Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt
Bud was sitting in the small teachers' lounge at St. Thomas's School reading the local newspaper that had just arrived in the mail. He turned a page and there was a picture of his father-in-law glaring out at him. He was dead. Bud could not believe it. He read the short obituary again, saw his wife's name as one of the next of kin, noticed that the funeral was the next day, Saturday, and wondered what he should do. He decided he did not have a choice.
Five or six times that evening he picked up the phone to call Jeanne and each time he put it down again, once even hanging up after the telephone on her end rang. He knew more now from a long obituary in the Evening Star. There probably had been a news story, but he had not read about the highway accident. A young woman evidently lost control of her car on a wet road, crossed the centerline and hit Mr. Weston's Cadillac head on near the bottom of a hill. He had died at the scene, but the girl only suffered a broken leg and a cut on her head. Both had been alone in their cars.
Bud had not seen the man for a couple of years and the last time he had heard about him was when Jeanne broached the idea of divorce, and he blew his top. Bud had always guessed he would have a heart attack or a stroke some day. He wondered what had happened about a possible annulment.
Saturday morning Bud rose early, shaved extra carefully, put on his best suit and a dark tie, cleaned up his shoes a bit and drove his red Jeep out to Rockville, knowing it was going to look a bit incongruous in a funeral procession. In the back of the old church he took his wife's hand gently and looked into her stricken face.
"How's your mother doing?" he asked.
She nodded. "They gave her some pills."
"May I sit with you and the boys?"
"I left them home. They're too young for this."
"If you say so," Bud said, wishing his children were there.
The men from Pumphrey's funeral home rolled in the casket, and Jeanne's mother, heavily veiled, followed on her brother's arm. He was a bald and portly man, a banker as Bud recalled. The widow glanced at Bud and nodded, grimacing.
Jeanne and Bud walked down the aisle behind Jeanne's brother and his portly wife and sat in the first pew on the right. The widow and her brother slowly followed. The funeral Mass seemed to last a long time and the smell of incense hung heavily in the air by the time the priest in his white surplice closed his thin book with its colorful markers and nodded his head.
Bud was surprised that Jeanne had been able to respond to the Latin prayers and wondered if she had started going to church again, something she had not done while they lived together. As he and his wife followed the flower-covered casket out of the church and down to a hearse, Bud noted that there were scarcely twenty mourners in evidence. He had expected a lot more.
After the graveside prayers at the Rockville Cemetery, Bud followed the funeral director's black limousine to the Westons' home and parked under a shade tree. He sat in his car until he was sure the family and friends were all assembled and then he went in the back door and joined the somber group, trying to look properly subdued.
"You have a ride home?" he asked Jeanne after nibbling a tiny sandwich and drinking some sweet punch. He noticed her onyx earrings.
She shook her head. "Uncle Morton fetched me."
"Want to hitch a ride with me or are you going to stay with your mother for a while?"
"You leaving?" she asked.
"Soon. Got a ballgame this afternoon," Bud said.