It was drizzling that Tuesday, a sullen, persistent skin-soaker that matched the mood of the funeral taking place in Liberton Kirk’s municipal cemetery. Everything was going to plan until Aunt Bella gave an unearthly shriek and threw herself into the open grave of her husband, trying frantically to prise the lid of the coffin open with bloodied nails. The rest of us gaped and stupidly looked on, struggling to come to grips with this one and only show of the closest thing to affection that we’d witnessed in their twenty-five year stretch together. You could have called it a loveless marriage on a good day but only if you were prepared to concede that it was a prison sentence on all the others.
She scrabbled uselessly at the coffin lid leaving bloody smears, her blonde hair loose from its chignon, mascara free-ranging all over her face. The too short, too tight skirt she’d been wearing had become rucked up in the fall and a hint of dark red underwear contrasted starkly with the black suit and rich brown of the freshly dug earth: a wound in tender flesh. It was the most tender side to Bella that I’d ever seen.
Uncle Monty looked like he was about to scramble down after her and paused as though thinking better of it when she started writhing where she sprawled, clutching her stomach and gagging as though she was about to vomit. I wondered for an irrational moment if we were going to be treated to an Alien type scene going on with Bella bursting open on the grave of her beloved.
But as always truth was stranger than fiction.
Two young guys I’d never seen before but would have been more than happy to meet later at the reception leapt down into the grave, manhandling the apparently stricken widow out of the grave and sat her down on a flat gravestone talking quietly to her, while she nodded and sobbed.
My mother gave me that look, rolling her eyes and twisting her face as she usually did when confronted with the excesses of others’ emotions.
So engrossed were we in this latest little family drama, that at first the muffled roars of rage from the coffin went unnoticed.
There was a loud snapping sound and the lid of the box sprang open…