A Funeral for Athiest Tree Huggers

By, Ashley Ellen

Sissy held your enormous yellow umbrella above you. The melancholy sky was replenishing the ground and giving life to a medium sized tree nearby. Thick rain pattered on a black mass of parasoled people that sulked to your left. You didn’t understand what was happening; you didn’t know why everyone was there. Sometimes Sissy’s hands would shake and the showers would sprinkle down your cheeks; though you weren’t entirely sure if the tears had come from Sissy or the sky. You reached up and tugged at the waist of Sissy’s gray coat with your icy hand. Her cloudy eyes gazed down at you and she cracked a smile that severed the fragile air.

You weren’t big enough to remember when Dadda said goodbye. You can’t even remember his face. All you knew of your father is the medium sized tree a few feet away. You remembered when you used to get sad when Mumma would leave for the night. She would never say, “goodbye,” she’d say, “I’ll see you soon, baby.” She always told you not to say, “buh bye,” but to say, “see soon Mumma, see soon.” You were good with your m’s and b’s and s’s, but t’s and u’s were tricky. You asked Mumma, “Why no buh bye?” And Mumma said, “Sammy, baby, goodbye is forever.” Atheist parents, you know.

A man holding a shovel was speaking to the cloud of people that hovered to your left, but his words were drowning in the downpour. As he leaned on the shovel, he pierced the ground near an array of yellow flowers and a tree seedling. His bald head was glistening and seemed to be a mirror for the dull sky. You watched him scoop a shallow mound of earth, a foot or so deep. Then he bent his soaking knees and planted the seedling firmly in the ground, restoring its hole with fresh soil. Sissy started convulsing. She let your shield fall and collapsed to the ground. You reached to recover the umbrella and held it above her. As you wrapped a tiny arm around her neck to reassure her. “Sissy, is okay. Sissy smile. Mumma be back soon!” Her mouth opened wide and she grasped her stomach as if she were in great agony, but uttered no sound. Then she clasped her arms around you and gripped you tight, rocking you like the sea. You maintained the umbrella well; you even took care to pull her long gray coat under the octagonal yellow wingspan so it did not get drenched from the torrent of rain.

Sissy’s long black hair hung loose against the paleness of her broken face. You wished at that moment your Mumma was there. Your Mumma was the only one in the world that could make Sissy smile. All she had to say was, “Sissy smile,” and everything would be okay.

After the black canopy disappeared to your left, it was just you and Sissy and the trees. When Sissy swept her hair to the left, turning her glassy eyes into yours, a gust of wind nearly knocked you to your knees. You shivered and your spine grew cold. Sissy grasped your shoulder, her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. “Sammy,” she paused, “it’s time to say goodbye to Mumma.”

“No say buh bye. Mumma be back soon.” You looked at the medium sized tree in front of you.

“No Sammy. Mumma will not be back. Mumma’s gone buh bye Sammy.” Sissy patted the soil around the seedling a yard away from Dadda.

You stared, unbelieving at the seedling in the mound of earth, and ran, crying, to hug your father. After you were entirely drenched, Sissy knelt down beside you. She placed her hand gently across your back and her forehead folded into a million new creases. “Sammy Smile,” she said as you watched her cheeks lift without shattering the sky. You opened your mouth, sobbing and wrapped your shiny limbs around her.

When you were tired of being wet, you tugged on her sleeve and gestured to the umbrella that lay lifeless on the earth. “Sissy, save the umbrella!” You shouted in perfect articulation. Sissy smiled her bright blue eyes at you and threw her sopping coat to the ground. She placed the umbrella in your outstretched hands and tossed you up towards the sky. You were so light that the umbrella nearly doubled as a parachute, floating you safely down to earth. Sissy grabbed your waist and set you on her shoulders. You spun the parasol in circles, bathing the ground in yellow light as the rain turned into a solid tunnel of glass.