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January 23, 2023

Night Time 02

By Lydia Manx

I had been to funerals before the mayor's send off but not anyone that important. My dad died before I even knew him. Mom didn't talk about the funeral much less my dad. It had been mom and me as far back as I could remember. There was once a fuzzy set of County Fair pictures of them together when they first met. You know the kind taken at a booth for a small fee and spits out four blurry black and white snaps of people goofing off? Mom had shown it to me when I was a little kid and I went back to look for it in her dresser drawer a few years later and it was gone. So as far as I can remember my dad was a dark haired guy with a white face and dark eyes. I think.

The mayor had his own secretary and general office gofer named Mary Peters. Mary was the sob sister at the end of the first row on the right side of the room the row that was usually reserved for immediate family. She clung to anyone stupid enough to slow down when they walked up to take a gander at the man. Mayor Lyle Hunter's family was in the same row across the aisle but somehow very distant in how they held themselves. Nobody walked over to that side if they could help it. What where they going to say, "Hey, sorry he died in the sack?" Watching the various town folks try to figure out how to return to their seats was pretty amusing. My mom and I did the quick nod and bob to the widow since Mary knew my mom and would have grabbed us had we ventured too close. The mayor looked pretty red still, guess he was embarrassed by all the attention.

Ken and Barbie, the grandchildren, were fraternal twins. And yes, their mom really named the matching set of fair haired children, Kenneth Lyle and Barbara Ann. Naturally it took a full second for everyone to call them by their obvious nicknames. And they were bright and shiny and just a tad plastic. They were sent off to a private school at a very early age so we didn't see them except for holidays and elections. Not that anyone ever ran against Lyle Hunter. Why bother? He pretty much was the only man that wanted to be the mayor as far back as folks could say. His dad before him was the mayor and if we kept at it I think his forefathers took a hatchet and ran off the original Native Americans from their land when the town was first founded. His only sorrow was Kelly Ann's lack of desire to be mayor. His daughter instead popped up pregnant and married the high school jock, Hank Jacobs, right after high school graduation. Pretty much in that order from what Cinda told me. Of course the mayor and his wife kept the grandkids out of sight the first few months claiming they were born prematurely. They always looked pretty healthy to me.

Ginny and Kelly Ann held themselves rigid. The grandchildren were propped in between them seriously mourning the loss of their grandfather. I don't think anyone told them where dear old grandpa was found. Ken and Barbie were definitely the only ones upset in that family. And Mary was a bit more demonstrative but Cinda imparted the little tidbit to me and mom, who was still trying to unsuccessfully tune out the constant babble, that up until about three years ago old Mary was the mayor's main squeeze. So her tears may have had more than a bit of anger laced in them. In a small town that sort of information tended to keep the unmarried men from calling. Since Mary stood alone in her grief I think it was safe to say she didn't have any new men in her life. Cinda agreed with me as she pointed out with all that caterwauling and carrying on Mary was doing it was not going to make for a good image. I don't think Mary much cared at that moment but Cinda seemed to find it fascinating that a woman would be so inappropriate in public. Ironic given her constant babbling in my ear about the town's important citizens right under the noses of those very same people.

The funeral was held mid morning on a gray day. Winter was still a few weeks off since it was only October. The minister was brief in his words and only a few folks stood up to speak. Eulogies are usually the shining moments in a person's life. While the entire ceremony held for the mayor was a mockery of what a true funeral should be. I know that I was getting the low down from Cinda about pretty much everyone as we sat in a row at the back of the service. The choir sang songs but there wasn't the infusion of spirit and sorrow I knew from funerals I had attended in my past. To the town's amazement Louella actually attended. She had been noticeably absent the two nights of viewing so most folks assumed she was hiding at home. Her 'cold' was keeping her out of work and her shame was keeping her out of sight. We naturally thought the moment would pass without any sort of hysterics other than Mary's incessant caterwauling. Everyone had pretty much learned to tune that out at the viewing in the days before the funeral.

Louella arrived a moment or two before the actual funeral was beginning so the quick whispers were cut short with the beginning of the ceremony. Cinda spotted her right off the bat and said, "Well, I'll be. I never would've figured she had the gumption."

I was clueless what Cinda was alluding to since she never seemed to have 'figured' most of what she passed on to me over the years. She was always ever so shocked by some tidbit of gossip she passed on whether or not it was truth or fiction. I arched an eyebrow and waited for the patter to follow. It took a breath and then she softly sputtered out, "The Mayor's last bedmate just meandered into the service, oh don't look, she is sitting back in the last seat by the door. Oh my, and on the same side as the family. Don't think they will be whirling around to get a look see."

My mom looked. Her eyes flashed some hidden emotion. She stiffened and continued to focus on the minister and his mumbling of words up at the front. I didn't turn because I had been downtown when Louella had made her exit from her bedmate's side and the last memory I had of the woman was one of far too much skin and tears. Cinda continued to murmur to me, "Lynn, she is so brazen."

I shrugged barely lifting my shoulders. If I had verbally responded my mom would have pinched me black and blue. I knew this because earlier I had made the mistake of replying to one of Cinda's comments and earned a quick hard nip that was already rising up with black and blue on my arm just above my elbow. Thankfully my dress was long sleeved and hid the mark but I could feel the bruise when my fingers softly brushed over the spot. Mom had a wicked pinch and was not shy about using it. It didn't matter where I was she would clip me one if I sassed her. I tended to keep my mouth shut. Cinda's mom didn't seem to ever hear her daughter so she was still as pretty as ever.

The rest of the service went on in a normal manner with people doing what they were supposed to but like I mentioned there wasn't that feeling of mourning. Things got a bit more unusual once the serviced ended and the gathering was supposed to go over to the graveyard to plant the man. It was then that Ginny and Kelly Ann got a glimpse of Louella. So did Ken. Now Ginny could have passed by her without a sound and held her head high since the whole town pretty much knew she was the wronged one in the family. She probably would have had Ken not sobbed out, "Louella, honey, you came."

Ginny gasped and threw a horrified look at her grandson. Kelly Ann looked like she was going to vomit. Cinda hissed out, "Well, I certainly didn't know that!" My mom heard and calmly reached past me and pinched Cinda. I don't think Cinda had ever been tweaked so hard in all her entire life. She let out a squeal, "Mrs. McKay!" The attendees were conflicted by the choice of dramas. One side of the service had the whore and the mayor's family and our side had Cinda and my mom. Most picked the Ken and Louella show.

Ken stumbled from his family into Louella's arms. Louella had not put up her arms to catch Ken but rather to ward him off from coming any closer to her. He didn't see that because as far as he could see her arms were out and he launched into them sobbing, "My grandfather is gone. He no longer can stroke my head and hold me dear. Louella, I am truly heart broken."

More than one person bit their tongues. We pretty much all figured that Louella would have said she was bereft of the same benefits from the man. But it did appear that Ken and Louella may have previously taken a tumble in the same bed that the dear old mayor had died. Cinda was beginning to get outraged by my mom's nip. I half listened to her while watching the ongoing Ken and Louella floor show.

"Mrs. McKay, why ever did you pinch me? I did nothing wrong. Lynn, you tell your momma." She was rubbing at the baby mark and looking ever so harmed. Oh, like I was saying a word. I shook my head and turned back just in time to see Kelly Ann lose it.

"Louella Morton, you just unhand my boy." Kelly Ann's voice was harsh and scratchy. Her eyes were frenzied and she sounded shaky, like she hadn't had much sleep. Kelly Ann briskly walked from her family cluster over to where Louella stood horrified to be attracting all the attention. Ken had wrapped his body almost completely around Louella's and it was far too intimate to be easily dismissed by all those observing. And they were observing. The usual crowd that would dash for the hills after a ceremony were compelled to linger and gawk. This was unexpected entertainment.

Barbie, never one to be quick on the up take, had finally figured out that Ken and Louella were a bit closer than just friendly town folks ought to be. She joined her mom's side while shrieking, "Kenny, you slept with Louella?" That brought a titter in the back of the room from an unseen person. Both Barbie and Kelly Ann grabbed at the sobbing Ken and pulled at his suit trying to untangle him from his old girlfriend.

"No, unhand me. Don't you all see, Louella is the only one that loves me? She understands me," Ken sobbed out while turning his tortured eyes to his mom. Kelly Ann slapped out at Louella catching the woman full in the face. The smack was loud enough to stop Cinda and my mom from their sniping. Cinda said, "Golly that was mean."

The red hand mark quickly showed up on Louella's pale skin. Her eyes brimmed with unshed tears. Ken turned saying, "Momma, Louella is a good girl. I was going to bring her to dinner tonight." He whined more than most but he still was unaware of the drama he was participating in for the town's pleasure. Barbie said, "You just let my brother go." And with that she brutally tore Ken from his embrace. Once Ken was free he sobbed and said, "I'll call you later, darling. I am so glad you came." Nobody witnessing this figured Ken would be allowed near a phone any time soon. Louella put a hand to her cheek and met Ginny's eyes directly. She uttered not a single word and simply turned leaving the mess behind her.

It was then that Junior Bartell came from the back to check and see if everyone was alright. He was very attentive of Ginny and asked if he could get her something to drink. She waved him away and Junior turned his puppy dog eyes to the retreating back of Louella. I had noticed how Junior had waited until Louella was well out the door before he showed up which made Cinda mutter, "Guess we know who else was visiting Louella after hours." That earned her another pinch from my mom and this time she was smart enough to keep her mouth shut about the abuse. She rubbed the black mark and looked over at me with those oddly colored eyes. I tilted a nod of sympathy but there was no way was I getting a matching bruise to make her feel better. My mom yanked both of us clear of the spectators all hung up at the main doorway and took us out the side door usually used just during the viewings. A few of the town folks followed us slowly while looking back at the family still frozen in place. Junior was fluttering around making sure to earn his keep while his cousin, Jimmy, made sure the coffin headed out to the hearse.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-08-22
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