Push the Button
Trapped. The stale air in the big, black car suggests hints of mildew and sorrow. I’ve never been claustrophobic, but this is too confining for a ten year old boy in an uncomfortable suit, pressed against the closed door by the brothers he’s been battling almost since they were born. We sat in church for almost an hour; now Dad and Mom and Grandma and the kids are stuck in here.
I want air and I don’t see a window crank. But this is a fancy car ... what does this do? It’s the first power window I’ve ever seen. Push the button; down it goes. I don’t notice Dad talking to the driver but I do see the window go back up.
I think, “It must be broke.” Push the button; down it goes.
Back up again.
“Leave it alone!” Dad voices it quietly, but I know the threat behind the tone.
“I’m hot!” I’m not really hot, but I don’t have the right words at hand.
Dad’s face softens. He’s figured out what I can’t say. “Don’t worry, Sonny. We’ll be there soon.”
He’s right. The black car winds along the narrow road, up and down the hills and through the trees in southeast Kansas City. We slow and turn off the road and up a paved track to the top of the hill. There sits a big cross, surrounded by stones and flowers.
It doesn’t all make sense and one thing really annoys me: Grandpa gets to go to heaven while I have to go to a stupid church, then sit in a stupid hot car in a stupid hot suit with my stupid little brothers. Finally, the car stops. The driver gets out and opens the backwards door.
So what if I have to sit and behave myself while Grandpa’s pastor talks and prays. I’m outside and I can see the trees, smell the flowers, and feel the breeze. I know that Grandpa’s not really there. I’ll never look in those wild, wonderful eyes again. But he won’t fight for air and cough all the time. (“Damn cigarettes!” he used to say, when he didn’t know I was listening.)
Now the pastor’s talking about dirt while he sprinkles it on the box. He stops and nods to the man in the nice suit who was talking with Dad and Grandma. The man reaches out and a motor hums. Grandpa’s box is disappearing.
Push the button; down he goes.