​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L


B Y   C O L L E E N   K O L B A

Colleen Kolba is a writer from Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming The Rumpus, Hobart, Word Riot, Entropy, and others. Currently, she is completing her MFA in fiction at the University of South Florida where she teaches creative writing and literature. 

    ​​Dillon stared at the ceiling of the funeral home, trying to hold his breath, only taking small sips of air through his nose when absolutely necessary. He knew he should close his eyes, but he liked looking at the exasperated faces of his relatives as they came to kneel next to his coffin.

     “Please, Lord, take him soon,” they said, averting eye contact with Dillon.

      His mother stepped out of the receiving line and stood next to his coffin.

     “They’re starting to complain that you’re not dead,” she whispered. “And close your eyes. The least you could do it try.”

     Dillon closed his eyes and took a small breath through his nose. There were too many chrysanthemums surrounding his coffin. He sneezed.

     Dillon’s mother sighed.

     A few weeks ago, Dillon had his annual physical.

   “Wowza,” said the doctor. “You sure are close to dead.”

   “What?” asked Dillon. He wasn’t sick. No tests had even been preformed apart from the usual throat checks and knee taps. The nurse let Dillon’s mom into the room.

   “Your heart is getting slower and slower and slower,” said the doctor. “You’re a very lucky boy—unlike most young people, you’ll get to say goodbye before you pass.”

   “Oh my boy.” Dillon’s mom wrapped her arms around him, shoving her face into his hair, sobbing. “We’ll give you only the best. There are lots of lovely death ceremonies and funerals nowadays.”

    Dillon knocked on the cushioned side of his coffin—the bedding too puffy for his knuckles to make contact with the wood. He once had seen a website for organic burial pods. The deceased were placed in the fetal position inside an egg-like pod, then planted at the roots of a sapling. As the body decomposed, the tree grew. Entire forests of trees sprouting from burial pods.

    He reached up and pulled the lid of his coffin closed, muffling the murmurs of guests and the piano’s rendition of “Danny Boy.”

    One tree in a forest of trees, Dillon thought, curling himself into the fetal position. He imagined growing into a hundred-year-old oak.

    He heard tapping on the coffin lid.

    “This is unacceptable,” his mother said. “This is not how it was meant to be.”

      Dillon squinted as light made its way into the coffin. He cracked an eyelid and watched his father and uncle prop the lid. Dillon tucked himself into a tighter fetus. “No,” he said, “this isn’t how it was meant to be.”