Paul putt-putted her brow with two kisses and this seemed to me most fitting. Then, with some gargantuan and comedic effort, he clambered from the carpet, through the air to the bed and sat upon it, exhausted and pale in the candlelight. Paul peered into the compact, caught his breath and pouted.
Have a go, he says. He offers it to me. But, tutting, Caroline (tut) takes it (tut) from him (tut) and closes the lid, – tup.
She can’t stay here, her mouth says. She looks at me, she looks at Sam, she looks at Paul. We shake our heads slowly and a great peace envelopes the room and, when we are all almost within it, Paul, a skew in his voice, says, oh, it’s raining out there.
She can’t stay here. Not with us. Caroline includes all of us. Sally, too, I suppose. Sally stares at a space beyond Sam’s shoulder.
She loved the rain, says Paul.
Perfect. Sam draws his cloak about himself and this action seems to spur us three. We rose slowly from the floor, taking almost forever to get ready to go outside. They were going to be landing sometime soon, so we gathered at the window, pulling on fancy dress, gazing at the moon, as if we were going to see the module or indeed the men themselves on it.
We struggled her through the town in Sam’s cloak. A corner each.
It was a strange group of sodden mourners that gathered beneath the roar of the breakers. A tall creature in a cloak with a face of hair ministered to a girl struggling with an umbrella inverted above her as if it were trying to escape. Another one, Paul, he heard her call him, knelt in the sand in a mouse outfit and, unable to have made much of a grave with his felt paws in the hard sand (beyond bouldering the heavy serge and laying a brown and stinking wreath of seaweed down), wailed. The fourth was Knott’s eldest. He wore a plastic pirate patch and a tightly curled platinum hair piece; but Grinner would know him anywhere.
The town shimmered in the distance like the sand that gritted Sam’s mouth. He kept putting his hand to it. His tiny teeth, in the moonlight or the surf glow, glittered when he spoke.
Deeply beloved. Deeply. We. Are gathered here. Dearly gathered. Here. We are where we are gathered. Here. I gather. Wherever I gather. We are. Is. Is. Is.
Caroline slipped away giggling into the dark, saying, I need to pee.
We are gathered, I gather, to bid farewell to our friend. This! – He pointed down with a dramatic jabbing motion at the body on the sand as he rang the word. Paul, still banking sand, as best he could, up and onto his girlfriend in a mouse outfit, looked up and said, quite sadly,
Her name is Sally.
Yes, Sally, said Sam. He wiped an arm across his mouth and did a little dance, a shimmy move to bring himself together. This Sally. A moan rose up out of Paul and I giggled, it felt inappropriate, so I staggered off into the dark, too.
The surf crashed like glass into the sand. And, soon I was knee-deep in it and tumbling, and the funeral receded, replaced with a freezing roar. When I came to the surface again I could hear Caroline singing in a sharp voice behind me on the black beach ‘…Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue….’ The words blew first this way on the wind and then that, bouncing off the cliff face, thrown over the water, reeled back again. I laughed. The water thundered. Pulling and pushing me. Jesus, it was cold. I went under again.
Hallelujah! Shifting sand beneath. Stars smeared above. And there was the moon like an eye. How cold it must be up there, too.
This time, suddenly, somewhere up near the cliff face, I heard Sally’s voice. A voice from beyond. The world turned and I dropped to my knees and the water rushed me, cobalt, salty ice cream. Everything burned. Everything froze. I threw my arms heavenward and shouted the Lord’s name out to the moon and the frozen stars. There it was again.
Sally called out again. This time I caught it. Get me home, Paul. I’m frozen!
The vast wave rolled in and knocked me blind and under. The stones rolled over my palms and ribs, marbled my face. I fell through the water and, eventually, I staggered to my feet. I held out my arms and, spitting seawater and extolling the Lord, I cried. She is risen!