The Procession

Illustrated by Nick Taylor.
By David O’Boyle (Spring 2021) 

Two summer interns leaving for lunch saw the old man struggling and rushed to his aid. Their good faith did not translate into good luck. A wrong shimmy here and a wrong shimmy there brought the house of snacks down on Groldorf Sansidickery, killing him on impact. Before the mogul’s skin went cold, public attention shifted from the beloved billionaire’s life to his posthumous promise- that he would have an unforgettable funeral. 

End-of-life arrangements were kept to a minimum. No wake. No open casket. Just a three-mile funeral procession from the Carlyle Funeral Home on main to the Saint Adjutor graveyard just outside town. 

Attendees were struck by the initial modesty of the affair, and understandably so. On television, on talk radio, during award show cameos, all throughout his ninety plus years of public life, Groldorf foreshadowed the future event. ‘Anyone who misses it is a fool,’ he’d say to the press. Whenever an interviewer asked a tough question, they’d follow up with an, ‘I’m still invited, right?’
‘Of course,’ Groldorf would say. ‘If you want it, there’s a hole right next to me for you.’ 

It was an odd phrase for an unmarried man to use, especially since he grew up an orphan. If not for Groldorf’s customary dry delivery, the response could easily depress listener. But the interviewers, like everyone else, weren’t interested in talks about holes in the Sansidinkery ‘family’ plot- not unless the holes contained coin rather than bodies. They were interested in an unforgettable experience, and after that, maybe a gift or two to take home for a rainy day. 

Time for experiencing the unforgettable was running out. 

The gates of St. Adjutor opened for the hearse. Crowds of onlookers, many travel-worn from journeys beginning on opposite ends of the globe, lumbered to the sidewalk so the vehicle towing Groldorf could pass. Then the gates closed. The hearse climbed over a ridge inside the cemetery and disappeared. Thirty minutes later the gates opened again for the living.

By the time the procession reached his grave, Groldorf was already in the ground. Rather than leave a pyramid or mausoleum for posterity, the mogul marked his final resting place with a freshly planted oak tree sapling and two objects, each covered by a red satin sheet.
Some words were spoken. Nobody listened. Everyone looked at their watches, contemplating exit strategies. For the first time, the century’s P.T. Barnum had overpromised and underdelivered.   

The undertaker, a frequent surfer on the waves of disappointment, glided forward to remove the two red satin sheets. When he did, he unveiled two rectangular stone tablets made of blue sapphire. Bored into each stone were five commandments. 

Disinterest shifted to shock. 

The undertaker spoke. This time everyone listened.  

They are what they seem. The late Groldorf Sansidickery found them during a secret archaeological dig in West Jerusalem. For many years the Ten Commandments were his. Now they belong to his estate. Before you pay your final respects, I refer you to the second tablet, specifically the Eighth Commandment, which reads ‘Thou shall not steal.’

The undertaker paused, then continued.  

With that in mind, Mr. Sansidickery wished to inform you that buried in the hole next to his, underneath the oak sapling, in nothing but soil, is all of his worldly wealth, in cash. To quote the decedent, it is a ‘pretty big fucking hole.’

The tomb and the surrounding area will remain unguarded by all but the Commandments. Mr. Sansidickery asked that you respect his property.
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