In the photo, my family’s wearing black. Their heads are hunched, and they look miserable. But when I look at the picture, I can’t concentrate on them, on their faces, on their grief. I look instead at a plastic grocery bag my father carries in his left hand. It’s in the foreground of the image, and the local photographer has mistakenly focused on the bag. The caption reads, “The Blum family mourns the loss of their daughter.” There’s no mention of the bag, but it demands attention. The bright, bulging plastic monstrosity leaps out from the photo. It has life in a way that the man holding it does not. My father’s face is vacant, like he’s not really there. And I always think, when I hold the picture up under the fluorescent basement lights, that if you want to find my father in the photo, you can’t look at him. You’ve got to look at the bag. To know Larry Blum, you have to understand why he brought a bag of bananas to his daughter’s funeral.

Isaac Blum, writing in the Iowa Review about his young sister’s death from plane crash debris, the shadow Heinz ketchup casts over his family, and the different ways people mourn.

Read the story