Skullcap


Debra Fran Baker





The drive to Connecticut from LaGuardia was long and tiring. Scully and Walter divided the time behind the wheel while Mulder sat numbly in the back seat and tried to doze or not to think. Every so often, his hand would stray to the book on the seat beside him. He hadn't seen it in fourteen years. His grandfather had left it to him, but he couldn't read the language. Now, though, it gave him an odd sense of comfort.

There had been delays, so instead of stopping by the house, they went straight to the chapel. Aunt Sara had made all the proper arrangements with the funeral home. Mulder didn't know anything anyway. His father had made certain of that. None of that *crap* in his house, thank you very much. One more thing to lay at his father's feet.

There were piles of black silk skullcaps and lace doilies on a table. Scully took a doily and a bobby pin and held it uncertainly. He could see that she was just as much out of her element as Mulder was. She was supposed to be out of her element, though. He ran his hand through his hair, and went to pick up one of the skullcaps, but Walter stopped him.

"Wear this instead, Fox." Skinner handed him a circle of dark suede. There was a similar one on his own head. Mulder looked at it. On the inside he could read "Congregation Beth Shalom Annual Dinner, 1990." in gold print. He didn't move, so Skinner gently took it from him and fastened it to his hair with two of the hairpins. Mulder noticed dully that Skinner looked entirely natural in the yarmulke.

"Walter?" Scully held up the doily.

"It's up to you, Dana. If it makes you more comfortable, wear it."

"This whole thing makes me uncomfortable. I have no idea how to behave. If it were a church..." She opened it up and pinned it to the back of her head.

The funeral director was there waiting for them. Mulder was put in front. He had an unobstructed view of the plain pine box. There were no other mourners - Aunt Sara was a widowed sister-in-law. His partners sat behind him.

"Why are there no flowers?" Scully whispered. "And why is the box closed? How are we going to pay our respects?"

"Jewish funerals are different. No flowers, and no one views the body." Walter sounded vaguely relieved. "I always dreaded that part of funerals for non-Jewish friends." Something tickled the back of Mulder's mind, but he couldn't think. He just wanted this to be over.

The place filled with people from his mother's family. People he'd had almost no contact with for most of his life. They were never welcome in Martha's Vineyard. Most, he noted dimly, were older women.

The rabbi stood in front and began to say things that Mulder heard but didn't process well. When did Mom become a mainstay of the local synagogue? When did she become part of a community? She never told him any of this.

He heard his name called. At Walter's prodding, he stood. The rabbi produced a knife and began cutting his shirt - the old one Walter had suggested he wear - over his left breast. Mulder took over and tore it halfway to his waist. Something healed in that tearing.

The rabbi then handed him a prayerbook, but he didn't know the language. Walter stepped from the pews and s