"I don't like it here," pleaded a small child's voice to their father.
"I have to go potty," chimed in the second one, looking at the man hopefully.
The church was big and imposing and scary, and the two little boys didn't like how men and women lined up in it in black clothing— like shadows, they thought, where there should merely be sun, and it filled them with a strange horror that swelled up from their stomachs until they felt like they could vomit. "Why is everyone wearing black, Daddy?"
"Daddy, where's Mommy?"
"I want Mommy."
The father let out a heavy sigh and pulled them to him, onto his lap in the front pew of the church. The priest, in all his finery and his Latin chants, could do nothing but give him a sympathetic look as he continued his weird chants that no one could fully understand, as he read in English Bible verses whose meaning seemed plastic and fake next to the cold reality: his wife, the children's mother, was dead, dead, dead. Later today, her body would be placed, stiff and cold, under the ground to be eaten by worms, and he would have no one to love but his children, and his children would eventually grow up to revile him.
Swallowing the bile, he said to them, "Mommy's gone away on a trip— she'll be back soon. I promise."
The children's intuition told them this was a lie, but they accepted it. They had no comprehension of death yet, of someone being fully gone and away.
Besides, if Daddy had lied to them, there had to be a good reason— the lie must be nicer than the truth, they decided between themselves with glances, and so they accepted it, not knowing yet just quite how right they were.