I wrote this in college, based on a story told to me by my grandmother. Every name in here is fake, and while I followed a lot of what she said happened, I added some details (and pulled others from other family stories).
The story is in 4 parts (I was experimenting with voices), and I considered posting it sequentially, but eh, here it is. (Also, yes, the one-sided conversation style is probably overly-done. I’m not sure I’d write it like this now if I re-wrote it now.) I also use language that I would never use in my real life, because it struck me as authentic to the situation, time, and people.
Well, it was about two years ago, I think, that Jake died. That’s the older Jake, Bob’s son. Yeah, Bob was a decent man, and a good friend of mine. He was about sixty when he died, I think. I tried to stay in touch with his family after that, for his sake. I’d known Bob since we were kids. I figured I ought to go to his son’s visitation.
I tell you that was a mess. I still say he was murdered. In the autopsy, they found his stomach full of arsenic, and no one cuts crack with arsenic. And his hands were broken, like he’d been in a fight. I heard that his dealer killed him for owing too much money. But, that’s probably not my place to say.
Anyway, his visitation was a disaster. Well, I knew something was wrong when the widow took me aside to show me the gun in her purse. She was dressed as nicely as can be expected for a Talents visitation, I guess, with a nice Harley T-shirt on. The corpse was laid out in a T-shirt that matched the widow’s. A few people had tried to dress up, but the most I saw anybody wear was a button-down shirt. I was way overdressed with my tie.
Right. The gun. She pulled open her handbag, and showed me a nice little handgun, kinda like a Derringer. She looked up at me and said, “If that bitch shows up, I’ll kill her.”
Now that plain shocked me. “Which bitch, I mean, who?” I sputtered.
“You know. Tanya. His ex-girlfriend. The whore he stayed with when he left me that one time fourteen years ago. I was told that she was going to be here and bring the kid she claims is Jake’s, the one she named after him. And if she does, God help me, I’ll kill her.”
You’d think that right then and there I’d have realized that I needed to leave. But, like I said, it was Bob’s son, and so I decided to stay for at least awhile.
Everything went OK, until Tanya showed up. Tanya was Jake’s ex. She didn’t even try to come into the funeral parlor, knowing what would happen. But Big Clint saw her, and went off. He was drunk, of course, and saw it as an insult to his nephew’s memory for her to be there.
In fact, soon the whole Talents clan was out there, except Peg. Peg, that’s Jake’s widow, was inside screaming that if Tanya or her son came through the door, she would shoot them dead. She hadn’t pulled the gun out yet, but everyone knew that she had it. Except maybe Tanya.
I decided it might be safer out in the parking lot.
Tanya was out there, crying, pleading with the family to let Jake’s son, Jake, in to see his daddy. I know that young Jake hadn’t seen his father since he was two years old, and he was now about 16. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request, myself.
The family didn’t think so. Most of them were screaming at her. A few, like Jake’s mom and one of his brothers, stood up for Tanya. At one point, Jake’s mom attacked Little Clint, Jake’s brother, with her cane, for not letting Tanya in. Now, Little Clint is about 6 foot 2, and probably about 200 pounds. His mom was closer to 5’ 2”, and couldn’t have weighed more than 120. But Clint just sat there and took it…he knew better than to hit his mom back.
I could tell that things were starting to get really nasty, and that Tanya’s side was outnumbered, by about 4 to 1. And most of Tanya’s supporters were some of the older people, like Jake’s mom and me. All of Peg’s kids were on Peg’s side, of course, both Jake’s and the earlier ones.
I decided by then that it was time to get out. Especially after I heard the sirens. I managed to get Jake’s mom, one of his brothers, and one of his sisters into my car. We couldn’t get out before the police got there, but they let us go quickly. It was obvious we weren’t the ones who started the fight. I don’t know if Jake ever got to see his father’s body, because no one will talk about it. Everyone in that family likes to pretend that visitation never happened. Which means I can’t tell you if anyone served jail time either. All I know is that everyone involved survived, which is at least something to be happy about.
I don’t get it, though. That was Jake’s son, whether Peg admits it or not. Jake claimed him. The boy barely remembers his father. He deserved to see his father once more, especially if he wasn’t ever going to be able to again. I know that Peg was a little distraught, but really, that scene was disgraceful. I feel bad for Tanya, and even worse for Little Jake. Bad enough for your absent father to be murdered, but to not even be allowed to say good-bye?
That bitch. Tanya. I swear, I want to kill her.
Yeah, they went out before we met. But Jake, he saw that she was a lying bitch, and came to me. He was starting to straighten out, too.
Where’d you hear that? Yeah, well the police don’t know shit. He wasn’t smoking crack, and he didn’t smoke no screwed-up crack. Someone killed him. His hands were all bloody and broken, like he’d been in a fight. That’s what happened.
Anyway, yeah, he once went back to her. For about two weeks. We’d had a fight, and he left. No, I don’t remember what about. It was just a stupid fight. But he came back home, where he belonged, to his children.
I heard she had a baby, and said it was his. Yeah, I know he told people it was his. He just felt sorry for the boy. I can’t believe she had the gall to name the kid Jake, after him. I know “Little Jake” wasn’t Jake’s son. Period.
Anyhow, back to the visitation. Yeah, someone told me she’d try to come around with her bastard. So, I brought my gun. I made no secret of it, and told everyone about it. I didn’t want her there. Doesn’t a widow have any rights?
It was all going ok, at first. Everyone was dressed nice. I was wearing a T-shirt to match Jake, in his coffin. Our sons had all cleaned up and put on their Sunday shirts. I think someone even wore a tie.
The preacher gave his eulogy, not that he had the first clue who Jake was. Yeah, we Talents have always said, “We and Jesus, we got our own thing going.” Don’t need to go to any church to learn about it. But, this preacher was nice enough, if stuffy.
Then Tanya showed up. Yeah, she brought her boy too. But she never came inside, and neither did he. Look, I’m sorry the kid doesn’t have a father, but that doesn’t mean she can come and screw up my husband’s funeral. She had no business there.
She started crying and wailing outside, begging me to let him in. “Peg, Peg, please, let Jake in to see his daddy!” I yelled back, “Bitch, that ain’t his daddy, and we both know it!” She wouldn’t stop, though, and I just lost it. I nearly ran outside with my gun to shoot her, but one of my sons pulled me back. He was worried about me, about my heart.
He then went back out, and he and his brothers and sisters all backed me up. So did most of Jake’s (that’s my Jake) brothers and sisters.
Yeah, well, his mother never liked me anyway. She nearly beat Little Clint, that’s Jake’s brother, black and blue for helping me. Her own son.
Then the cops showed up, and drug most of us away. Yeah, they wanted to charge me with “terroristic threatening” or something. They said I was waving my gun around, which I most certainly was not. It never left my purse. But, in the end they said that they had too many other people to deal with, and they let me go. I think one of Jake’s brothers might have had to stay overnight, but he was at the funeral the next day, so, it was all ok.
Fortunately, Tanya didn’t dare show herself at the funeral. I think I would have killed her if she had. I mean, he left her a long time ago…she and that bastard of her had no place there.
God, I think she really would have killed me. I didn’t think she would, but, damn.
I mean, yeah, I know Jake’s granddaddy killed a man, the Talents are all nuts, but Peg married in. I didn’t think she was that crazy, too. And what for? For trying to let his son see his daddy before they buried him?
That’s bullshit. Little Jake is Jake’s son. Like I told Big Jake, “It’s either you or Immaculate Conception, and we both know I ain’t the Virgin Mary.” He accepted it, even letting me put his name on the birth certificate.
She said what? I never cheated on Jake. I don’t know what she’s done, and I’m not about to guess. None of my business, and what’s between me and Jake is none of hers.
Right. The visitation. Yeah, I’d heard she was bringing a gun, but I thought it was just talk. I thought everyone was trying to scare me off, but Little Jake needed to be there. We got there, probably an hour or two after it started. A friend of mine gave me the paper, and I read the obits to find out where and when and stuff. We got there, and Big Clint is standing outside, smoking a cigarette. I’d always liked Big Clint, he’d always treated me right, so I was shocked when he started screaming at me. I just stood there, and pretty soon the whole Talents clan was outside, arguing. Most of them were screaming at me, calling me all sorts of awful things and telling me to get out.
And then I heard Peg. I’d never heard anyone so pissed in all my life. She was screaming something like, “I’m going to kill you, bitch, I’m going to kill you and your bastard too.”
I was so scared, so upset, I started crying, and yelling too. “Please, Peg, let my boy see his daddy before they bury him.” This seemed to piss Peg off more, and she came running out. She had this expression on her face…I’d seen it once before.
When I was young, before Jake and I got together, I had this boyfriend, and he did a lot of drugs. A lot. One day, he got ahold of something, I don’t know what, but he went nuts. He came at me, looking like he was going to clobber me, but I managed to run away before he could. When I saw him later, he didn’t remember any of it.
That’s exactly what she looked like. She had no idea what was going on, only that she wanted to hurt me, and hurt me badly. She pulled the gun out of her bag, and started waving it around, and that scared me shitless.
Fortunately, then, the cops showed up. I’ve no idea who called them, but I was sure glad they came. I didn’t even hear the sirens, until they started pulling us all apart. Before we all left, I turned to Jake, and told him to go in after all of us were gone and no one would see him. He promised me he would, and asked for bus fare too, seeing as I wouldn’t be able to drive him home. Smart kid, my Jake.
Did he go in? I don’t know. He won’t talk about it, but I think he did.
Anyway, the police. It took three cops to bring Peg down. She was completely out of it by then. Everyone else came pretty quietly, pretty embarrassed, I think. I noticed Little Clint, that’s Jake’s brother, Big Jake’s brother, yeah, anyhow, Little Clint was walking like he’d been beaten up. He’s a really big guy, about six-foot-two. I wonder what the hell happened to him.
No, they didn’t lock anyone up. I wish they’d locked Peg up, the crazy bitch. They threatened to, but, they said she was a “grieving widow,” and let her go. But, at least my son got the chance to see his daddy.
You want to ask me about what? God, I’ve tried to block that out.
Not that I wanted to go in the first place. The man may have claimed me, but ever since I was two he has definitely not been my “Daddy,” despite what Mom says. Father, maybe, in the biological sense. But not my Dad. I’m sorry someone killed him, or whatever happened, but I didn’t want to go to his visitation.
But, Mom wouldn’t budge. “He’s your father, whether you care or not.” So, I got dressed up and went.
First thing I noticed was the small, drunk guy outside. He was a quite a bit smaller than me, actually, probably five foot nothing. I think Mom said his name was “Big Clint,” but I don’t remember too well.
Anyhow, we get there, and he just goes off on my Mom. Pretty soon, all sorts of people are out there, screaming and hollering, both at my Mom and me and at each other. I saw one old woman hitting a younger guy repeatedly with her purse.
I tried to nudge my mom, and suggest we head home, and not cause any more trouble. She didn’t even notice me, she was too busy screaming back. And then we heard it.
Imagine the most frightening sound you’ve ever heard. Now turn that sound into a voice. That’s about what I heard. I guess it was the man’s widow, the one who hates my mom. She was screaming something like, “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you.” Mom screamed back that Peg should let me see my “Daddy.”
Right after she said that, Peg came flying out, gun in hand, which scared the bejeezus out of me. Fortunately, right then the cops showed up, and started dragging everyone off. Since I’d just been standing there, not screaming or doing anything, the police just took my name and address in case they wanted to ask me any questions. Before they pulled Mom off, she made me promise to go in and see him. I promised I would, and got some bus fare from her. I knew she would be gone too long to get me home.
Soon everyone was gone, in the police cars. It took three officers to get Peg down and in the car.
Like I promised, I went into the funeral parlor. It was quiet. Everyone had left, the other mourners fleeing in fear at the fight breaking out, and all the Talents in handcuffs. It was a nice change from the chaos I’d just been in the middle of. The only person I saw was a guy sobbing in the phone booth.
So, I went into the room with his body in it. He was laid out in a T-shirt and blue jeans. I remember that struck me really hard, just because it was so strange. Most people want to be buried in their best, you know? I looked at him again, and this time I saw his face. He looked peaceful, like all dead people do, but it had so many lines and wrinkles, his eyes were so sunken in…he’d lived hard. And though he was pretty young when he died, he didn’t look it.
And then all the rage of sixteen years came flooding back. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember calling him every dirty name I knew. This was the man I was supposed to play ball with. The man who was supposed to teach me how to shave, how to handle puberty. How to be a man.
And now I’d never get to even know him. He’d never be able to come back, and say, “Look, son, I’m sorry.” I wanted to close the casket, I wanted to hit him, and I wanted to cry. Instead, I just said, coolly and calmly, “At least you have peace now, you bastard,” and walked off.