I watched Jack from my side mirror. He was young for a lawyer, with slicked hair and deep frown lines like a ventriloquist's dummy. His most recent client had been a school shooter in D.C., whose last words "they put cameras in the coffeemaker, the Japanese make them so small" were muffled by the prison guard night stick between his teeth right before the beating began.
The boys at the firm were happy to supply me with gossip. Jack's office was lined with books on three walls and no family photos. He had other affects---filing cabinets, three unmatched chairs, several expensive paintings that he liked to stare after a few drinks---but everyone speculated about the lack of family history. A relative made the news, they said, a now dead relative. Jack couldn't drive to the funeral so here I was.
"Was your dad a lawyer?"
Jack watched the sun set over the West Virginia mountains. "Miner. Ran the union for a while, pissed off a bunch of congressmen last year after a tunnel collapsed."
"That why you like that creepy ass painting so much?"
Jack had paid an unholy sum for a large black canvas featuring an even blacker shadow in the center. "The artist was in prison when he made it."
"So you like outsider art?"
"I sympathize with confinement. Dad was the same."
"He must've loved his job."
A truck drove toward us in the opposite direction and his eyes glowed white in the mirror. "We work best in the dark."
Two hours later, the gravel road ended in a gas station parking lot guarded by the whitest man I've ever seen, and got as far as the pump before he called out to Jack in pidgeon English and the two of them exchanged pleasantries in a country dialect that veered close to Welsh, only growing quiet whenever they turned to look in my direction. Windows filled with pale faces. They called Jack's name. He waved politely. He backed into my car and grabbed the door handle like a man trying to claw his way back up a cliff.
When the road became impassable we walked, young forest giving way to ancient oak trees veined with white mold. I kept making small talk and Jack ignored me until eventually there was silence.
The church emerged from the night slowly, like a developing polaroid, and Jack took my hand. "Don't let them touch you."
He was cold, as if he'd been out hiking in the Arctic tundra. "Do they think I'm your date?"
Burning coal flecks glinted in the center of his eyes as he leaned in and just as suddenly turned his back on me. "No."
Organ music washed over the crowd, a closed casket too far for me to see from the back pew, and when the last song ended the preacher intoned over a platter holding concentric rings of tiny plastic cups and a sea of faces turned to examine me, their smiles red in the candle-light.
I bent down. "What did he say?"
Hands passed the communion plate to Jack and he held up a single serving of grape juice. "He said this one is for the visitor."