Third Row - Sawyer Ames

            The knell rang out over the rooftops, and faded into the dark clouds that hung low, nearly swallowing up the very tip of the church steeple. The building seemed to list and sag, diminishing its once resolute appearance. It looked exhausted, like its years standing there should’ve ended long ago. Every passing hour the wide floorboards creaked louder, and the massive stained glass windows collected more dust.

            On the lawn behind the church that sloped into the graveyard which gave way to forest, a pastor with rounded shoulders held papers he read from in his gnarled and arthritic hands. The rows of people seated in front him looked steadily between him, and the casket draped in white flowers.

            “She was a strong girl; her fortitude through these trying times was evident to us all. This ability to remain strong for herself and others was highly laudable, it’s not a virtue many of us can claim to have.” His voice and presence were diminutive. His words hardly reached the mourners in the back row, who were most likely too caught up in their own eulogy and thoughts of her to listen to his.

            A man in the third row wasn’t caught up in his own gentle thoughts, or the pastor’s. He slouched in his chair with crossed arms, tapping his scuffed loafer against the metal frame of the chair in front of him. “Yes, her greatness was practically palpable. What am I saying? Was? It is, still,” he huffed under his breath. He turned to the woman next to him, who was dressed head to toe in black wool, back ramrod straight, “Can’t you feel it? Right now? Because I can. And it’s fucking awesome.” His breath reeked of liquor and there was a stain on his collar. The woman didn’t turn.

            The pastor continued. “Her death has cleaved us together in our grief. It has been a breach in every one of our lives, one that it will take an inconceivable amount of time to mend. Gradually, our first thoughts of her will shift to be of the happy memories--”

            “The happy memories. What happy memories? She was the harbinger of the full time profession of Being A Bitch. She’d rub some of that magic balm of hers on an open wound and then split it right open again. God. Wonder how many times she did that to me. At least twice.” His voice was just loud enough for the people immediately in front of and behind him to hear, but it was still getting louder. The woman next to him started to fidget.

            “Never did she utter a pernicious word--”

            He turned around, craning his neck to the graveyard below, wondering where she would go. He caught the eye of a woman one row back, and winked. Most people in his range tried to tune him out, others exchanged irritated looks. Giving any of their attention to him seemed nearly as disrespectful as his talking.

            The woman next to him cleared her throat, and rested her hand on his shoulder. He turned with a grin and she dug in her fingers. “Your intemperance and gall are a disgrace to this woman and everyone here. You need to stop.” Her voice was harsh. He tried to twist away from her hand, and she only held firmer.

            Leaning in close, he inhaled her perfume. “You’re just like her. I like it.” His rancid breath was hot against her cheek, even as he turned away to slouch in his seat again, and resume his tapping.