I was across the street this morning, finishing up feeding and watering the cows when I saw a funeral van pull across the entrance to the pasture. I thought it might be our neighbor who runs a funeral home, stopping to ask me if I would consider selling our pygmy goat to a friend of his, whose own pygmy goat has recently been bereaved.
Turns out it was from an entirely different funeral home. They asked me if I knew a Mr.______.
I didn’t.
They said they had his body in the back, and they were late to the viewing already. They asked me if I knew where Henry Brandon Road was, and I said,”I can’t tell you for certain, but I know it’s up by the Virginia line. We drove up by there looking for a lost dog a few years ago. I tell you what: Follow me in the truck.” I knew where it was, I thought. We headed for Virginia. I was confident enough we’d get there in a couple of minutes, I even left the gate open to the sheep pasture on the other side of the road.
When we got to the crossroads where I thought it was, there was no sign for Henry Brandon road. Just Franklin Road both ways. I thought sure as hell that’s where it was, but maybe I was confused, and we headed further north, up to McGee’s Mill Road. They’d told me the viewing was on the North Carolina side, and while McGee’s starts in Virginia, it veers back southwesterly into NC pretty quick. “Maybe it’s that road where the bridge is always out and it’s closed to everything but local traffic”, I thought, but just in case, I pulled over and asked the guys in the funeral van if they had a cell phone. If there was the thinnest sliver of a signal out here, I’d call home and see if my wife could look it up on Google maps.
They had a phone, but no signal. The guy said “Check the screen. Them buttons don’t work half the damn time.”
While we were stopped there trying to dial again, another guy showed up and offered the use of his phone, and we tried that one.
Nope.
“We’ll ask the judge,” I said. An elderly former court of appeals justice lives not too far from here, one of those rare old-school black Republicans, who nevertheless, during the presidential campaign, prominently displayed an Obama sign in the yard of the large antebellum home where she and her caretaker live. I climbed the steps onto the portico up front and banged on the double screen doors outside the big main hallway entrance.
The guys in the van waited in the circular drive.
I realized that no elderly person or their caretaker would be anywhere near the front of that big old house this time of year, unless they happen to enjoy subsidizing the gambling habit of some Saudi millionaire, or were checking on the sides of beef that could be slowly aging there in nature’s meatlocker.
I ran around to the enclosed porch on the southern exposure, thinking they might be there, solarizing passively. After banging on the door for a minute or two, I realized they must be deep in the interior of the house, a good 90 feet away with the television cranked, and there was no way in hell they’d hear me unless I could scare up a bullhorn.
I was about to give up when I saw an elderly woman checking her mailbox across the street.
“Nah. I hardly go anywhere.”
We headed back the way we came, and I checked the signs again. I could have sworn it was near the turnoff for Waverly Plantation, but as one of the county commissioners told us, “You never know from one goddamn year to the next what the name of a road is going to be out your way. One family will come in with a petition to change it, and another one will threaten us with guns if we do.
It’s a feud out there all the damn time is what it is.That’s why I quit.”
I was just glad for the guys in the van that it wasn’t August, or that body would have been getting pretty ripe about now.
I saw another retiree wandering up the road by an old gas station straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. He looked like someone who could have been the proprietor of that store long about 1952.
“Uh. Nah. Sorry.”
I figured this was the part of the story where it turns out that somehow I’m the body in the back of the van, doomed for eternity to ride around while my soul is trying to find my own wake as punishment for never in my whole fucking life really knowing how to get anywhere, just putting the car in drive and letting off the brake in the faith I’d get there eventually.

At a stop sign, the van pulled up beside me, and I braced for the denoument.
“Where’s the post office, Hoss? They’ll probably know.”
“Good idea,” I said, wondering if my sheep had already gotten out and were scattered over the road ahead in big bloody tufts.
I gave them what I think are the directions to the post office.
Hope they made it to the viewing.

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