Judy brought David’s ashes home in a ceramic urn and put them on the mantle. After a year she figured it was time to rejoin society, so she went ahead and planned her Christmas party like everything was normal. When Albert spilled eggnog on the urn – bound to happen – it was grimly funny, like when someone on crutches falls on their face. It was wiped up, no big deal, but the party kind of deflated after it happened.
The following afternoon Judy noticed that the eggnog hadn’t been fully cleared up and had dried into a kind of crème crust on the base of the urn. She took it out onto the balcony to give it a scrub with a wet wipe and before she knew what had happened, the urn had tipped over and sent the ashes spilling over the edge. Judy leaned over the railing and watched the grey snowflakes tumble slowly down the four stories towards the earth. Most dispersed themselves around the sidewalk below, but a big clump made it no further than the flower box on the balcony below Judy’s. They settled in among the wire frames where tomatoes would grow in the Spring. There was something funny about it, but Judy didn’t laugh.
Judy kept her eye on the plants, and in Spring when the tomatoes came up red and ripe and full, she ventured downstairs. When she explained what had happened to Mrs. Gillmary, she was invited inside, made to sit down in the kitchen and have a glass of water. Without any discussion, Mrs. Gillmary took her shears and cut a few of the tomatoes off the vine. She sliced them and put them on a plate. Judy felt sure that when she ate them, something profound would happen. But it didn’t really. And maybe that was better.