In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Coffins for Kids!
  • Wendy Rawlings (bio)

The gunman didn’t like redheads. The gunman didn’t like redheads, OK, but he liked, I don’t know, what? Blasting the brains of seven-year-olds across a wall map of the United States made out of construction paper? Spraying bullets at kids shoving coats inside lockers? Maybe he just didn’t like maps of the United States. Maybe he had something against lockers. When he was a child, had he cut the heads off rodents? That was a thing, wasn’t it? An indicator of something gone wrong, early on? Naomi remembered her own childhood, stealing Mallomars from her mother’s stash, learning to masturbate using Barbie’s legs, shoplifting a lipstick from Macy’s. Maybe she wasn’t the numero uno best child in America, either. But growing up to blow away a bunch of third graders with a semiautomatic weapon? Picking off redheads? Oh, and he also didn’t like girls. So Emily had two strikes against her. If only Naomi had birthed a brown-eyed boy, now she and Rick and the brown-eyed boy could leave New England forever, go live in New Mexico and grow edible cacti, reinvent themselves, get perma-tans. But no. Now Emily, with her wrong gender, wrong hair, was in the market for a coffin. Hey, Mom, could you get me a nice box to be buried in? All the other kids have one! Rick had suggested cremation, but what parent puts her kid in an oven? Not a half-Jewish parent, that’s for sure. So a nice box it would be.

She googled children’s coffins. Up came an image of a tattooed guy wearing a safety mask and doing something with a blow torch. Asterisked beside the photo were the words Free Consultation with Master Craftsman Brock Hunnicut. We Send Your Little Angel to Heaven “In Style.” Naomi lingered on the site, scrolling down to a photo of the guy with his wife. His dark beard reached nearly to his shirt pocket. Why had he put “In Style” in quotes? Maybe that was a trademarked phrase. The custom casket gallery showed coffins made to look like trains, like boats, like surfboards, like zebras. One coffin had a Teenage [End Page 63] Mutant Ninja Turtle’s face on the lid, another had butterflies painted on it, another was painted in camouflage with a deer’s head on top and, attached to the side, a child-size rifle. The sight of a firearm made Naomi gasp; she hadn’t seen anything even resembling a gun since the Thursday Glen Belson decided he didn’t like redheads.

The deer’s-head coffin could ship in 24–36 hours.

She wondered if Brock Hunnicut took American Express.


When Naomi was thirteen, her favorite cousin had died of leukemia. Watching her father and her uncle weep openly at the funeral, Naomi swore she would never have kids. Instead she would have birds. Maybe a dog. She liked lizards. But when she was thirty-six, Rick convinced her to “take the goalie out,” as he put it, and half a year later she was pregnant. That a child could die of leukemia had made Naomi an atheist. Who was crazy enough to believe in a god who was a total shit head? But Emily’s death, and the deaths of her classmates Paul and Eleanor and Eleanor (all parents these days, it seemed, named their kids Eleanor), made Naomi reevaluate her atheism. A gunman wearing chain mail shooting up a third grade class? That could only mean a god did exist, and he was a total jerk. And why hadn’t anyone stopped a guy wearing freaking chain mail from entering a third grade classroom? “We thought he was doing a presentation on the Middle Ages,” the principal told her and the other bereaved parents. Miss Oslansky wore polyester sheath dresses in primary colors with birds printed on them. Always birds. Once Rick had remarked that Miss Oslansky looked like she’d been extruded from a School Principal-Making Machine. “We always do a unit on the Middle Ages,” she said forlornly. “One is...


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pp. 63-72
Launched on MUSE
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