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Saying Goodbye to Uncle Lester



Bobby and Anne, ten and twelve, were never close with their Uncle Lester. To them, he was little more than the old man at the adult end of the Thanksgiving table who'd let out a foghorn of a belch at the end of the meal. Still, they wore solemn faces as the family gathered around his casket. Their mother had warned them to be respectful, especially Bobby.

"Remember that old Plymouth he owned?" Their grandfather was speaking. "He hardly ever drove it, but he'd wash and wax it every afternoon after church."

"I remember that car," Aunt Phyllis said. "He'd take the bus to work because he didn't want to give up such a good parking spot."

A few people chuckled, but mostly they sat upright in their chairs and nodded. "He looks good," said another relative, whose name neither Bobby nor Anne remembered. "I expect him to wake up and tell us a joke."

"I'm gonna miss him," someone said.

The room went silent except for a few sighs. Aunt Sylvia blew her nose.

"I guess his belching days are over," Bobby said.

Everyone turned towards him.

Anne shook her head and slid her chair away from her brother, making a high-pitched scraping sound. "I can't believe you just said that."

"Why? What's wrong with that? That's what I remember most about Uncle Lester."

Laughter began slowly. Then it floated around the room picking up intensity, like the wave at a ballpark. Within moments, all the relatives were recalling how Uncle Lester loved to belch.

"Remember the one he let out at our wedding? Just at the 'I do' part."

The laughter echoed in the small room.

"That's what we should have engraved on his tombstone," cousin Carl's voice boomed over the raucous laughter. "Best belcher in Brooklyn!"

Bobby turned to his sister and stuck out his tongue.

This story was written by Wayne Sheer, who has locked himself in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne's, not the turtle's.) To keep from going back to work, he's published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments. He's been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. His short story, “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film.
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