The Steinbrenner funeral presented another cramped, dignitary-laden challenge for the city of Cambridge, seriously upsetting Harvard Square traffic on a workday. The First Parish Church already felt plunked down in the middle of a pedestrian mall—a grimy house of worship as UUA houses go. The A-listers wanting to pay their respects had to suck it up and make do.
The Ludenberrys again bailed at the church, and Daphne again stewarded Elijah and Fifi through the motions to bring them to Mount Auburn Cemetery. Their group again paired up with Jan’s—Ingrid and the couple from the day before.
Linus’s urn sat on a small wooden platform next to the stone bearing his and Anna’s hands. Judith and Miranda had thought the details of his remains had been decided. Their father would be cremated, with half of the ashes buried next to Katherine in Maine and the other half next to Anna at Mount Auburn. Eugenie’s reign of influence led to a change in plans, however. Linus’s ashes would not be “sliced and diced” as Elijah had put it but kept whole and buried next to Anna. The urn looked to Daphne like a vintage racing trophy. Someone had won.
The mourners stood in clusters or sat themselves on the cold plastic folding chairs and were eager to get this thing going. Unfortunately for all, the minister was delayed. Elijah couldn’t countenance the passing of impatient moments without commentary. “The hands,” he whispered, “like the Earl of Arundel and his lady in Chinchester Cathedral—Larkin’s poem. He’s reaching more than she is.”
She nodded even though she didn’t agree. How could anyone say which stone hand was reaching more? It seemed to her the serpentine halving of a yin and symbol.
“Over on that hillside you have the cheap seats,” he continued, “the bleacher plots. Outside the core graves—the Rufus Choates et cetera et cetera—there lies the reality of this country. Kostopoulos and Gelowtsky.”
Annoyed old people turned around to glare at him.
“The way we move the bodies of dead people around the world,” she whispered back, apropos nothing. “I don’t get it.”
“I’m surprised Simon was the one choosing to be buried whole,” he replied.
“He probably already had the extra-long plot,” said Daphne.
“But if he was cremated,” he added with savored mirth, “think how much space that would free up!”
When the old people again turned to shush him, Daphne just shrugged, waiting for the punch line.
“Why, you could fit every living Keynesian in there!”
After the rites were spoken—including the Ecclesiastes chiseled over the front gate: Then shall the dust return / To the earth as it was—Jan and Elijah stood together some distance from the urn and the stone hands. People disbanded in small groups while Fifi in her Pumas unsuccessfully attempted to moonwalk on gravel.
Daphne felt sad for Linus’s daughters. She wished he had acted more nobly. “Why did he decide against separating his ashes?” she asked Jan.
“It didn’t seem right to him as a Christian,” he replied.
She shook her head. “So many negative things people have written about his life.”
“Linus loved humanity,” said Elijah, “but he didn’t care much for people.”
“That’s not the Linus I know,” said Daphne.
“You didn’t know Linus over 99% of his life,” he replied.
Daphne still felt the need to defend him. “I never liked people over 99% of my life either,” she said, “only words. In fact, I used to think I was just using people to get to words.”
This made Jan laugh out loud. She noticed something sagging in his jacket pocket. “You brought your phone?”
This prompted both men to produce the devices, brandishing them about in broad daylight.
“Did you know I threw Simon’s and Linus’s in that pond?”
“When,” asked Jan, “today?”
“On other days.”
“Why?” asked Elijah.
She shrugged. “They had to go somewhere.”
They were silent.
“Maybe we should throw yours in too,” she said.
Now they were silent and stoic.
“That way,” she continued, “they’ll all be together.”
“You think they’re going to fall into the wrong hands, don’t you?” said Elijah.
“That’s what you think?” asked Jan.
“I don’t know.”
She could tell that both had given thought to the fate of their phones. “Do you want to be buried with them,” she asked, “like Mary Baker Eddy?”
“She was buried with a cell phone?” asked Elijah.
“I guess it was originally a land line,” she replied, “but maybe they’ve upgraded.”
“Nonsense,” said Jan. “That’s just some urban folktale.”
“Does it matter whether there is or isn’t a phone in a crypt with a dead body?”
Suddenly Jan lashed out to grab Daphne’s hand. With the other hand he smacked the phone into her palm. Elijah, too, surrendered his phone.
With the transactions completed, the three walked toward the pond, Fifi unassumingly bringing up the rear guard.
“That water looks solid,” said Jan when they reached the edge.
“It usually gives way,” said Daphne.
“Usually?” asked Elijah.
She held the phones one to a hand as a bad boy would rocks. She flung the first phone with youthful relish. The second went even faster.
“The arm on that woman!” shouted Elijah.
Somehow this seemed the burial that truly mattered. Both projectiles landed with minimal resistance, as if the pond’s surface were milk in a too-cold refrigerator.
Jan’s friends shortly materialized to take him to Ingrid and their car while Fifi steadied Elijah on the walk to the Caddy. Daphne, however, noticed Mathilde and hung back. Then she realized she was being watched by the man they saw at Simon’s funeral the day before. She stared at him until he approached.
“What did you throw in the pond?”
He was dressed like a BBC journalist in a war zone. She immediately disliked him for this.
“Are you the Serb or the writer?”
He scratched the back of his head. “Can’t I be both?”
Nothing he said could possibly be funny. “How come you’re not talking to her,” she said, nodding toward Mathilde kvetching with the legitimate mourners, “the one paying you?”
He stared at the distant woman. “She’s not paying me.”
“Is Vernon St. Urgis paying you?”
He laughed. “That guy’s name is Vern Sturgis. Have you ever heard of a saint named Urgis?”
“I try not to pay attention to saints,” she said.
“I’m writing a book about it.”
She began walking with the procession to the cars. He walked with but not beside her, lagging behind.
“Does it make you feel good to ruin four men’s reputations?” she asked, not bothering to turn to face him.
“It makes me feel good to make a living.”
“There’s always Starbucks. Why not make lattes, not bombs?”
“People think she was feeding them some miracle drug and want to know what—why she’s made good on Vasco de Gama.”
“Vanity Fair wants an excerpt—like, yesterday.”
“Like, good for you.”
“Everyone’s making money off of them,” he argued.
All this talk of money infuriated her. Trygve had handed over a single two-hundred-dollar check following her first week of “work.” After that, her job had apparently become gratis, pro bono.
“Why are you here,” she asked, “for the local-color angle? You like to see people cry?”
“I’m telling a story. I’ve got to get the facts straight.”
“There are no facts to this story.”
“It was those phones you threw, wasn’t it?”
She glanced at the pond but kept on walking. “Are you going to go fetch them? Dredge it and pick with a trawler?”
“I’ve seen one of them.”
She walked faster. “They don’t deserve to be laughed at.”
“Half of them are dead.”
“They have family—people who love them.” She was surprised to hear herself add, “They have me.”
Her eyes caught Mathilde opening the door of her white car. She ran over to confront her. “I can’t believe you showed up here.”
The Scandinavian-face-cream beauty stood smiling with one leg inside the car. “Linus Steinbrenner was my friend.”
“You’re a petty criminal,” said Daphne.
When Mathilde leaned into the car and came out holding a blue phone, Daphne realized she had done wrong by leaving that first phone in the elevator of Linus’s building.
“Call me any name you want,” said Mathilde, now in the driver’s seat. “It will only make for a better story.”