The top of the stairs opens into a big room and the whole space is full of coffins.
My breath sticks in my chest. I hear myself make a sucking sound halfway between a gasp and a heave, but no one else seems to notice. There's nowhere to look and not see them. They’re hanging from the ceiling, mounted on the walls, displayed on stands in rows like some kind of death department in a store. There’s polished wood, metals that gleam like new change, velour and even some kind of white vinyl with studs that looks like it was recycled from an old car seat.
I close my eyes, but the image of the room is printed on the inside of my eyelids in swirling colors, like some kind of psychedelic negative. I open them again and try to take a deep breath.
Five minutes more, I tell myself. Five minutes was what my dad said when I didn’t want to get a needle, or go to the dentist. It’s what he said when I hid under my bed on the first day of kindergarten.
“Five minutes. Then if you don’t want to stay we’ll go for french fries.” And if I wanted to leave when the five minutes were up he’d say, “We’re already here. Let’s just stay for five more minutes and if you want to leave after that we’ll go get those fries.”
My dad could five-minutes-more me through almost anything. And after, we always ended up at Fern’s Diner sharing a big plate of fries with gravy on an over-sized yellow pressed-paper plate.
"D'Arcy." My mother motions me over to her.
"I think you'll be very satisfied with this," Mr. Rosborough says, as though we were going to take the...thing home with us.
Up close he gives off the scent of flowers and something else that seems familiar, but that I can't identify. The smell is sticky. It makes my head throb. I start to breathe through my mouth and try not to think about what that smell could be.
“What do you think?" Mom asks. The one they’re standing beside is storm cloud gray with some kind of space age polymer finish. The inside is lined with a shiny blue ruffled fabric, like a tacky tuxedo shirt.
Little sparkles of light are dancing around the edges of my vision. Yesterday my dad drove his car into the river that runs beside the old highway. How am I supposed to answer?
"It's nice," I tell her.