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The Bodies of Walton County: 1-800-BEN’S-COFFINS

I got two tickets to the Trump rally in Macon, planning to not go and stick him with two empty seats. But then I started thinking: What if I’d lived in 1935 Berlin and had the chance to see Hitler? 2018 me would be disappointed in 1935 me for missing the chance to witness the end game firsthand. I decided to go, and asked my friend to come with me.

But in the morning, my neighbor called. A woman in the community had died in the middle of the night. Could my husband, Ben, come over and help build the coffin?

I fed the chickens while the kids jumped on the trampoline. Between registering people to vote, canvassing and cashing all those checks from George Soros, it had been weeks since I’d spent a weekend morning at home. I stood in the garden and prayed for the woman. I was sad that she had died, but I felt like she had given me a gift: a chance to hit the reset button and think about the people who lived right here for a second. I felt grateful to live in a place where neighbors built coffins for each other. “Who will be around to build mine?” The fact that I thought things like this was why I never got invited to parties. “Probably David,” I decided. “He jogs.”    

“We can’t go to the Trump rally,” I told my friend.

My friend had come out as gay just the day before. What better way to celebrate being gay than to surround yourself on purpose with people who hate you? “Good,” she said. “Let’s go to StoryCorps instead.”

• • •

“We were supposed to go to the Trump rally in Macon,” I said, starting us off. The StoryCorps space was tiny, and giant microphones poked at our faces. The friendly recording person was sitting close enough to touch.

“But we couldn’t, because your neighbor died,” said my friend. “And your husband and neighbors… built her coffin? Is this a thing that…”

“That’s my neighborhood,” I said.

“Does Ben build coffins a lot?” asked my friend.

I shrugged. “Yeah, if what you want is a coffin, he will definitely build you one. Actually, this is a great way to advertise his nascent coffin business.”

“That you just now started for him,” said my friend.

“That’s right,” I said.

“Call 1-800-BEN’S-COFFINS,” said my friend, leaning into the mic.

• • •

Later that afternoon, Ben came home from the interment service, which was held two doors over in the woods behind the old church.

“How was it? How was the coffin?” I asked.

“It was good. I made friends with the hearse driver, from Batts and Bridges. He couldn’t get over the coffin, and the fact that we buried her ourselves, in the woods. He said it was like a movie.”

“It is like a movie. Most people don’t go like she did. Could you hear the kids shrieking and howling?” I pointed at the kids, who were running around in the yard, shrieking and howling.

“No,” said Ben, “But it would have been OK if we had.”

We sat on the back porch together as the day ended. I didn’t think about missing the rally. I thought about my neighbors out there in the darkening evening, getting their suppers, changing out of their church clothes. Their presence was a palpable, comforting weight.