Saturday, May 06, 2006



The Welthe funeral home was large and set back from the street. It was painted white with dark shutters and a brick walkway led to the porch which wrapped around the front. It was well lighted on this summer evening when Mary arrived. She stopped on the walk, just in front of the house, brushed her dress, tucked her purse under her arm and climbed the steps leading to the porch. She paused there a moment and looked about and was relieved when she saw Kathy, her sister, coming down the street. She did not like the idea of being there by herself.

"Thank God you're here," she said as she hugged Kathy upon her arrival on the porch.

"I said I would come," Kathy said somewhat annoyed.

"Well, he was our brother-in-law for all those years and I, I sort of liked him," She said. "He was funny sometimes," she added.

"I'm glad you came," Mary said again to emphasize her relief. "I didn't want to be the only one from our side." She pressed her hand into Kathy's as they walked toward the front door, opened now and pulled the screen door open. She let Kathy go in first and followed her as they went to the room where he was laid out.

The casket was set between large soft-lit lamps and there was the kneeling stool and all surrounded by flowers. "They were lovely," she thought to herself. She had sent a bouquet of flowers in her and Kathy's name and went to find it. She was satisfied when she saw it.

"There's the flowers we sent," she nudged Kathy and pointed to the large bouquet.

There he was, laid out in a suit she had remembered seeing at some other affair. She knelt at the casket and said a brief prayer and then joined Kathy again at the far end of the room.

"He looks good," they said almost in unison.

"I guess Susie will not be here, " Mary said.

"And none of the kids either," Kathy answered quickly. "They never came to the hospital to see him. It was kind of sad. Though Susie should have divorced him a long time ago"

They both moved about the large room, crowded now with other mourners, and said hello to some of the people they knew. His mother and sisters were there and she and Kathy hugged them and offered their condolences and then moved out onto the porch and into the softly lit night .

"I knew he was hard to live with. Susie wanted them to move from the old house and get one of their own, but he always made some excuse about money. It was always money, money," Mary said matter-of-factly.

"I never knew that Betty-I guess all the kids-hated him so much." Kathy said. "He was always nice when I was around him, though Susie always said he was cheap."

"Cheap. I'll say so. At dinner he always mentioned how much things cost."

"Yes, but I just laughed," Mary said.

"Well, you know, he wouldn't pay for her college and she really wanted to go and he called her names. He always called the kids names, especially Betty-and bad names and being cheap. And well, finally, well Susie did divorce him." she said.

They both lit cigarettes and the smoke mixed with other smoke in the calm summer night.

They smiled and nodded to other people they knew, people who had just arrived, and were now talking quietly on the porch. Mary went over to his mother and took her hand again and said how sad it was.

After waiting for what she thought was a discreet amount of time, she said to Kathy it was time to go.

"I'm ready."

Just as they were preparing to leave she noticed Betty coming down the street.

"Oh, My God, " she nudged Kathy, " look who I see."

They were both shocked to see Betty and waved to her. They hugged her when she came on the porch. "You look so nice, that dress is very nice, " they both complimented her.

Betty asked which room he was in and hurried off by herself. They both rolled their eyes and shrugged their shoulders. Betty was back in a very short time. "Well, I'm ready to go," she said. There was not even a hint of sadness in her voice.

All three descended the steps and out on the street they stopped again to light cigarettes.

"I'm surprised you're here Betty. You never came to the hospital and you always said you didn't like him, " Kathy asked as they started walking down the street.

"I just came to make sure, " Betty said, her voice lowering to almost a whisper, " I wanted to make sure that the son-of-a-bitch was really dead."

Copyright 2006 by John Fedako

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