It was always the tie that gave him fits.
Not that Martin enjoyed getting gussied up, but it was easy enough to climb into his old suit, slap a good hat on his head, shine his boots. Trying to knot a tie so it hung straight … well, that was a skill he never mastered.
It wasn’t really an optional part of the get-up on a day like today, though, so he kept fiddling in the mirror. Soon enough, his gnarled hands grew achy and tired — he was about to give up when a sliver of ice slid through his fingers and brushed against his cheek.
“You never could tie one of them things worth a dang.” His wife’s voiced rasped like a shuffle in the darkness behind him. Her delicate white fingers flourished in the reflection until his tie dangled perfectly in place.
“Glad you’re here, darlin’.” Martin turned to face his beloved Nellie.
“How long that fever have me down, anyway? You look … different.”
Martin focused his folded, tired eyes on his wife, young and beautiful as ever. “Long enough,” he said. His white mustache fluttered as he spoke. “But we’re together now, Nellie. And we gotta hurry. Don’t wanna be late tonight.”
“Late? For what?”
“A funeral. Gonna be a burial up on Oak Hill.”
“Well, that’s where our family plots are! Who died?”
“I reckon we’ll see, by and by.”
He led her by the hand out the front door, where two men loaded a casket onto a wagon. Martin and Nellie climbed in and sat to one side of the pine box. No one addressed them.
The couple huddled together as the driver headed toward the knoll on the horizon, where the setting sun silhouetted a weathered headstone and a mound of earth, side by side.