Friday, July 11, 2008

Entry #10

The Gray Ghost
by Beth Ostrander


The realization the last buffer between him and death is gone.. Shit, what’s he even doing at a funeral with all this death on display? Hell, death’s the star of the show here.

He stops halfway up the aisle, then half runs to a seat in the back, keeping his head down. This big, hulking man is reduced to a sobbing, shaking mass of nothing. He knows he’s the last brother left. He’s the spitting image of your dad. Seeing him is like seeing your dad alive, except for all that fear.

More people come stinking of body order and bad breath. The worse they smell, the closer they get.

Fat Aunt Mary who doesn’t bathe. Smells like she was boiled in sweat and onions. Of course, she grabs right on you and won’t let go. You can’t believe one person can smell this bad. This is what China smells like. You hate this dumb pile of flesh and her crazy-ass husband standing right behind her. Gawking. Waiting his turn. Hair standing straight up off his head like he just got a good whiff of his wife. He’s running some bullshit speech on your mom.

Something like, He’s better off now. All the alive people say that.

When Mary releases, you feel blessed.

Your father’s shell only a few feet away from you in that box made to look like his last motorcycle, the Gray Ghost. No open country roads here, Dad. Just peach Crayola crayon-colored cold skin and death.

33 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Great sensory detail here. And a creepy ending.

Sarah Hina said...

Ouch, this one hurt. But only because it felt so raw and authentic.

Great descriptive details here. I got a real sense of his alienation, and how distorting and cartoonish a funeral can be for some.

Strong, vivid writing, Beth! Great job.

BernardL said...

Gripping take on the picture.

Beth said...

Sarah, you're very perceptive. This was the first contest I took from my journal and not the pic itself, but my dad's motorcycle fit the bill for the bike. I needed something to break up the summer doldrums and don't expect to even place as this is personal journal writing and not a short fiction piece.

I always enjoy reading and voting though so didn't want to be out of the loop this time. =)

Thanks for the comments.

24crayons said...

I could smell your aunt there ;)

It was very descriptive with painful undertones... like withdrawn but in the midst of it all too!

JaneyV said...

I've been to funerals where the vampires descend to feed off the pain and sorrow. They always have clammy wet-fish handshakes. The emptiness of the loss is palpable here, the anger, the discomfort at being forced into this painful ritual with despicable odorous relatives - very real. The ending packed a real punch too. Well done!

Beth said...

Amy, I probably was watching this from a distance.

Janey, this was actually my own father's funeral and you're right about the way people act/behave. Funerals are such a surreal circus.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Very Flannery O'Connor-ish. Raw and in your face, and honest.

September said...

Interesting. I could see, smell, and feel this one. Good visuals.
I don't know if the mc is a child, and yet that is what I saw. Everyone wanting to "hug" you.
Ewww.
Interesting ending too....
The Gray Ghost being the motorcycle and the man.

Good job, Beth.

NYPinTA said...

My eyes are tearing from the imaginary smell of Aunt Mary. Hoooleeee. That was a vivid description.

Beth said...

Well, it was me in my 30's, but still everyone wanted to hug me. Blech is right.

MYPinTA, that really is my Aunt Mary and her husband. Boy, are they ever special to me.

Parabolist said...

Your truth is overwhelming in this piece. The description was flawless.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

Well narrated!

Though it leaves you cold,it's the ultimate truth of life.

Beth said...

Parabolist, I think that's the best comment I've ever received. I thank you very much for it.

Sameera, you can't get colder than dead, right? =)

Wannabe Writer said...

Good portrayal of what goes on in ones mind at a funeral. I could see it all as if I was there. -Rita

HavasuSharon said...

The finality here is palatable through your excellent use of the senses. I read a great deal of 'I should have ...' between the lines in this tale of loss.

Beth said...

Thanks, everyone. I just caught up on all my reading for this contest and now I'm back to that point where I have too many to vote for and no way to decide. LOL

Scott said...

I'm particularly enamored with your sentence structuring!

Lena said...

really a strong piece of writing. Very descriptive and makes you feel the atmosphere, as if one is there ..

Dottie said...

Hair standing straight up off his head like he just got a good whiff of his wife. - Beth, so incredibly vivid and good. You always deliver, but this is really spectacular. I like knowing the inspiration from your own life.

JR's Thumbprints said...

"This is what China smells like." Good description. Not only does it appeal to the sense of smell; it also appeals to the visual--a crowded funeral.

Beth said...

Thanks, everyone. Comments are always appreciated and I'll admit it, somewhat treasured. =)

JR, thanks for quoting that line.

Kathleen said...

I found this even harder to read, Beth, knowing it came from your journal and figuring out early on it was your father's funeral.

It was definitely chilling.

My relatives may drive me crazy, but I am thankful that none of them smell.

Ello said...

Beth, I know you said this picture was not good for you creatively but I have to say you nailed your descriptions and characters here. I felt like the character in sensory overload. To do that in 250 words is fantastic. Really.

strugglingwriter said...

The paragraph that began with "Fat Aunt Mary who doesn’t bathe." was awesome. Just awesome.

Paul

mr. schprock said...

This is one of those ones that make you want to douse your face with a glass of cold water right afterward.

Regarding Fat Aunt Mary: maybe he is better off now.

Nice job, Beth. You never spare the good stuff.

Beth said...

Thanks, everyone. The best part about these contests are the give and take. I love reading the comments and giving them. You get such a good sense of community here.

laughingwolf said...

nicely wrought, beth

Mr. T said...

Very raw and honest. I particularly liked the portrayal of the aunt. I can almost smell the putrid smell of her. Nicely written, Beth.

Aerin said...

"He knows he's the last brother left."

I'm from a big family, and this really struck my heart, imagining my own brothers some day.

The aunt - well, I know what you mean, but before I knew this was a personal journal, I would have thought you put her in there more as comic relief.

Thank you for sharing something so personal to you. :)

Aine said...

"peach Crayola crayon-colored cold skin"-- so true! Great description!

Funerals really are strange things, aren't they? Thanks for sharing your personal observations.

jason evans said...

The worse they smell, the closer they get...oh, how true. The connection at the end which exists above the horrible people was very well done. Good marks.

Paulette said...

Wonderful writing!