Shapeless, white, trimmed with lace and roughly the size of his head.
Brett couldn't believe he had forgotten them but there was nothing he could do about it now; the funeral was over and Great Aunt Jill was in the ground. All that was left for him to do now was pack up her two lifetime's worth of clothes and knickknacks for goodwill or EBay, the house was his, finally his.
Still though he felt guilty about the whole underwear thing, near the end Great Aunt Jill had been worried to the point of paranoia about being buried in respectable undergarments. “Please be sure they bury me in my blue church dress and my own underwear. Sometimes the undertakers don't bother and leave you nude under your clothes.”
She had actually said “Nude under your clothes.” And without a drop of irony. More than once Brett had found himself burying his face to make sure she didn't see him roll his eyes.
Still though, Great Aunt Jill was gone, her blue dress was gone and being dragged to church every Sunday at 8 in the morning was over. Brett decided he needed a little fresh air and walked on to the porch. His porch. It was still crowded with colorful plants and drab decorations; it would all go soon in favor of something a little more bachelor-y. It would all be going, the doilies, the precious moments’ figurines the paintings and statuettes depicting the suffering of Christ. He often wondered why there weren't any pictures of Jesus hanging out with his buds- of course he never wondered it aloud, Great Aunt Jill would have had a conniption.
Once he felt refreshed enough and the smell of mothballs was gone from his nose Brett headed back inside. He thought to himself that his life shouldn't have been this way, that at 24 he should have been out and on his own- and hopefully been knee deep in pussy.
But his parents had thrown him under the bus at 12 years old and all just because he had shoplifted, gotten into a few fights and been caught with marijuana at school that one time. Brett barely escaped juvenile detention or boot camp but for the grace of God and his parents' lawyer. When it had all blown over Mom and Dad had shipped him off to his Great Aunt Jill in Elmira certain that she would be able to 'straighten him out'.
He now in retrospect felt that he should have taken his chances in juvie; after all they would have had to let him go at 18. Great Aunt Jill was under no such restrictions.
It took him a little a little while longer to clear out the last of the clothes, for a woman that only seemed to wear six seven outfits her whole life Great Aunt Jill sure had a lot of clothes stuffed into bureaus, dressers and most of the closets. Once that was done Brett started to break down her bed, he was done sleeping in the attic but there was no way he was sharing a mattress with her, even after the fact.
Soon enough the room would be empty and he could put in a waterbed or a widescreen TV, anything he wanted, he could afford it now. Brett remembered his parents dropping him off here to leave him in the care of a relative he only saw at holidays and funerals. A relative he only remembered because of her bell- like shape and dry kisses. As soon as he’d finished waving goodbye to Mom and Dad his new guardian laid down the house rules - no loud radios, no TV but educational programming, no videogames, lights out was at 10 PM and there was no lock on the bathroom door so if she caught him pleasuring himself he would find himself doing Hail Mary's for an hour.
That was when Brett made the mistake of asking her what a Hail Mary was.
A baker’s dozen of Hail Mary’s later she took him to his new room… it wasn’t much more than a bed a lamp and a chest of drawers in the attic. He could hear the wind whistling through the cracks in the attic windowsill and shivered a little in anticipation. His parents weren’t really going to go through with this were they?
Once Great Aunt Jill’s bed was broken down and waiting out on the curb for the trash man Brett made sure all the closets and drawers had been fully emptied. He found a black and white photograph in the top drawer of the nightstand table. It was of his Great Uncle John, who had apparently died a few years after his marriage. Everyone said it was a tragic accident but Brett now suspected it had all been an elaborate escape attempt gone wrong.
Brett tossed the photo and the bible into the kitchen trash, already making plans for his Monday visit with the estate lawyer. Did he want all the money at once? Or did he want it put in some kind of trust that would invest for him and dole out cash like a paycheck.
A really big paycheck. Brett thought as he decided to make a sandwich and have a beer. That’s right Jill, a beer.
He tripped over something on his way to the refrigerator, something tangled around the heel of his shoe. It was Great Aunt Jill’s forgotten funeral underwear, Brett laughed to himself he tossed the handful of cloth into the trash and got to work on that sandwich and beer.
And he didn’t use a single coaster or napkin; it made the meal taste even better.
From the ages 12 to 24 learned a great many things beyond the basic necessities of survival, like keeping the house neat, his manners perfect and how to sneak down into the basement laundry room at 1 AM so he could masturbate. Brett also learned that his parents weren’t coming back for him, that he’d been written off.
No, not written off… sold off.
Brett had found out that for all her frugal living and unwillingness to upgrade to cable TV Great Aunt Jill was rich, not super rich but rich enough to never need anything- rich enough to have family members coming to her with their hands out morning, noon and night. However since she was stingy Great Aunt Jill stayed rich and got richer.
And as far as Brett could figure it that was why he was stranded in Elmira because his parents were trying to win Great Aunt Jill’s heart and cash by giving here the one thing she never had.
A son of her own to take care of, and dote on and emasculate
It didn’t matter how many times he begged to come home. It didn’t matter that at every family gathering he felt himself drifting further and further from the emotional orbit of his parents and siblings until they started to treat him with the same kind of cool affection they’d reserve for a third cousin.
Or a Great Aunt.
Now that she was gone relatives were less reluctant to visit Great Aunt Jill’s house and they were all amazed and alarmed at how much the place had changed in the three months since her death. 1940’s era wallpaper and linoleum? Gone. Religious iconography? Gone. Threadbare non-leather furniture? Gone. Cool bachelor lifestyle?
Well he was working on that.
Of course when his relatives did come to call, the conversations always ended up reaching the subject of Great Aunt Jill’s fortune. How much did she leave? What was he going to do with it? Could they borrow five hundred dollars to get their car out of the impound lot?
Brett quickly discovered that the only thing better than having relatives beg you for money was saying no- especially his parents. He wondered sometimes what left them more stunned, that Great Aunt Jill had managed to live for as long as she had or that boy they had given to her had somehow managed to wheedle his way into the entire inheritance.
“Do you want to come up for a while?” she asked.
The question sent Brett’s pulse rate soaring, her name was Melanie and she was an assistant librarian. Which Brett assumed meant that she hadn’t quite mastered the Dewey Decimal system yet. Although personally he didn’t care if she had a job gelding horses because she was cute, easy to talk to and interested in him.
It was only their first date but somewhere between dinner and the show they’d gone from hand holding to kissing. He hadn’t planned to take things too quickly but Melanie had plans of her own. Once they were alone in her apartment they wasted no time in finding their way to her bedroom. Shoes off, their bodies rubbed together, they panted nonsense words to each other between the kisses.
Melanie wasn’t his first, but this was the first time when he had been alone with a woman and it hadn’t felt furtive or clumsy. Brett peeled her clothes away, slowly, savoring every moment of it. Her blouse and bra landed on the floor, he nuzzled the nape of her neck his hands exploring.
This girl was something, really something but he couldn’t quite imagine himself spending the rest of his life with her. But what as that old saying? That every girl was practice until the right girl came along?
Well as far as Brett was concerned he was going to practice the shit out of this girl.
Once he had exhausted himself with the possibilities of her exposed breasts Brett reached down and undid the zipper of Melanie’s skirt. By the time he had it off her she was cooing his name. Brett felt his body begin to tremble with anticipation, this was it. He hooked his fingers in the waistband of her panties; they were exactly the kind of panties he would have expected to see an assistant librarian wearing- shapeless, white, trimmed with lace.
That thought was like a splash of cold water in all the wrong places. He looked back up the length of her hoping it was a trick of the light but no.
She was wearing panties just like Great Aunt Jill’s, a thick asexual square of fabric that covered her from crotch to navel.
“What’s wrong?” Melanie asked.
“I don’t feel so…” He dressed clumsily, jamming his feet back into his shoes and throwing on his jacket, “…I’ll call you.”
“What’s wrong?” she called after him but he was already halfway down the stairs.
What’s the matter with me? Brett thought as he sped home, You blew it, and over what? Some underwear that she was going to let you take off her anyway?
But it was more than that, seeing that underwear had made him suddenly conscious of the woman again, of all the restrictions, stress and head games. He had spent the last six years of his life taking care of her and waiting for her to die. There was no way he was going to let Great Aunt Jill go to a nursing home so her estate could be nickel and dimned away to nothing so he had played nursemaid- but playing nursemaid had left him with images of the woman’s anatomy floating in his subconscious.
The sight of those panties had brought one too many clumsy bedpan cleanups to mind.
All Brett wanted now was to get home and get blind stinking drunk- he would have gone to a strip club but the closest one he knew of was in Utica. Police lights flared to life behind him. Oh what the Hell is this? Just because I have a red sports car and I’m going… He checked the speedometer …40 miles an hour above the speed limit.
“Shit.” Brett pulled over to the side of the road and tried to remind himself that he had a clean record. This was nothing. He would look back at all this someday and laugh.
The officer asked, “Sir do you know how fast you were going back there?”
Brett shrugged, “Pretty fast? Sorry?”
“Could I get your license and registration please?”
The license was in his wallet, the registration was in his glove compartment buried under the old Burger Clown paper napkins, owners manual and CDs. He pawed through them, tossing Night Ranger and Limp Bizkit’s greatest hits onto the seat beside him.
The napkins were all stuck together somehow and they all came out at once when he pulled at them. They were so old that they had become smooth to the touch and shapeless…
…and trimmed with lace.
It took one ticket, field sobriety test and car search before the police let him go home. He wasn’t sure how the panties had gotten there but Brett figured he must have pulled them off Melanie when he ran from her place.
The gentlemanly thing would have been to keep them to return to her but Brett couldn’t bear to have the things near him. He tossed them out the window of his car as he made his way home at a safe and reasonable speed.
A month later Brett was a jittery and teary eyed every moment of the day. His newly swinging bachelor pad was had become a slovenly ruin… even by the low standards set by bachelor pads.
Wherever he went he found them. He found them when he was folding laundry, when he was reaching for something to towel off with and even that one time when he was in the psychiatrist’s office they had fallen out of a magazine along with all those subscription cards!
Great Aunt Jill’s panties hounded him at every turn.
No. He thought, No just her panties… it’s her, she’s haunting me.
And Brett thought he knew why.
“Please be sure they bury me in my blue church dress and my own underwear. Sometimes the undertakers don't bother and leave you nude under your clothes.”
So she wanted her damn granny panties did she? Well he would see to it she got the damn things. Brett was sure he had everything he needed; flashlight, shovel and a crowbar.
He would have preferred not to go on such a dark and stormy night but he’d caught the panties lounging insolently on the dish rack and knew it was now or never.
It was a little after 1 AM when he reached the cemetery, a half an hour later he found an out of the way spot that he could use to sneak in. The cold rain soaked him to the skin, the thunder and lightning disoriented but he found Great Aunt Jill tombstone soon enough.
The storm had left the ground soft for digging but it was still a long backbreaking process. Every time he thought he was making progress one side of the grave would fall in and he would have to start again.
When the coffin was uncovered he took a moment to rest, the parts of his body that weren’t clammy and cold were sore and aching. He wondered to himself if it would be enough to just leave the granny panties in the coffin with her or if Great Aunt Jill really expected him to slip them on her.
Well I’m here. I may as well go all the way. He grabbed the crowbar and started to pry open the coffin lid. He cursed himself for getting such an expensive casket but eventually his persistence was rewarded with the sound of wood cracking. Brett opened the coffin.
The stench was worse than he could ever imagine both rancid and stale, bile filled his mouth, his eyes water. He forced himself to finish the job, there was no turning back now.
He reached into his jacket pocket but the panties weren’t there.
He tried the other. Still nothing.
“No.” Brett said as he checked each pocket a second and third time, “Oh no no no no…”
They were gone.
Did they… escape?
Scrambling out of the grave Brett looked all around the open Great Aunt Jill’s final resting place for the scrap of cloth.
Nothing. Nothing at all. He thought, Are they back at the car? Did I leave them home? What am I going to do?
Then Brett realized and he started tearing at himself, the crack of thunder swallowing his choking cries.
The next morning the cemetery caretaker ran into his office and dialed 911, “I need the police down at Morningside Cemetery. Someone dug up one of the graves and there’s this young man lying dead just a few feet away. Yes he’s dead. I know a dead man when I see one but you wouldn’t believe what he’s wearing…”