It has rained for two whole weeks and everything is soggy, damp, and wet.
Mr. Clemens lived in a tiny little one-room shack, down the road, and I pass by his place when I walked to Mrs. Hunnycutt’s house.
He was a skinny old man and a bit addled. He only talked with grunts and didn’t have any family that we knew of. I felt a little bit sorry for him.
Most people stayed away from him because he was strange, but he was my friend.
I spoke to him every time I passed his house and on the way back through, he would always run to the road and hand me a gift that he whittled with his old buck knife.
In the short time that I knew him, he whittled for me, a little dog, a seashell, a wooden cross, and a tiny little ring.
On Monday, he wasn’t sitting out on his front porch like he always did, and when I walked into the house, I saw that he was dead.
I ran over to Mrs. Hunnycutt’s house to let her know what happened and she said she would get her son to make him a casket.
I then stopped by Joe McNeely’s place and ask him to help me lay out Mr. Clemens’s corpse.
Joe came over and laid Mr. Clemens’s body on his kitchen table, and I brought a kettle of water to boil.
Joe told me that I should get a man or an older woman to do this job because it wasn’t the job for a young woman, but I told him that death was just a part of living and besides, I had helped lay out bodies for burial before.
Truth was, I didn’t think anyone else would do it.
Mr. Clemens hadn’t been dead long because his body wasn’t stiff yet, but I still needed I needed help removing his clothing so that I could wash him and get his body ready for burial.
I scrubbed his hands and feet and cleaned his fingers and toes, and then I wet his hair and combed it.
His eyes kept coming open, and I had to keep closing them. Joe finally suggested that I lay nickels on them to try and keep them closed.
The only clothes that Mr. Clemens had were the dirty ones that I removed from him, and I knew that if I didn’t get something on him quickly, it would be impossible to dress him.
I didn’t want to bury him in his worn-out, dirty clothes, so I ran back to my house and pulled out an old choir robe from my cedar chest.
It was way too big for him, but much nicer than those tattered rags that he always wore.
Mrs. Hunnycutt’s son had the casket finished that same evening.
It was a nice pine casket, and I thought it was fitting because it was the same wood that Mr. Clemens whittled all of my trinkets out of.
Joe and Mr. Efird dug the grave and got two more men to help set the casket in the ground.
The preacher couldn’t come, so we had a little funeral ourselves; me, Mr. and Mrs. Efird, Mrs. Hunnycutt and her son, and Joe McNeely.
We all said a few words and sang, “When the roll is called up yonder” and then the men filled in the grave.
It was the saddest funeral I’ve ever seen in my life because there was nobody there, who truly loved Mr. Clemens.
After all, he was once somebody’s baby.
Surely somebody loved him a long time ago.
After I got back home, I lined up all of the little wooden trinkets on the mantle, so that I could look at them and remember Mr. Clemens.