Please Do Not Smoke at the Funeral by Robert Shapard
My father came home a war hero, quiet and handsome in his leather flight jacket, with souvenirs—an enemy sword, a dented helmet. Also a strange, complicated compass. He taught us to shoot, fish, and play football though our heads banged together and went wong-wong. Time wasn’t kind to him. His businesses, such as they were, all failed, but somehow we all made it to college. He hardly talked after that, nor did we— we all lived far away. At the funeral, years later, I dreaded seeing a shriveled remnant of him, in the casket. Yet when I approached I found he was in his flight jacket, his jaunty pilot’s cap. A lit cigarette in his mouth. “He hasn’t changed,” I said. “He hasn’t changed one bit.” My mother pulled me gently away.
Robert Shapard lives in Austin. His stories have appeared in journals such as HocTok, Juked, Necessary Fiction, and 100-Word Story. His latest edited book is Flash Fiction International, with James Thomas and Christopher Merrill. Essays, features, and reviews by him have appeared in Pen America, Hobart, and World Literature Today.