This week's red writing hood challenge was to describe your 80th birthday party. I did it. Kinda. In my own fiction-y way.
I value your honest feedback.
Like A Songbird
The Reverend cleared his throat, and gazed towards his audience, "And now," he said, "we have a few words from Angela's son, Walter Merchant."
Walter walked towards the pulpit, holding an envelope in his right hand. He turned to the audience, pushed his glasses towards the bridge of his nose, and wiped his forehead with a paper napkin. He cleared his throat, took a sip of water, and tapped the microphone gently.
"Hello," he croaked. "Thank you all for coming." He blinked repeatedly "It's kinda funny that Mom's birthday and her funeral are the same day." He licked his lips, and added,. "She always did like things to be just right."
His words hung in the air, then fell to the ground, like swatted flies
He reddened softly, and mumbled, "You know how she is, um, was. Everything always perfect."
Yes, the audience thought, always perfect. From her spotless white baseboards to her perfectly trimmed eyebrows, Angela Merchant was flawless. Even this funeral was perfectly tasteful. A simple oak coffin, closed casket. A single spray of white roses, and one portrait---the same picture the newspaper had used when she had stepped down from the bench. No tacky carnations, and certainly no wailing or caterwauling.
People knew better.
Walter cleared his throat again, and said, "Mother asked that I read this to you, in the event of her death." He smiled ruefully. "Of course she did."
The mourners laughed in recognition, for real, this time.
Walter began reading:
"Hello, friends and family. Thank you for coming. I trust everything is in order. As you know, this death isn't a surprise. When you're seventy-eight and the doctor says you have two years to live, trust him.'
'This is the first time my son Walter has read this letter. I made it clear to him that if the letter was opened in any way, my attorney, Michael Sullivan, had full authority to leave his inheritance to the National Rifle Association. I hope, for his sake, that he heeded my warning."
Walter paused, smiled to the audience and said, "Don't worry--I did." As the audience laughed, he turned back to the paper. He adjusted his glasses, and continued.
"Walter, did you just break from the script?" he read, his voice halting, then growing thick, like setting cement. He continued, "Don't do that Walter! Don't take this moment away from me, for God's sake. And don't look up to the ceiling and say 'Sorry, Mom,' either. Have some class."
Walter sighed deeply. He turned back to the page, and read, "I have a few things to say before I stop talking for good. I know that a lot of you didn't really like me. I made you uncomfortable. Now that I'm dead, I can say it. There were no chinks in my armor. My cocktails were better than yours, my dissenting opinion in Frankus vs. Oklahoma remains groundbreaking, and honestly, I looked a hell of a lot better than most of you."
Walter opened his mouth, then locked eyes with Michael Sullivan, Esquire. Her mother's attorney shook his head slowly, once. Walter nodded, shut his mouth again, and continued reading.
"You know why there were no chinks? I didn't let it happen. I ran seven miles a day. I bought the good vodka. I studied harder, wrote harder, and worked harder than most of you did in a lifetime. I did what was necessary. And if you don't like it, I don't really give a fuck."
Walter giggled to himself, a nervous, girlish little sound, "Oh, Walter, I said, 'fuck,'" Angela's voice boomed from the page, "Get over it. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"
Walter continued to giggle, then found his place. He read, "Walter. I said get over it. If you giggle one more time, I'm giving all your money to The Audubon Society. That is if it hasn't already gone to the National Rife Association. Sometimes I'm amazed that we share the same genes."
Walter bit his lip, his face red. He rubbed his hands on the sides of his pants, leaving sweaty marks. He took a breath, looked at the audience, and giggled once more.
"God," he said, "She really was a bitch wasn't she?"
The mourners said nothing. Walter stared out at the sea of black. They looked like a flock of ravens, waiting and hungry.
Walter slammed his hands on the pulpit, "Come on, people!" he yelled. "Did any of you actually like her?" He felt so light up there, like his bones were made of air. "You're all still scared of her, aren't you? Don't be!"
He lifted up the paper. It felt so light, so insubstantial. Slowly, deliberately, he ripped it into tiny pieces. Released from the burden of her words, the papers floated toward the ground, gentle and free.
Walter stepped behind the podium, and walked out the door, whistling a tune, carefree and soft, like a songbird.