It was a small funeral, mostly the grain farmers from the hostel.
The children sat with their mother, listening intently to the few men that got up and spoke about John, hoping they might hear a little about the father they never knew.
The three boys had only ever known what their mother had told them, that he was married to the land and not to her, although they didn’t quite understand how that worked.
Their mother was always telling them that she would see that they did not grow up to be like their father, and when they got married they would give their wives the best the city had to offer.
The mother had pointed out the two men in uniform when they had arrived. The boys knew the officer of the city, but not the administrator – according to mother he was the one they had to see.
Mother had told the boys that their father had grain assurance, and now that he was dead, they would not need to be given grain by the city – there would more grain than they could imagine – enough to last them all a life time.
After the funeral the family was surprised when the officer of the city said he would call next week with their grain as usual, and they went immediately to the administrator asking after John’s will.
Yes, the grain assurance is all that remains of John’s productive life the administrator told them – he was bereft of any other worldly goods unfortunately.
Who would benefit from his estate, the mother asked the administrator.
His children of course, had there been anything left once I paid the officer of the city what was due.
But the grain assurance is more than I have received from the city, complained the mother. We should receive the grain assurance and repay the city what we took and keep the rest for ourselves.
The administrator was quick to disagree and reminded the mother of the piece of paper she had signed the first time she had met with the officer of the city.
He also reminded her she had agreed to the grain payment for the undertaker.
“So, there’s nothing to be had of the grain assurance,” complained the mother with both bitter voice and startled look.
“There’s a modest amount which I shall retain. You’ll understand, we all need our grain.”
“You can collect John’s ashes next week, if you wish. That is all that remains of the man now,” said the administrator – “that and his wish as best I can recall ‘to die in peace, without debt around his neck, slowly strangling life from his very existence’.”