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TOPIC: Gravity

Gravity 8 months 4 weeks ago #3792666

  • danch
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Gravity

When old Mr.Ackerman slipped away in his sleep, many people from town and neighboring farms shuffled into the church on the hill, took their places in the pews, and heard the final words about his quiet life. A few stepped shyly to the pulpit and recounted their stories about the old man and the effect he had had on their lives. During each story, sad smiles could be seen spreading in the crowd and there was much sniffling and rustling of tissues as they were reminded of his passionate love of the game of golf and ice cream cones drizzled with caramel.

In a town that size, not everyone will regard you kindly though, and Mr. Peter Allman sat stiffly by his neighbors with nary a sad smile nor a sniffle. “Good riddance”, he thought to himself, basking in the knowledge that he would see more sunrises than his foolish neighbor had seen. He was also thinking about the fat brownies that he knew Phyllis and her sister Rose would unwrap at the reception after the grave-side service.

After Mr. Ackerman was laid properly to rest and the services were over, the group began arriving at the church hall where they would all cluster at tables and get on with the business of catching up on family news and town gossip. With everyone inside, the scene at the cemetery parking lot was bright and still, a beautiful day to meet the soil. Perhaps Mr. Chase, the funeral director, had left the parking brake off. Perhaps he had not, but for whatever reason, as the townspeople talked inside, the hearse began to slowly roll from its spot. The movement was almost imperceptible at first but gradually the big wagon picked up a bit of speed, its tires crunching in the gravel.

The hearse rolled though the lot, somehow missed all the parked cars, crossed the driveway and was soon on the road in front of the church. The engine was not running. There was no hand at the wheel. Only gravity seemed to pull the hearse away from the cemetery and towards the center of town. As the vehicle rolled slowly down the road, it sometimes crossed the center line, often cruising directly down the middle of the street, but usually stayed true to its lane. Startled motorists had to swerve from it occasionally and craned their necks to watch it glide by, but miraculously it collided with no other car.

It negotiated the gentle curve leading to town almost as if on rails, bumping sometimes onto the shoulder, but always returning to the asphalt. Only once did the car veer sharply from the road, smashing the mailbox in front of Peter Allman’s house, but then lurched back onto the road. Mr. Allman’s broken mailbox was flung into the flooded ditch he had been working to drain that very morning. Children in town thought they heard the jingle-jangle of the ice cream man and ran to the curb with dollar bills clutched in their little hands, but there was no sign of the familiar white truck. Instead they saw a long and low black wagon go coasting silently past.

There is only one traffic light in town and as the hearse approached, the light changed from red to green. The black wagon slowed to a crawl as it neared the signal and then stopped directly in front of the green light. A pickup truck stopped behind the hearse, laid on the horn, and finally pulled around. The irate driver leaned to glare at the wagon as he passed it but could not see through the dark tinted windows of the big long car. When the light turned red, the hearse began to move again, slowly at first but then gradually faster.

Plummer Road curves around the town’s golf course and the wagon soon arrived, making its way around the curves, tarrying just a bit as it passed the pond that had stolen so many dimpled balls. The car horn honked three times. Once past the pond and the golf course, the big dark vehicle again accelerated, weaving slowly from shoulder to shoulder as if tipsy. Reaching the incline just outside town, it slowed a bit due to the grade, then abruptly turned off the road, navigated the driveway of Stisson’s Ice Cream shop, and bumped gently to a stop at the curb.

Mr. Chase found his hearse still sitting there that evening. No one was in it. The doors were still locked. He scratched his head but decided not to bother Sheriff Ames with a report about the missing hearse. No harm seemed to have been done.

Peter Allman had to postpone draining his frontage ditch that day. Instead he drove to the lumber yard to get a four-by-four post and a new mailbox. He seethed inside at the good-for-nothing teenagers that he supposed had vandalized his property.

The good townspeople cleaned up the church hall and went to bed that night, somehow comforted by the familiarity of the services they had attended that day, though truly saddened about dear Mr. Ackerman. Phyllis and Rose were particularly pleased that all their brownies had been eaten, and both were too polite to mention to the other that they had noticed at the end of the afternoon that some of Betty Birch’s cherry cobbler still remained in its pan. Poor Betty, bless her heart. She was a good cook, there was no denying that, but maybe she needed to think about using just a tad more sugar.


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