California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch
2015 Short, Short Story Writing Contest
by Del Jack
“What do you mean, ‘too risqué’?” Nadine Dower challenged her husband. “I think the dress looks great on me.”
“Nadine, we’re going to a military funeral, for Christ’s sakes, not a cocktail party. It’s … well, inappropriate. Ted would have found fault. You know how fussy he was.”
“Fussy? Give me a break, Jack. He was a klutz.”
“Don’t get ugly, Nadine. Show some respect for the dead.”
“Speaking of respect, what’s with all this military stuff? Gun salutes? Honor guard? Some military heroes you guys were. Two weeks a year at Camp Roberts. Really, Jack.”
“Okay, Nadine, okay. Wear the damned dress if you must. I just think it’s out of place.”
+ + + +
‘Out of place.’ that was what Elsie had said about the tight-fitting, red cocktail gown she had worn to Elsie and Ted’s 20th anniversary party. Nadine bristled at the memory. She believed it was that she looked sexier than Elsie and Elsie couldn’t stand it.
Nadine also remembered her grandmother’s brooch. She was certain Elsie had stolen it. For over a dozen years she had hoped to find Elsie wearing it, but conceded Elsie was too clever a crook to be that stupid.
+ + + +
“You know, Jack. I don’t think I want to go after all. It’s so phony. All that military crap. You know I never liked him, and I can’t stand that cow, Elsie.”
“Come on, Nadine. We have to go. Out of respect. I’m sorry what I said about the dress. Really. Hurry up and do what you have to. We’ve only twenty minutes to get there.”
Nadine watched her husband adjust his tie in the bathroom mirror. Yea, she’d go, she decided.
Her husband’s cell phone and car keys were lying on the hall table. Remembering his tendency for pre-planning things, she went to his phone and opened it. As she suspected, he had turned it off. She turned it back on.
She hated Jack’s phone. Its ring reminded her of that silly tune, “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood.” She moved the volume arrow to the maximum setting, closed it and laid it back on the table.
Nadine finished putting on her lipstick. She had decided on a brighter shade of red than she usually wore. She took one last look at herself in the hallway mirror and followed Jack outside to their car.
X X X X
It was unusually warm for an April day. Nadine was seated in one of the many folding chairs available to the bereaved. Jack was not sitting with her. He was seated behind Elsie, at her insistence, in the “family” section. There were no other “family” chairs available for Nadine. She looked at the funeral guests. Some of the women were already crying. From inside the gazebo-like enclosure Nadine watched the arrival of the funeral entourage; a black hearse and white limousine.
Ten Marines in Class A uniforms exited the extended limo. Six approached the hearse and removed the casket. They shouldered it and carried it in precise, jerking, slow motions to the bier in front of the grieving.
Three of the remaining Marines, rifles at port arms, raised their weapons to the air and fired three volleys. As they did so, some of the mourners startled at the sound of the reports. The forth remaining Marine, standing at the side of the shelter began playing ‘taps’. The sound of the melancholic tune brought further tears to most of the mourners.
Like street mimes, the six marines had placed the casket on the purple-covered platform, then slowly, four marched away. Nadine looked at Elsie. She appeared as grieving widows almost always did on such occasions: tired, empty, numbed with grief. She was dabbing eyes that were no longer able to cry.
Again in slow, jerking motions, the two Marines began folding the flag that had covered the casket into a triangular package. Finished with the ritual, one of them turned toward Elsie. Carrying the symbolic cloth in front of him, he took the first step toward her.
The moment seemed surreal and exciting to Nadine. She focused on the flag as it passed by her heading for Elsie’s outstretched hands. She looked at Elsie and tried to imagine how this exact moment must feel to her.
Then Nadine, her cell phone in hand, pushed the last of the seven digits in Jack’s cell-phone number.
X X X X