Theo walked in the building and felt a little embarrassed. It was a clean, immaculate room with white tile floors and chrome walls. He wore his cleanest white shirt and only pair of slacks. He had polished his shoes shortly before coming. Working construction, he never really needed to look presentable, but today was different.
The room was full of professional men and women speaking into earpieces or at their desks face-to-face with customers. A man in a perfectly pressed suit approached him with an even more presentable smile. Theo extended his hand, “Hi, I’m Theo Martinez. I called earlier.”
“Ah, yes,” the suited man said. “I’m Michael Braun, I spoke to you. Let’s walk to my office where we can speak privately.”
They walked past offices with people carrying on whispered conversations. A muted television set played a news segment about the second wave of explorers arriving on Mars. They came to a room in the back. Michael Braun bowed his head and waved his hand at the door. Theo entered and sat down.
“Now, Mr. Martinez, we can speak.”
A framed picture of Braun’s family stared back at Theo: two girls no older than five, and a wife with a smile as attractive as her husband’s.
“My father came to this country,” Theo sighed, “when borders were more than walls on a line. They were a game of Russian roulette. If you didn’t die in the desert, or drown crossing the river, you were jumped by drug traffickers or shot by angry ranchers.”
Braun reached for a manila folder that read ‘Burial Services’ on it, probably having heard the same story time and time again.
Theo continued, “He raised me in this country alone. My mother left us before I was old enough to remember her face. He did everything to ensure I had a stable living condition. If I didn’t achieve success in school, it’s only because of my failures, not his as a father.” He looked down and took a breath. “He is getting old now.”
Braun pressed his lips together and nodded his head, the universal display of ‘Yes, I understand.’
“But the worst thing is, Mr. Braun, that he doesn’t remember who I am.”
Braun looked confused.
“He has Alzheimer’s. My creator doesn’t recognize his only creation.” Theo’s eyes became moist. He took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Anyway, I wanted to be ready and give him a proper send-off when the time comes.”
“Of course,” said Braun. He opened the manila folder. “And we have a slew of great options based on your…financial circumstances. Now, our burials are–”
“I don’t want him buried, Mr. Braun. Not exactly.”
“I see. We do offer cremation services, and they are, in fact, not as costly.”
“No, I was thinking something a little closer to my heart. My father was a gardener, you see. It was the only job he could get here without papers. He would make other people’s lawns look perfect, only to come home to a lawn-less backhouse. He had huge concrete hands, but he was always so delicate with flowers. Then I heard about the Rebirth Program. It’s perfect. A service that sends loved ones to Mars, with an assortment of seeds in a bio-degradable coffin, a little something to speed up the terraforming going on there.”
“Mr. Martinez, the Rebirth Program has a very steep price tag. And a rather long waiting list.”
“I don’t have a family,” Theo said, picking up Braun’s family portrait. “I’ve been saving up just for this. It’s the least I can do. He crossed borders to sow the seeds of my foundation. I think it’s only proper that he continues doing the same for future generations.”
Braun nodded and put the manila folder back. He rifled through his drawer and retrieved a blue folder. “Go home and read over these papers and bring them back to me signed, and we can begin the process of shipping procedures, coffin selection, and if you’d like to pick a flower arrangement…”
Theo got up and shook Braun’s hand. “He is the flowers.”
“You really love your father,” said Braun.
“And I always will,” said Theo. “He’s the best dad in the whole world.”
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