This week’s prompts are at the bottom. The short story, below, was written for practice. Practice makes perfect.
I first saw her at my Grandma’s memorial service, in the ‘Azalea Room’ at McKinley’s Funeral Home – St. Olav. It’s the nice green Victorian one, with the climbing roses, on the corner of Fifteenth and Bascom in midtown.
She seemed a young girl, maybe nineteen years old. Over her shoulder she carried a woven black jute bag, and wore a dark blue A-line skirt with a banded waist. Her ensemble was completed with a grey blouse that had a name tag stuck to it. The tag had a red border that read, “Hello, my name is:” Amanda was written with a dark marker in the white field provided. I watched as she approached the casket and leaned over to look inside. Her heavy dark braid swung down over her shoulder and it would have tickled Grandma’s nose if Grandma had been in any condition to feel it, but Grandma was dead.
Amanda, I assumed that this was her name, cocked her head and seemed to study Grandma for a while before raising one finger upwards, as if she had remembered something important. She reached into her shoulder bag and removed a small silver flask with a brass or copper coloured top.
She screwed it off and took a sip, tipping the flask back and wiping her mouth with the sleeve of the grey blouse. Then she tucked the flask down into the box with Grandma and turned away.
Dewey and Linda Turner, Grandma’s cross the street neighbours who had known her for years, were sitting in the front row. In fact, Linda had been the one to discover Grandma’s body when she passed away. Amanda, if that was indeed her name, stepped over to the Turners and spoke softly to them. She must have asked if she could sit down because Dewey, ever the gentleman, promptly jumped up and offered her his seat. She seemed to thank him, grabbed the back of the chair and dragged it, with a horrific scrapping noise, over next to the casket where she sat down, and began nodding her head at the other mourners as they filed past to pay their respects. Every so often she would lean towards the box and say something; like she was talking to Grandma. I could never make it out but she would laugh then. Sharing jokes with Grandma as Dewey Turner stood by. After a while, she once again dug in her shoulder bag again and this time she came back with a pint bottle. It had a yellow label glued on the front and was about half filled with brown liquor. She hit this one pretty hard and downed about half of it before screwing the cap back on, wiping her grey sleeve across her red tinted lips, and returning it to her bag.
It was about this time that my mom dug her elbow into my ribs.
“Kenneth, go do something about her,” Mom said, “For Christ’s sake, everyone else is grieving here.”
Reluctantly, I got up and travelled the few steps to the casket. I kneeled next to the girl I believed to be named Amanda.
“Ms Amanda?” I started.
She looked over at me and smiled, “Yes,” I picked up the faint smell of whisky on her breath when she spoke.
“Were you close to my grandma,” I asked.
“We were drinking buddies at the Women’s Auxiliary. You must be Kenneth. She told me about you.”
“Did she now?” I asked because I felt she expected me to say something.
“Oh yes,” Amanda went on, “are you still seeing Elizabeth? I’m sorry, I can’t remember her last name, I’m not very good with names, but she was the blonde one; the smoker with the shrill voice. Your grandmother didn’t much care for Elizabeth.”
I smiled, “No, no; Elizabeth and I have gone our separate ways, I’m afraid.”
“Sorry to hear that, Kenneth. Your grandma said that she had a great rack. You must be heartbroken.”
I turned a bright shade of red and caught sight of my mother with the corner of my eye. “Uhm, I’ll get over Elizabeth, I’m sure,” I said. Then without realizing, I continued, “There are coffee and cake in the parlour, would you like to join me for some?”
“Right now?” she asked.
“Sure, why not?”
“Do you think your grandma will mind?”
“No, I don’t think she would mind at all. In fact, she would be pleased if you and I got to know each other better.”
I stood and took her hand. When she rose I toed the chair back towards Dewey Turner who, in turn, carried it back over next to his wife as Amanda and I retired to the parlour for refreshments. There was so much I wanted to ask her.
This week’s prompts are:
Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.