He leaned against the brick wall outside the funeral home and watched the wind blow the tall grass in the field across the parking lot. It was hot, always was this time of year back home in the swamp. That’s what it was: a swamp. He’d tell people he grew up on the water just because it sounded nicer, but it only fooled people that had never been here. He felt beads of sweat drip down his back, felt the nicely pressed dress shirt stick to his skin where the sweat and fabric connected. Always hated summer here. It was just Oppressive heat and humidity. Sometimes you’d get a breeze but it never helped, just moved the hot air around and made sure you never forgot the smell of decomposition. The suit he was wearing didn’t help either. Nothing helped. He needed to get out of this suit, needed to get out of this place.
“Been a long time.”
Charlie broke his field watching vigil and turned.
“Tommy? Yeah it has been a long time. Good to see you.”
“Want a smoke?”
“No I’m good.”
“Mind if I do?”
Tom pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a metal lighter and took up position next to Charlie on the brick wall. Now there was heat, humidity, rot, and smoke.
“How can you smoke when it’s so hot out here?”
“You get used to the heat. You’ve been away to long.”
“I didn’t like it back then either.”
Tom laughed. “Yeah I guess you didn’t. So how long you in town for this time?”
“I’ll be heading out tomorrow, just came for the funeral.”
“Yeah, terrible way to go. Didn’t find her until she’d been floating there for two days. You know what the swamp does to a body after that long? Didn’t even recognize her until they checked her teeth.”
Charlie said nothing. Tom inhaled more smoke.
“Anyway, you should come out later. Going to be a party down at the old park. Food, drinks, other stuff if you feel so inclined.”
“Maybe next time, I’m still tired from “
“Em might be there.”
Charlie paused and stared at Tom for a moment. “You serious?”
“Yeah, I saw her the other night. I invited her. Thought she’d be at the funeral, but I guess it was too much for her. They were close. Party should be easier to handle I imagine.”
Tom had him. He threw his cigarette down in the now empty parking lot and yelled back while walking away, “I’ll pick you up in an hour. Where you staying?”
“The only hotel in town.”
Tom laughed. “Right…right. See you. One hour.” Then he turned the corner and was gone.
Charlie could see the clouds rolling in on the horizon.
Maybe it’ll break the heat, he thought in vain.
He knew better than that. Hope always dies in the swamp.