We rushed outside when word passed that the Chevron dimmed its lights in memory of Dean. We’re still not sure if that actually happened; we arrived in the yard too late. We drank the Four Roses. Then we drank the Jack Daniel’s. We drank from the bottle until the whiskey was gone. We drank French red wine from Johnny Vaught tumblers. At some point, there was a long, elaborate series of puns about the unfortunately named Ole Miss football coach. Is it wrong that there was laughter? We told simply filthy jokes.
We watched her dogs crawl around underneath the casket, rubbing their noses against the shiny wood. They seemed confused. We thought about how much she loved her dogs, kept pictures of the ones no longer alive. Once, when her beloved Murphy needed to be put to sleep, she clipped the leash onto his collar for the last time. That was Murphy’s favorite noise in the world. “Come on, Murphy,” Dean told the dog, “let’s take a turn around the block.” The night before the funeral felt a bit like that.
We lined up in cars the next morning and watched the strong men carry Deanie out of her home. We rolled slow toward the square, a long procession of cars, as the cops saluted. Even though we were driving a delivery truck, we took off our hat as the hearse went by. We left our posts in the book store and stood outside at attention. For a few moments, Oxford came to a halt. Cops blocked the Square, and we drove around, headed toward the rolling field. We passed Pappy’s grave, and thought about how he wasn’t an idea, or something for a town to market. He wasn’t a statue in front of City Hall, just as Deanie isn’t the dependent clause about the coincidence of her birth. Faulkner was a man, and when his younger brother, Dean, died four months before his daughter was born, flying an airplane William had bought, the guilt and responsibility moved the famous writer to act. He took in the girl as if she were his own, buying her dolls, walking her down the aisle. When the wedding ceremony ended that day, Faulkner whispered a prayer, telling his brother he’d “done what I thought would please you.”