Friday’s Story #6 — The End
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadethe me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou are with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The memorial service, the next day, was not particularly full. It was a smallish room with a nice oak table at the front. There were roughly 50 folding chairs arranged in rows, and there was a center aisle down the middle. The minister had been at the back of the room greeting people as they came in. Then he closed the door because it was time to start, and he went to the front of the room. The table was covered with half a dozen pictures of Scott, and the minister stood behind it to begin his sermon. I was not a religious person, but I knew Psalm 23 by heart. Everybody knows Psalm 23 by heart. It’s the prayer kids say before they go to bed. It’s the one everybody chants together and about which people feel good for having said something holy. The minister, as if exaggerating that he, too, knew it by heart, raised his chin a bit in the air as he chanted it with the rest of us. He seemed to be scanning the tops of our heads. He reminded me of Mussolini. We said Amen and sat down.
I didn’t know if the minister and Scott knew each other or if this was a hired guy who had studied up on Scott just before the service. I guess it didn’t matter. He seemed pretty convincing. The synopsis of Scott’s life was full of things I didn’t know. Scott was a sailor with no kids or wife. He was involved with the local historical society. He had uncovered an old civil war prison, buried in time, under a row of section 8 housing in town. Maybe he would be remembered for that. Was that the sort of thing people got their names attached to? I wondered what they were going to do with all the poor people now that there was a prison under them? Scott was a philanthropic guy too. He gave money to AIDS research and donated to Meals on Wheels. I donated to a local congressman once. Maybe Scott had been too good in his life, and God decided to recall him so the rest of us wouldn’t look so crummy by comparison. Larry had a glazed over look.
The table, behind which the minister was still talking about something, was covered with half a dozen pictures of Scott, a small bouquet of flowers, and a sextant. Scott’s family must have chosen the things to be displayed. The sextant seemed like a clever, and more conspicuous, version of the common compass theme. If he had been a woodsman then it might have been a compass. But, he was a sailor so it was a sextant. From what I’d been learning about Scott he probably knew just how to use one. Nobody knows how to use a sextant. I looked at Larry, and he was eyeballing the table too. I wondered if he wanted to filch a picture or the sextant. I wanted a picture because the sextant seemed contrived. At least the pictures were of Scott doing Scott sorts of things. I was pretty sure that his real sextant had been lost with him. You can’t very well use one if it isn’t with you. Maybe his family didn’t realize the irony when they decided on a sextant for decoration. They probably intended some metaphorical meaning, like Scott was navigating back to God or something. All I could think was that the poor guy was in such a rush to get out the door that he forgot his sextant and wound up getting lost at sea. The whole thing seemed like a cruel joke. But, I wasn’t holy. I’m sure I wasn’t expected to get it.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”
We chanted the Apostles Creed, which I did not know by heart, and the minister gave a benediction, and it was over. Larry and I stood and shook some hands and gave our condolences to the people who looked the saddest and to whom everyone else was giving condolences. We told his parents who we were, Scott’s old college roommates. I told them how I learned about the accident and that Larry and I felt a special bond with Scott because of our days in college together. They nodded and said they appreciated that we came, and I turned quickly toward the table and swiped the first picture I saw. I shoved it into my coat pocket and proceeded out the door. When I was training for the laundry business, my dad had taught me to be quick and efficient. People suspect you’ve been up to no good when you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. The picture was in my pocket and I headed out the door without looking back. Larry met me outside a few minutes later.
“Hey, what are we going to do about Scott,” he said.
“I got a picture. It’s in my coat.”
“Oh, I was going to try for the sextant.” Larry sounded a little beat.
“You could still go in and get it.”
“Nah, the picture is good. Now what?” He sounded unsure. “Want to get a drink?”
We took the picture to the liquor store, and we bought some plastic cups and a bottle of Dom. Then we went to the marina; it was about noon, and we paid a tour boat operator, a hundred bucks, to take us out for an hour. We cut the engines 15 minutes past the breakwater, and we drank the Champaign with the boat operator. Larry and I told him the whole story. We talked about it for a while, and when we were done reminiscing, we threw the picture, which turned out to be of Scott’s boat rather than of Scott, into the ocean. We drove on Interstate 80 back to Colorado. It took us a week, and we stopped along the way to take pictures and to talk.