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After the death of his mother, Matt feels “like all of a sudden I was way too old for high school, even though I really wasn’t,” largely because it feels like it’s just a “bunch of immature, irresponsible teens who felt invincible only because they’d never really been through nothing,” and he can’t fake it, he can barely smile, having what he calls “robot face” all the time.
He finds an odd activity that comforts him—watching funerals, “I liked watching other people deal with the loss of someone, not because I enjoyed seeing them in pain, but because, somehow, it made me feel better knowing that my pain isn’t only mine. That my life isn’t the only one that’s missing something it will never get back.” He gets to be such a regular that Mr. Ray, a neighbor who runs the funeral home, offers him a job and soon becomes more than a boss, while Matt’s father recovers in the hospital from a drunk driving accident (he was drunk, and stumbled in front of a moving car).
Mr. Ray lays down a lot of truths, like this one while playing cards one day: “See, in chess, you plan everything. You strategize and all that. And even though we like to believe life goes that way, let me tell you son, it don’t.” “But this game here, I-DEE-clare War, is how life really goes down.” “I flip a card, you flip a card.” “Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. And sometimes, I can lose and lose and lose and I don’t know why. But there’s nothing I can do but just keep flipping cards. Eventually, I’ll win again. As long as you got cards to keep turning, you’re fine. Now, that’s life.”
Matt feels like maybe he’s flipped a good card when he meets Lovey, a girl he recognizes from the Cluck Bucket by his house, who is attending one of the funerals Matt’s working at.
And it feels like she just might be someone who can understand him, what he’s been through, and where he’s trying to get to.