we were ushered into a musty room with a sofa and a coffee table.

none of us six knew what to do with ourselves—

with our hands or our faces,

our feelings or our lack of them.

silence hung in the air,

an uncomfortable, surprised silence

like the pause that follows after someone has spoken out of turn,

and there was, of all things, an overwhelming urge to laugh—

but then the French doors swung open

and a little music trickled out,

reminding us that in the room down the hall was the corpse of a woman we were supposed to love.

silence . . . this time a firm one.


(and to the great appreciation of all)

Uncle Jon cracked a joke about his shoes that squeaked,

and we all snuck tiny, guilty smiles at each other because

in the end we were still ourselves,

still the cul-de-sac six,

and we understood each other better than anyone else ever could.

and this?

this was just another adventure,

a terrible, necessary adventure:

and when the time came to look at the body,

we would do it,

emboldened by mutual love—

cousins standing shoulder-to-shoulder.