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The Troll Garden and Selected Stories

The Sculptor's Funeral
A group of the townspeople stood on the station siding of a little Kansas town, awaiting
the coming of the night train, which was already twenty minutes overdue. The snow had
fallen thick over everything; in the pale starlight the line of bluffs across the wide, white
meadows south of the town made soft, smoke- colored curves against the clear sky. The
men on the siding stood first on one foot and then on the other, their hands thrust deep
into their trousers pockets, their overcoats open, their shoulders screwed up with the cold;
and they glanced from time to time toward the southeast, where the railroad track wound
along the river shore. They conversed in low tones and moved about restlessly, seeming
uncertain as to what was expected of them. There was but one of the company who
looked as though he knew exactly why he was there; and he kept conspicuously apart;
walking to the far end of the platform, returning to the station door, then pacing up the
track again, his chin sunk in the high collar of his overcoat, his burly shoulders drooping
forward, his gait heavy and dogged. Presently he was approached by a tall, spare, grizzled
man clad in a faded Grand Army suit, who shuffled out from the group and advanced
with a certain deference, craning his neck forward until his back made the angle of a
jackknife three-quarters open.
"I reckon she's agoin' to be pretty late ag'in tonight, Jim," he remarked in a squeaky
falsetto. "S'pose it's the snow?"
"I don't know," responded the other man with a shade of annoyance, speaking from out
an astonishing cataract of red beard that grew fiercely and thickly in all directions.
The spare man shifted the quill toothpick he was chewing to the other side of his mouth.
"It ain't likely that anybody from the East will come with the corpse, I s'pose," he went on
reflectively.
"I don't know," responded the other, more curtly than before.
"It's too bad he didn't belong to some lodge or other. I like an order funeral myself. They
seem more appropriate for people of some reputation," the spare man continued, with an
ingratiating concession in his shrill voice, as he carefully placed his toothpick in his vest
pocket. He always carried the flag at the G. A. R. funerals in the town.
The heavy man turned on his heel, without replying, and walked up the siding. The spare
man shuffled back to the uneasy group. "Jim's ez full ez a tick, ez ushel," he commented
commiseratingly.
Just then a distant whistle sounded, and there was a shuffling of feet on the platform. A
number of lanky boys of all ages appeared as suddenly and slimily as eels wakened by
the crack of thunder; some came from the waiting room, where they had been warming
themselves by the red stove, or half-asleep on the slat benches; others uncoiled
themselves from baggage trucks or slid out of express wagons. Two clambered down
 
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