Field Of Grace- Bríon Hoban

Benjamin Gracefield was not the type of man to let a little thing like death get in the way of his instructions being followed. His sons would get their money, his will explained, provided they oblige his final request. His funeral would end with his coffin being opened up so that the entire community might gaze upon him one last time and dwell on the great respect he inspired.
The Gracefield brothers, in spite of the incident and everything they knew would follow, had never had it in them to defy their father.
“We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of our dearest friend, Benjamin Gracefield,” intones a suspiciously young priest. The church has rarely been so full this century. Overstuffed pews and crowded aisles underline the breath of the deceased patriarch’s influence. The young priest trembles as he thinks of the collection box.
“Get on with it,” mutters Jerimiah Gracefield. The eldest of the five brothers, Jerimiah is preparing his feigned outrage. It seems to him one of the Gracefields should lead the protestations lest accusations fall upon them. He determines it should be his role, being the eldest, and thus his father’s natural successor as patriarch.
His brother Benjamin II has come to a similar conclusion. How would it look if the newly ascendant CEO of Gracefield Motoring LLC did not blow a gasket when their shame is uncovered? It does not occur to him that Jerimiah would ever think it his own duty to fill their father’s role. Such a thought could never occur to Benjamin II.
“Our dear friend Benjamin was a truly righteous man,” drones the increasingly giddy priest. “I do not imagine that there are any such people in this world, even those among the fiercest of his competitors, who did not find themselves respecting him regardless.”
Noah Gracefield smiles sadly. The middle child is the only sibling unaware of the impending disaster, being the one tasked with taking care of their mother for the weekend, and thus the only one exerting effort to grieve his father. His brothers twitch all around him. His mother weeps quietly. Noah fills his head with thoughts of halcyon campfires and learning to shave.
“The second it’s open we run,” whispers Jacob Gracefield to his twin Isaac. “Mom will smell the guilt off us if we stay. The second it’s open we get the hell out of dodge.” Jacobs wipes the sweat from his brow with a greasy palm. He has not showered since the mishap with the coffin. The women occupying an adjacent pew have begun to notice the smell.
Isaac Gracefield says nothing in response. The calmer twin took a fistful of pills in preparation for the funeral. He could not say anything if he tried, but his feet are still working fine.
They had not been working fine the previous night. The wake begat drinking, the drinking begat more drinking, and the will clearly stated the body was to be moved to the church by Benjamin’s sons. Four of the five had loaded into the hearse. The four had sworn that to their dying day they would never utter a word about the sharp corner, the unlocked trunk, or the big black field where they searched and searched.
The procession continues. The priest eagerly watches the collections boxes make their journey. He pictures himself showered with gold. Prayers are repeated by a half-hearted congregation. The end is nigh. It is nearly time to open the coffin.
“We shall now take a moment to personally bid dear Benjamin farewell.” The congregation braces nervously. With a flourish the priest descends from the altar, circles the propped up mahogany chest, wrenches it open and hears the masses gasp.
The eldest Gracefield brothers spring to their feet and yell obscenities. The youngest brothers flee from the scene. Noah clutches his mother as they both stare in horror. The young priest looks inside and whimpers.
Benjamin Gracefield, respected pillar of the community, is missing his head.


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