Full excerpt of One came home

So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister's first funeral and I knew it wasn't her last -- which is why I left. That's the long and short of it. 

But surely, you'd rather hear the long than the short.

At the moment of the above thought, I stood wedged between Ma and Grandfather Bolte. Ma seemed a statute in black except for the movement of her thumb and forefinger on a scrap of blue-green fabric. Grandfather Bolte sighed, adjusting the hat he held in front of his belly. Seeing the reverend on the other side of the six-oft hole reminded me that I was "sister of the deceased" -- a fancy title for someone who stands quietly, holds her tongue, and maintains a mournful attitude. But I could barely stay still. I was not in this situation by choice, and wore a borrowed black dress to boot. The collar clamped to my neck and the tension of the muslin between my shoulder blades suggested that if I let my arms fall to my sides, that dress would rip somewhere in the approximation of my armpits. So there I was sticking a finger down my collar, holding my arms out from my sides, and the meaner part of me thinking about walking out -- surely enough is enough. But Grandfather Bolte saved me from strangulation. He unbuttoned the top two buttons on that collar, and from somewhere deep in my depths came a patience I didn't know I possessed. I stayed. 

Don't misunderstand me -- a funeral is a funeral. Though my sister wasn't in that pine box, a body lay in it sure enough. Remember, I told myself many times during the reverend's eulogy, and then as people started shoveling dirt into that hole, that coffined body down there is dead. That's a d at the beginning and a d at the end. There's no forward or backward from "dead" and no breath either -- "dead" stops a person cold. It does not make that body your sister, but it is sad, sad news. 

The way I figured it, I'd survive this funeral and then I was free to go. 

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