The Nephew

The Office

Chapter eleven

"Parents need all the help they can get. The strongest as well as the most fragile family requires a vital network of social supports"
~Bernice Weissbourd

The visitation droned on, like a never-ending song or endless line. People filed in and out, shuffling through long segments of mourners and family members alike. They all seemed so foreign to Jim.

The pew he was occupying had since been filled. Elijah, still wearing Jim's tall coat, leaned against his grandmother, Betsy Halpert. Jim's mother. Next to her was Gerald, his father, who looked stony-eyed and stiff. He wasn't one for funerals or visitations of any sort; they contradicted his flippant attitude. Pete hadn't said much to his parents; just let them file past him like everyone else.

Eventually, Elijah would perk up when he recognized whoever was giving their condolences. Teachers, friends, and parents would head over to closest pew to the casket, where Pete's immediate family rested. Betsy would nudge Elijah, and he would smile softly at the griever, as if pretending to make his pain less noticeable. Jim stood as stiff as his father next to his nephew, rigid as a statue. He was just waiting for Pete to break down, just like he almost had before the visitation had even started.

"Hey, squirt." Gerald peered past his wife to see his grandson, who was slumped down. "Why don't you take off that cap? We're indoors."

Surrounding Pete were his in-laws. Jim wasn't even sure if he should refer to Julia's parents as Pete's in-laws anymore. Can you even be legally married to a dead woman? Jim repressed the insensitive thought.

"No, no, no! Give it back!" Elijah was suddenly screaming, and Jim was brought back to reality. The boy was hysterical, nearly climbing over his grandmother to grab the hat from his grandfather, who had since paled visibly. "My mom gave me that hat, give it back!"

Gerald's grip slackened immediately. It was if he had picked up a burning coal instead of a Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap.

"Ssh, Eli." Betsy pushed back some of Elijah's shaggy hair and kissed the top of his head. "Quiet down, baby."

Elijah recoiled, shying away from his grandparents and leaning towards Jim. Frowning, Jim lifted his arm slightly. Elijah took the cue and fit under his arm perfectly, burying his face in Jim's suit.

"Uncle Jim, please let me go home." Elijah whispered, his voice soft and pleading. "Please let this be over."

"Just a bit longer." Jim muttered softly. "I promise, you'll be out of here soon. We'll all go home, then."

Dwight Schrute sat at his desk, looking around disparagingly at his fellow employees. The office was mess; all worked up about stupid Jim Halpert and his emotional problems. What was the big deal? People died, the first-born inherited his bequeathed land, and time moved on.

Apparently, the rest of the office hadn't received the memo. The camera crew was interviewing Phyllis and Angela in the conference room about Jim, no doubt. Word had trickled through Dunder Mifflin like wild fire. It was only one in the afternoon, and people were acting like it was four. It made no sense to Dwight.

"Well, I think we should throw a party." Phyllis Lapin smiled sweetly at the camera as she sat in the conference room. "It would be nice for him."

"A party." Angela repeated emphatically, rolling her eyes towards the ceiling. "You want to throw a party for Jim because someone died?"

Phyllis squirmed in her seat. "It might make him feel better, I don't know." She looked down. "Forget it."

"Personally, I'm deeply affected by this death." Creed looked over at Kevin Malone, nodding casually. "Pattie was a great receptionist. It's a shame."

"Yeah…" Kevin stared at the window. "That's too bad." His solitaire game stood immobilized on his computer. All the different cards ran through his head and made no sense to him. He exited out with a sigh.

"I'm sorry, what?" Oscar whirled around in his chair to face Creed, who's eyes were glazed over. "Pam didn't die!"

"Oh, yeah, she did. It was awful."

"No, Creed, she's right over there!" Oscar protested. "It was Jim's sister that died."

"You don't say…" Creed frowned, scratching the back of his neck absent-mindedly. "Are you sure Jim's sister doesn't work here?"

Pam was aware of the camera perched next to her desk, silently watching her every move and assuming her every thought. Unlike what appeared in their televised documentary, her life wasn't that eventful. She answered phone calls. She arranged, re-arranged, and sorted appointments. Her life was slow and jaded, whereas the Pam Beesly whose life was compressed in half-hour increments seemed to have her life in check, and knew exactly how to handle everything. Like Jim. Pam knew how to handle Jim.

Except she didn't. She was utterly and entirely worried about Jim, the one coworker she cared for the most.

The visitation must have run long. That's why Jim wasn't here. He was probably getting lunch with his family, or by himself, or-

Or maybe he was miserable, and needed to talk to someone, but just wouldn't admit his feelings.

Just call him, Pam urged herself. She knew she should have gone to the visitation with him as well. She couldn't bear knowing that Jim was wandering around alone with no one to talk to. The way he spoke of his family made Pam wonder sometimes. Were the brothers close, or did they just enjoy messing with one another? She tucked some hair behind her ear, eyebrows creased together in concentration.

When the door finally creaked open, slowly and carefully, the entire office looked up. It was if Dunder Mifflin had inhaled at the same time, and only the sight of Jim Halpert would allow them to exhale. Pam's fingers curled around the pencil in her hand, her knuckles turning white.

The first person Jim locked eyes with upon entering was Pam, and she was the last person he saw before being pummeled by an over-anxious Michael Scott.