very pregnant woman, very ready for delivery. Opening your mouth to speak-
“GODDAMMIT I’M GIVING BIRTH!!”
“LISTEN TO ME! IF YOU’RE NOT A FUCKING DOCTOR READY TO DELIVER MY BABY THIS SECOND, THEN GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY OR I’LL KILL YOU!!”
The red door slams and the car limps away. You watch it screech down the opening freeway, its bumper dragging from behind. It disappears over a hill before you turn around, facing the sunken hood of the limo and the cries of your family that escape through the windows. Looking back, the right lane is on your other side. The swerving cars continue to honk their horns, slowly making their way past the wreckage.
You look beyond the freeway. The view is nice. Fields of grain fading into rolling mountains. White fluffy clouds. Plenty of sun. Well, things could be worse: it could have rained.