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Campbell and Sons
There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk...
-- Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
I spend a lot of time thinking about f-words.
Food. Friends. Fun.
That's right, funerals. Our family runs Campbell and Sons Funeral Home. We live upstairs from the business. Family on the second floor. Funerals on the first. Frankenstein stuff in the basement. When you kick it in Clover, my home is your home. You're welcome anytime. Every day that ends in y. Morning, noon, or night.
It's been that way since 1875. Ever since my great-great-great-great-grandfather Christopher Adams Campbell had the fishbrain idea to start a funeral business. He was a carpenter, the only one in town, and I guess he was building so many caskets, he figured he might as well bury them too.
I wish the old Pilgrim could have picked a better product. Potato chips or bubble gum or chicken soup or something. But that's spit off Clover Cliff at this point. As we say in the funeral field, we're in it "forever" now.
For six long generations, Campbell and Sons Funeral Home has been proudly, and I mean proudly, passed on down from Campbell father to son...to son...to son. And that's fine if you like hanging around dead people. I don't.
That's a problem. A big one. Because unless one of my sisters grows a mustache and crosses over, there's only one Campbell son in this entire generation.
And every time I pass by that long line of Christophers hanging on the wall in the hall downstairs -- the gold-trimmed ghostly-grim faces of every Christopher Campbell, Funeral Director, from Christopher Adams Campbell to Christopher Bartholomew Campbell to Christopher Clemson Campbell...all the way to my father, Christopher Francis Campbell -- a snaky shiver runs down my spine.
And when I come to the end of the line and see that space on the wall next to my Dad. The perfect-size spot for one more portrait. The place where my face is supposed to go. I get a punch-in-the-gut-puke-it-up feeling.
All I can think about is: how can I stop history?
How can I be the first Christopher to break the family curse?
Be a Christopher Columbus, not a Christopher Campbell.
Chart a new course, pull up anchor, catch the wind, and sail away.
Even though, I know, it will break my father's heart. Copyright © 2008 by Coleen Murtagh Paratore