Thursday, June 21, 2012

She's Inside with Mama

I'm taking an online course in Flash Fiction, just another name for short short stories. The truth is that I'm not doing very well. Memoir is really my genre, but I thought I'd try fiction just to see if I could do it. So . . . I'm posting my stories in case anyone ever wants to read them. Here's my first one.

You can tell that I hadn't gotten the hang of needing to change the names "to protect the innocent" yet. I love my instructor, and she gave me lots of good advice about improvements. I'm not a good student because I didn't revise.

She’s Inside with Mama

A funny thing happened in the church at the funeral.  To be truthful, it was embarrassing to the max, but after the beet blush disappeared, it’s a moment good for a laugh.

My daughter, Wendy, and I had been out of town for the weekend, and when we returned, a neighbor told me that Old Mrs. Webb, whom we fondly called Grandma, had died. How sad, I thought.  I had been meaning to walk across the street to see her,but I am prone to let busy-ness get in the way of ought to do

As Wendy and I walked across the church grounds next door to our house that Tuesday afternoon, we spied a group of men standing around talking, as men are wont to do before a church service of any kind. I spied Howard, Grandma’s son, in the group.

What? There’s Howard. What’s he doing outside? How strange for him to be standing around talking when his mother is lying dead in the church!

I went over to him. “Oh, Howard, I was so sorry to hear about Grandma. I’d been meaning to go over to visit. I’m just so sorry.”

Howard looked at me quizzically and simply said, “That’s all right,” in his  Southern- gentleman drawl.

“Where’s Margie?” (That’s John’s wife.)

“She’s inside with Mama.”

How sweet. He just thinks of her as inside sitting with Grandma, keeping her company. Such a close family.

Wendy and I walked into the little Methodist church and signed the guestbook. Since this was my daughter’s first funeral, I knew I needed to fill her in on what we’d be doing. “Sweetie, now we need to go down to look at Grandma.”

“What? Do we have to? I can’t do that!”

“Oh, yes, you can . . . that’s what they do in these little country churches. It’ll be okay.”

We slowly made our way to the front of the church, Wendy lagging just a little behind me.  She caught up with me at the casket, and by that time, I was the one with the quizzical look.

“Oh, Wendy! She must have been really sick. She doesn’t even look like herself.”

By this time, Wendy had looked at Grandma and had agreed with me. As we were standing there, marveling at how much Grandma had changed because of her illness, a sweet, tiny voice came to us from the front row of the church.

“Why, Wendy and Sandy, thank you so much for coming.”

We couldn’t believe our ears . . . it was Grandma! As we turned in the direction of the birdlike voice, we saw Grandma, and sure enough, Margie was sitting with her, just as Howard said she’d be.

I rushed to her, hugged her, and assured her that we’d be over soon to visit. Of course, Grandma was happy to hear my promise, but she wasn’t nearly so happy  to hear it as I was to make it.

As we began to walk toward the back of the church, Wendy stage whispered, “Mom! Can we leave? You know what we’ve done!”

“Of course, we can’t leave. How would that look?”

Wendy just rolled her eyes and plopped down next to me in the pew, slumping down, trying to make herself invisible as only a sixteen-year-old can do.

I sat down and tried to look properly funereal. I don’t know what voice inside my head told me what to do next, but I very primly turned to the lady next to me and said, “Whose funeral is this?”

(Melanie – What do I do now? Do I stop here, or do I say something about the lady and her thoughts about the crazy lady sitting next to her? Do I say anything about who the lady in the casket was? Obviously, this a true story, a family story that I’m always encouraged to tell when folks are sitting around swapping stories and trying to one-up each other. I’ll try not to rely on autobiographical material next time. By the way, I left out lots of details that I always include when telling the story orally.)

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