Buckets Of Blessings
"The Queen of Gay Romance"
If your laws do not allow you to read this story, then don't. All the rest of you people who read it, if you think it's true, boy, have I investment opportunities for you!
Notes From Retta:
It's not well known I actually went to school to be a mortician. In this story, I used the subject and kept it light so no one should be offended. If the subject matter bothers you, please know it wasn't my intention to offend.
What's interesting is the reverence we place upon funeral homes in our culture. It's alright for us to see a body on a slab in a morgue in television shows, and no one gets creeped out, but the only way they get portrayed is in horror flicks. Only one movie I've ever seen has portrayed one with anything but that genre, “Stand By Me” starring Dan Aykroid and Jamie Lee Curtis.
I hope by reading this, you can see people in any profession have love lives and the manner in which they're able to have it. It does have adult themes, so please read accordingly.
Read and enjoy.
The fortunate thing is my Escalade is a funeral car. What that means is the rear seat folds super flat and a gurney slide is in place so I can take bodies to the funeral home with it. In my garage, I keep a gurney, sheets, and cover so I don't have to go across town to the funeral home.
I drove to the scene of the accident and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the accident was beyond Joan's house. When I pulled up, the Sheriff's deputy directed me to park beside the ambulance. I got out, and when I did, I saw Joan and Mark standing over in a small crowd of people who had gathered. I thought it strange, but with them living up the hill, I figured it was curiosity. Little did I know.
The deputy gave me a briefing as I went to the car. “What we have here is a woman aged 43. Local business person who apparently arrived at that house up there intoxicated.
When she never got an answer fast enough, the inhabitants saw her drive across their yard and off that cliff. The car fortunately withstood the impact and then careened out of control off into these woods. She was killed upon impact.
“Helluva car, that's a seventy foot fall.”
“More like one hundred and nine feet and the top of the hill is another forty.”
“Yeah, the inhabitants of the house requested you. They say they know you.”
“Yeah, I was to have lunch there tomorrow.”
“No, it's my job. Has the Coroner ruled her yet?”
“Is he on his way?”
“Then, I'll leave my gurney down here and go up there to speak with them. Who is she?”
“She's a business woman here locally. This is going to be huge when it hits the press.”
man.” I sat down and he looked shaken.
“Should I call someone else?”
“No, just let me get my bearings.”
“Did you know her?”
“No, I was to meet her tomorrow.”
“Oh, she was married.”
“No, the family is introducing me to everyone. I'm being introduced due to a relationship.”
“Yeah, this kind of really has shocked me. I never met her, but she was the one I was most nervous about meeting due to my stance upon drinking and driving.”
“Oh, well, she learned her lesson. I'm not sure her BAC (Blood Alcohol Content), but I bet it's pegged. No one chooses to drive across a yard and off a cliff.”
“Maybe she passed out.”
“I don't know, but let's hope. That would have been a helluva last view.”
“Poor Joan, her Sister-In-Law dies at her house. Well, let me go up there and see her.”
As I climbed up the embankment, The ruts the car cut told me it was under power even to the tree. When I got up to Joan, I walked up and just held her. She said, “She's dead?”
“Yeah hon, she's dead.”
I turned to Mark and shook his hand. “I'm sorry to meet you this way Mark. I've met you before, but I'd hoped tomorrow would have been happier.”
Mark shook his head sadly.
Joan said, “ I only wish I'd answered the door. We didn't answer the door because she was so livid. As soon as I heard her yelling, I knew she was drunk and didn't want to let her in. Now, I wish I'd answered the door.”
“Joan, we don't get to pick the times when it's our last. Just remember all the good times and don't think of this one.”
“It's hard; Poor Mitch and poor poor Ty. Gregory has to be notified too” She said over my shoulder to Mark.
Mark nodded and said, “I'll call his cell phone and tell him to get home.”
“Has Ty been told?”
“He and Mitch are at the hospital. We told them there was an accident.”
The sick feeling in my stomach just intensified. “Are you sure they'll want me? I could call someone else.”
“No, Mitch asked me who I thought and I said you.”
“O.k., but this is going to be so hard on Ty.”
“I know. The poor baby. He came over tonight and asked how we thought it would be best for him to tell his mom. Apparently, she didn't take it well and blamed me.”
Mark put his hand upon my shoulder and said, “Lance, Ty's thought enough of you to tell his mom. He's going to need you more than ever.
Tonight, when he was at the house, he was so excited and so hopeful, it reminded me many years ago when I met Joan. It made me so happy and proud for the kid...” His voice broke and then he said, “Do the best you can and be patient with him. It might not be the best decision to have you as the undertaker in this, but everyone knows your home is the one to take people to. I've discussed it with many people and they all think it's the nicest and you show so much more respect than everyone else.”
“No, you've earned it. So, when I speak to Mitch, I'll tell him it's because you're the best and your home is big enough to not have people standing out in the cold. He'll understand.” Mark hugged me and said, “I'd hoped to welcome you into our clan tomorrow, but I want you to know now you're a part of it. You don't know it, but you've got Ty's heart.”
I told him, “It's funny because tonight, I had dinner with my best friend and Ty was the whole topic of conversation between us, too.”
Joan hugged me from the back and about then, I saw the plumbing truck pull up. “Guys, Ty and Mitch are here.”
Joan's strangled groan, “Oh God.”
Ty came running over and ran into my arms. “They told us at the hospital.”
“I'm sorry, Ty.”
“No, she was so mad. She left the house and dad told me to let her go. I was afraid she was going to your house and I didn't know where you lived. Then, Aunt Joan called and said, mom had an accident and I knew.” He started crying and I hugged him closer to me. He cried and said, “Lance, I need you to meet my dad.”
He started to turn and I whispered, “Not now.”
He looked up at me and his face was a mixture of emotions. Confusion, pain, doubt, and fear.
“Ty, they called me to do the funeral for your mom. Him meeting me right now has to be in a professional sense.”
“He knows about us and accepts us. I told them tonight and he accepted me and she got more angry than she's ever been.”
“Ty, I'll meet him, but I'm more worried about you right now.”
“I'm o.k., I'm just worried everyone will find out she had been drinking.”
“The deputy already knows.”
“Oh man, this is going to kill my dad.”
“Ty, your dad's going to make it. It will be tough, and I'll do all I can to help him, but I'm going to be here for you, too.”
“I'm going to be o.k., don't ask me how, because I can't tell you, but I've already prepared myself for this.”
I looked at him and he said, “I knew my mom wouldn't accept it. I knew she'd get angry and I knew I'd probably be disowned by her. It's embarrassing, but I think that's why I hadn't chosen someone yet. When I met you, I knew you'd be someone they'd accept...or so I thought.”
I felt a hand upon my shoulder and thought it was Mark. I put my hand upon it and knew it wasn't Mark. It was a hand calloused from working. I turned my head because turning was difficult with Ty clinging to me.
Mitch smiled and said, “He loves you. I know you two don't know each other yet, but that boy fought a battle to get the chance for you two, and I just want you to know he loves you.” He stepped up and hugged me, “I want you to know things are rough, but you two belong together if that's what you want.”
“Something within me broke.. The situation wasn't professional for me at all and the distance I should have kept wasn't where it should have been. Getting emotionally involved is what sends people over the edge of alcoholism. For me, I was too close emotionally and I broke. I reached out and hugged Mitch to us and said, “Mitch, I'll give him all the love I can, and you've got it too. What I've got to do is remain professional and help in that manner too, so I don't want you to think ill of me.”
He smiled and said, “I don't know if Ty's told you about my job, but it's a plumber. Sometimes, friends call me over and it's a real shitty mess.
If I were to hold that against them, I'd have no friends. I realize you've got to be professional and all I'm asking is you not pull back from us. He loves you and I think that's what I'm afraid of most of all here. I know if she'd allowed herself, she'd loved you too, but she thought more of what other people would think than what she should have felt herself.”
“I understand that. I just wish I could have spoken with her. In my job, I can't be open publicly with my personal life. It's painful at times, but I've learned. When I find acceptance, I embrace it. So, I'll be here for you guys. Now, what I've got to do is the talk to the Coroner, who just pulled up, so I've got to go.”
Ty was still clinging to me and I said, “Ty, babe, look at me.”
He looked up at me and I said, “You need to go with your dad. I don't want either of you here when I have to bring her up that hill. It's best for you that you not see her this way. Please, listen to me and go home.”
“I want to be with you.”
“Well, I'll be busy tonight. How about I give you the keys to my house and you two go there? That way you've got a neutral space where you can be.”
Mitch looked at me and said, “I'll take him home. We'll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, we'll be up, so why don't you come over and bring whatever paperwork...”
“No, I can't do that. Let me keep the lines I have to have drawn here. Trust me, if I don't, it'll cause me problems later, and I don't want that.”
“O.k., but still, come over.”
“O.k., I will. Give me your address and I'll be there.”
He gave me their address and part of me didn't want to go, but part of me knew I had to be there. I turned to Joan and said, “Be there for them. I've got to go down there.”
“I'll be there hon, just hurry back.”
My attire when I go out to an accident scene is entirely different than when it's going anywhere else. A lot of times, when Paramedics see they're not needed, they don't stick around. It's tough work, but I can usually get help from others to pull the victim from the car and get them aboard my gurney.
One fortunate thing I've done is I bought a gurney which has a sled bottom. Maybe it's from my internship of having to carry a body on a gurney through really deep woods for almost a mile, but I chose a sled and a winch for the back of my truck. Then, the toughest part is pulling the victim from the wreckage and getting them on the gurney.
I do know the sheriff's department prefers my setup over others. They make it obvious in their willingness to help.
Seeing the Coroner going down the hill, I went over to my truck and backed it to the edge of the embankment. Once it was situated, I went to the back and pulled the winch cable down the hill with me.
When I got there, the Coroner looked up at me and said, “Lance, I see you were busy up there. You going to be o.k, here?”
“Yeah, this one's a little closer than I care to be, but I'll be o.k.”
He nodded and said, “The deputy told me what you'd told him earlier. Just be careful. You're too young, too careful, and too smart to mess it up.”
“I know, I'm really into the gray area, but I'm staying in where I can handle it. If I'd met her, it'd be different, but I hadn't. Tomorrow was to be that day.”
He nodded and said, “The deputy is listing the cause on his paperwork as 'injuries related to an automobile accident' and I'm going to do likewise.
The family has to answer less questions, not go through an autopsy, and I'll tell you now, a woman driving a car off a cliff after an argument with family could be ruled as suicide.”
“Don't do that, I think it was irrational behavior due to alcohol.”
“We're not listing that on the report either. An autopsy would have to be performed and it'd get messy with the inquest and it's just easier this way.
You know and I know what happened and the end result is she died and that doesn't change a thing. If it were someone else, I'd do this differently. Each person up there has something to lose if I did that and it saves a lot of people a lot of problems.”
I nodded and said, “They might not say it, but thanks.”
“No, just thank yourself for picking friends who are as good as those people up there. Joan's an angel without wings as far as I'm concerned. She's made it so much easier for me out there, I'll repay her that favor.”
I nodded and said, “I just met her last night and she's already done things for me.”
“Not that it's influencing my judgment here, but the woman in this car was the one I was worried about meeting.”
He nodded and said, “This one in this car has been hell on wheels for some time.
A definite type A control cunt. She's run her business with an iron fist and apparently, she ran her family with one, too, from what I've heard. The police have had spousal abuses charges several times on her but let them drop because of who she was. That family will rest easier now.”
The news shocked me, but learning about one's past is something I've taken as part of the job. It seems mouths stay shut until the casket lid shuts. This situation would be the same. I just hoped all would come out well for Ty and whomever Gregg was.
He looked up at me and said, “It seems harsh of me to talk about her like this, right over her body, but I wanted you to know what I saw up there doesn't change a thing I think about you.”
For a brief instant, his revelation shocked me and brought about fear, but his being so forthright was comforting and his words sank in. “Thanks.”
“No, you're in a good bunch and that boy has a future. Maybe this is for the best, and he'll have one in which he can be his own future. Sometimes things are meant to be.”
I nodded and said, “It's going to be rough. He and I are setting the foundation for our relationship. He told her tonight and she apparently went off the deep end.”
“Sometimes, it's all about control. She thought she controlled a perfect little world and when he upset it, she couldn't lash out at him, because she had herself to blame. Not that it was anyone's fault, so she lashed out at others.” He said looking up the hill. “When that world crumbled, she made a mistake with anger and it now rests here. Don't let that boy blame himself. He's doing what his heart tells him and maybe she should have too.”
“The family seems to think she thought too much of what everyone else would think.”
He looked at me and said, “This world's changing. She should have realized that. No one's going to condemn her for a thing someone else does. We're out of the dark ages, son.”
“I know that and you know that, but.....” I looked down at her.
“Well, let's get her out of there and get her up the hill. You are wise in the fact you're not lazy. I like that about you. There's another person in your business who's lazy and lets the wrecker pull them up the hill and pulls them out. To me, the less people who see the dead like this, the better.”
“You and me both. I just regret her family came here.”
“They'll forget this eventually. And, they'll forget the words said in that house eventually. It's going to be rough. What they won't forget is kindness. Keep that in mind when you deal with them, no matter how hard it is.”
“You sound like you know from experience.”
“I had my own situation a long time ago. Maybe I'm doing what I can to forewarn you, but the one that you don't know is coming home and his actions are worse than his mother's.”
“The other son?”
“Oh, I've not met him.”
“Let me say something before anyone else comes down here. I've had one suspicious death attributed to that son of a bitch and I don't want yours to be number two.”
“Oh, you won't..”
“Bullshit. That's why I'm telling you. If you think picking up the phone and calling the police is going to protect you, you're crazy. They cover it up just like we did here.
You're dealing with untouchables, but fortunately, you're in the class yourself. Just remember that...if he's laying there or you're laying there, I'll have to go with what's best for the press release the Sheriff releases. Just make sure it's you standing at the end.”
His news shocked me, but I looked at him and said, “there's more than one way to skin a cat.”
“I don't care how it's skinned, as long as you hand me the pelt when your done and tell me it's over. If you're skinned laying there, I don't think it'll be over until that boy up there gets his own. That's why I'm telling you.”
I nodded and said, “Let's get her up the hill and then I can get my job done. I'm supposed to go over there to that house tonight and now, I've got all sorts of doubts.”
“My suggestion is getting the boy away from that mess and claiming him. Let the brother have the seed the mom's sown. That's what he's being groomed for anyway.”
“Oh, I didn't know that, but then again, I'd never heard of him until we were standing up there.”
“They tell you what they're proudest of and don't mention what they want kept quiet. Learn to keep your mouth shut and ask questions about what's being kept quiet. You'll learn you've got the knowledge and the power.”
“Cool. I'll do that.”
“Advice from someone who won that war.”
“Good. I might need to speak to you in the future. Off the record.”
“I'll be there.”
Together, we pulled her from the wreckage and as the sled was being dragged to the truck, He tucked my required paperwork in my front breast pocket.”
At the top of the hill, the gurney made the rest of the work easy. It has battery operated lifts which basically hoist itself into the truck. Then, all it is is clicking three clamps and it's fastened fast.
I got into the truck and the whole while I drove to the funeral home, and did my job, I thought about the conversation. My hopes were I wasn't getting involved in things I couldn't handle, but for some reason, I thought Ty would be worth it.
After I was done, I went home and took a shower and got redressed in my Dockers and blue shirt I was planning on wearing today. It was formal enough to be taken seriously and informal enough to let people know I wasn't there on business.
As I drove over to their house, I thought more about the conversation. I didn't know Gregg, but the father, Mitch, and Ty were both sweethearts. My hope was Gregg didn't fall far from those two.
When I got to their house, Mitch answered the door and told me Ty was asleep on the couch. He motioned me to the kitchen and said, “I couldn't get hold of Gregg. He's probably out partying. The boy doesn't take his schooling seriously. He thinks they'll hand him his diploma just because he's got a name. I'm afraid he'll learn his lesson once he's thrown out.”
“Sometimes we learn to look where we step after we fall.”
He nodded and said, “That one in there is like me too much. Too cautious to take steps.”
“Well, I'll be there for him, so don't worry.”
“No, what I want from you is for you to guide him, but don't walk for him. She did that to me. All along the way, I was told how much she resented it and how much I wasn't what she wanted me to be when she wouldn't let me be who I was.”
I nodded and said, “He's going to have it different. Loving someone isn't controlling them.”
He touched my arm and said, “Gregg isn't like him. Gregg is like his mom.
She's raised him believing he was the smart one and Ty was weak. He thinks he's going to come in here and I'm going to hand over that distributorship.
He'll find out when it's all out in the wash, he's not going to have it. He'll be upset, but it's best for him.”
“Man, that's going to bring resentment.”
“Yes, and fortunately, she didn't leave it that way in the paperwork. She set it up in trust, yes, but she left me over that trust. I say who will run it and who won't.
Ty's got his thing and I'm not stepping in the way. Hell, for too long, she would have let Ty hang out on the vine until Joanie and Mark stepped in and made her realize her mistake. Now, Ty's happy and I'm going to see he stays that way.
Gregg's got to realize I'm not as weak as he's been led to believe.”
“Can I give you some advice?”
“Cover yourself with lawyers. He's going to lash out and you know as well as I do, he'll find a lawyer that will have him thinking he can get it.”
“No, he'll be wrong. There's a clause in the trust that says if one contests it, it will be found legally binding and the other will inherit all.
She put that in, thinking Ty would attempt to sue Gregg. Gregg has no clue it's there, but I knew it was a double edged sword as soon as I saw it.”
“Still, protect the paperwork and stand firm if that's what you want.”
“It's what I want. What aren't you telling me?”
“I can't tell you anything, All I can say is all's fair in love and war and those who seek reinforcements are the ones who prevail. If you anticipate problems, you'll already have your flanks covered. If you don't, then don't be surprised when they attack from that position.”
“You sound like you've got tactical experience.”
“Too many nights playing video games and a whole lot of martial arts training..”
He chuckled and said, “Ty, tonight, made me so proud of him. He did everything the right way. He was polite and he stood his ground. As soon as he began speaking, I knew what I suspected to be true. Maybe it was me suspecting, but I had time to prepare myself mentally for when it came.
When he began speaking, I knew and he had my support. The things she said to him were evil, mean, and vile. He took them and calmly told her, “Mom, I know you're hurt and I know you're disappointed, but I'm doing this for me, and if it affects your feelings for me, then I regret it, but I won't stand down.
She picked and she prodded and he stood firm. Finally, she thought she could lash out and take away his future and he told her Joan and Mark knew about him and were supportive in helping introduce him to someone whom he thought was worthy of his love. That's when she exploded and left here in a rage. He thought she was going to you and tried to get hold of you at the funeral home.”
“Why didn't he call me on my house phone or cell phone?”
“His phone got busted.”
“As I said, she's manipulative. She thought having the phone would control him. She thought if she threatened to contact you, he'd back down.
He didn't and told her it wouldn't change his feelings for you and told her that if she influenced your feelings towards him, he'd never forgive her. That's when she realized her only recourse was to attempt to control him by taking away him managing the hotel.
On her way out the door, she threw the phone at him and told him she didn't want him here when she got home. When she left, I told him he wasn't going anywhere and if she insisted, then I'd back him and would have her ejected from this house. It's the one thing I have which is not in trust.”
He looked at me and said, “Lance, he loves you and I know you've not gotten to know each other yet, but he's fought for you and wants you. He had to do it this way to make way for a future.
What happened up at Joanie and Mark's tonight, I don't know. All I know is she apparently came roaring up their drive and blared the horn. Then when they didn't answer the door fast enough, she got in the car and peeled out. I'm guessing she had it in drive instead of reverse.”
“I don't know, I've never been up there, but isn't there a yard area she drove over before going off the cliff?”
“Then wouldn't she have had enough time to stop?”
“Yes and that's what's not making sense.”
“Then I'd say she either passed out behind the wheel, or she intended to do it.”
Now saying this, to be quite blunt, sent me way out into zones which had my words holding me liable for a whole lot of things. Once said, I knew I couldn't retract them, but part of me knew he knew and was tiptoeing around the issue. Bringing them to light, I knew he'd accept it.
“Maybe, I do know she was drinking.”
“Sir, her blood alcohol level was nearly four times where it is legal.”
“She's an alcoholic” Ty said from behind me.
I closed my eyes and fear consumed me. Lord knows I didn't want him to hear this conversation.
He came up and hugged me from behind. “She's an alcoholic.” He said again. “It was normal for her. What wasn't normal was for her to leave here and drive when she was that angry.
All the other times, she lashed out at dad and he'd be the one to leave when I called the police. Then, she'd go to bed and the next day she'd pretend it didn't happen.
This time, it wasn't dad; it was me. She knew I wouldn't put up with it and that's why she never tried hitting me. She chose to attempt to take you from me, and the hotel from me. When she couldn't get that done, she self destructed.
It's like a bullet fragmenting after it's done all the damage it could do. I love her, but dad, you know as well as I, things wouldn't have been able to be pretended away, after tonight.”
“No.....no.....you're right, Ty. I wouldn't have let it.”
“Dad, when Gregg gets home, let him have the distributorship. It's only a thing. He'll use it and he'll abuse it, just like she did, and then, when it's gone, he'll have no one else to blame but himself.”
“No, Ty you don't understand. That distributorship has caused all the damage it is going to in this family. The trust will operate it and he can realize that and either go to school...and get a degree in something which will support him, or he can get kicked out and I'll wish him the best in life.
But, I'll tell you now, neither of you kids are going to get the money just handed to you any longer. I'll give you things you need, but what that money's going to do is be invested and reinvested into the trust.
When I do die, it will be split between you two equally, but the distributorship by then will be sold. I'll sell it upon my death bed so it will never go to him.”
“Whatever you want to do, Dad, is OK with me.” Ty said. “What matters to me is we as a family can make it out the other side of this as a unit. Gregg's going to pull away when he sees he's not going to get what he wants, and I just want him to be happy and stay.”
“Ty, if Gregg's love of me is conditional, then it's not going to matter in the long run whether he gets what he wants or doesn't. You're there and I know you're sincere, so maybe we'll lose Gregg, or maybe I will and he'll attempt to use you to get what he wants from me. I don't know.”
“He's not that dumb, Dad. The moment he comes around me and even attempts to be nice, I'll know what he's up to. He's never shown me an ounce of love, so he'd better not start now.”
Them speaking in this manner, so openly, sure had me realizing what a dysfunctional family unit it was. Somehow, I knew it was the calm before the storm and they were preparing themselves for when Gregg came home. Being as I am, I knew I needed to lead this to a constructive atmosphere.
“Guys, I hate to do this, but let's get onto ground which is firmer for me.”
Mitch smiled and said, “O.k., what can we help you with?”
“Funeral services. What I'm going to need is an outfit of clothes, jewelry you want her to wear, and if she had a favorite beautician, I'll need the person's name.”
Ty came and sat down. “I'll get the clothes. Dad, you know what jewelry she wore most. As for beautician, mom went once a week to the J.C. Penny salon. I don't know who she had out there, but I'm sure they would know.”
“Not today, but tomorrow, I'll need you guys to come down and pick out a casket. It's not hard, but it's emotional. Maybe she voiced what she wanted.”
Mitch said, “She wanted White. She wants metal and she wants a rose.”
“Interior, what color of interior, White, Light Blue, Peach, Pink, or Beige?”
“O.k., Now, I'm going to get lost in the details here, but it's pretty straight forward. I've got to ask the questions and then you'll see why I ask them as I do. Please don't think I'm being callous here.”
Mitch nodded and said, “We won't.”
“Handles on the casket, they have a variety of styles.”
“Chrome. She hated the brass ones whenever we saw them on someone else's.”
“O.k., ornate, or plain.”
“Give her ornate.”
“Ok., now, I'm going to ask the next question so you can know how it is. My funeral home has a theme based funeral. It's no extra cost, but it's the details that make a difference.
Favorite photos of the family and of any trips. I'll need them all throughout her life from when she was little all the way until current.”
“O.k., we've got tons of photos.”
“I can scan whatever you don't want me to take. The laptop and scanner are in my truck. Let me go get it and then I can ask these questions better.”
I went out to the truck and as I was closing the door, a truck sped up their driveway. The way he drove, I knew either the guy was pissed or was drunk.
He pulled up in the yard and stopped inches from me. When he got out, he said, “Sure took your sweet assed time to get the body, didn't you??”
“If you're just getting here, you're sure taking your fucking time.”
“It might be if I were running that late, but I'm not, I'm here making arrangements.”
“At five am on a Sunday morning? What a fucking ambulance chaser!”
“And what a presumptuous prick. Excuse me dude, but you don't know me, and I don't owe you a fucking breath, so get something through that fucking head of yours. You can attempt to pick at me and I'll fight back or you can back off and I'll chill. Got me?”
“That's what I thought. Now, we're making arrangements and I'd be happy to have your input. They're upset in there and they've been waiting on you to come home. They're worried shitless about how you're going to handle it. My advice is to act a little emotional because what I'm NOT seeing now is you doing it.”
“Man, the bitch hated my guts and sent me off to be in school so I wouldn't get into her business. Every time I thought I could count on her, she stepped off in my ass and told me what a disappointment I was, so you won't see tears here.”
I turned and looked at Gregg. It was the first time I'd ever seen him and his looks in different circumstances would have had me begging to swing off his dick. But, little nuances told me he was in pain, but was hiding it under false bravado.”
“Gregg, look at me and before we go in there, tell me what you're feeling.”
“What are you, a fucking shrink?”
“No, I'm someone who cares for you and this family. When I'm done with the funeral, you're going to still see me.”
“What the fuck? The undertaker who won't go away!”
“No, someone who's your brother's lover.”
“What! He's a faggot!”
“Yeah, and so am I and this faggot's about to break one off in your ass. So, shut up.”
“You think you're tough, step up punk!”
“One moment Gregg.” I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Heather's number. She answered and I said, “Sis, could you get me some bail money together?”
“What the fuck!” came her startled voice.
“Yeah, I've got a punk here standing in front of me that just threatened me. He thinks I'll back down and he doesn't realize that as an undertaker, I could hide bodies in places he never thought.”
She caught on and said, “Let me speak to his dumb ass. Who is it?”
“It's Ty's brother, Gregg.”
“Oh, is he hot?”
“Yeah, in a heartbeat if I'd not met Ty, I'd be giving this one a ride he'd never forget.”
“So, you want me to wear leather?”
“Be right there, you at Ty's house?”
“Yeah, here's the address.”
When I snapped the cell phone shut, I turned to Gregg and said, “That punk...was your last hope. She's my little sister and she says she'll come over and kick your ass so I can do the funeral.”
“Yeah, I'd break you in half within a second, but I think you need a girl's special touch. It sounds like you need it.”
“Dude, a fag's going to call his sister to whip my ass!”
“Yeah and it's pissing me off for you to continue using the word, so what I'm going to do is go in here and zone you out. You had opportunity to not piss me off and you had opportunity to make a difference in your family.”
“Well, you obviously don't know who I am.”
“Yeah, I've heard. Everyone had shivered when they mention your name. Well, punk, my right hand is the Grim reaper and my left hand is death, so fuck with me puh-leaze.”
“I'm someone who will take down your business. I just inherited more money than you'll ever see.”
“Oh really? Because they're in there making it so that doesn't happen and my stalling you probably got that decided.”
He looked at me and I smiled, “Just remember, she's on her way over here to kick your ass. So, when she gets here, it's not going to be pretty.”
“Yeah, in your dreams.”
“Nightmares for you.”
We went into the house and he shoved me.
Let me give you a bit of background info.
A bit of growing up with Heather is her parents insisted upon her going to martial arts training. She wouldn't go unless I got to go too.
When we were about twelve, I stopped because I got my second degree black belt. Heather kept going and besides Tai Qwon Do, she learned Judo, and Jujitsu. Her ritual of Tai Chi had her toned and fit. Mine, I kept up with, but never figured I'd need it in my profession. I guess I was wrong.
As I said, he shoved me and smooth as a cat, I had him tripped in the front entry hall. The commotion brought in Ty and Mitch, and Gregg started screaming about how I'd shoved him down.
I pulled Gregg up and pinching the back of his arm, I said, “Gregg, I'm sorry, it must've been an accidental reaction to you thinking you could put your hand on me. Just remember my little sister and my promise, o.k.!”
Ty looked at me and said, “She's coming!”
“Yeah, you met her. She wants to meet Gregg.”
Gregg looked at Ty and then at me and I think Gregg realized Heather DID exist and I think he got worried.
Mitch looked at us and I said, “Mitch, Ty, I met Gregg out front. He and I have achieved an understanding. AND I think he's about to apologize for being a dick to you guys. I think he's wanting to do that because when the woman of his dreams gets here, they're going to go be alone so Gregg can have a new start on a better attitude.”
Mitch looked at me and then at Gregg and said, “Gregg, is this true?”
“No, it's not true. I'm here to get the bitch buried and get what I have coming and then I'm out of here.”
Mitch looked at me and then at Gregg and he shook his head. “For a moment Gregg, I had hope. I see you're not changing, so I'll do that for you.
Your mother put the distributorship in trust and I'm head of it. I'll tell you now it's not going to ever have you heading it. I'm sorry you felt that way about your mom, but she died and not me, otherwise you might have gotten it.”
Gregg looked at Mitch and said, “You spineless motherfucker! You let her take it from me and then you're going to take it too!”
I interrupted, “Gregg, two seconds and I'll shut your mouth for you.”
“Like hell fag....”
He never finished the word because my hand went out to his throat.
“People warned me about you. The Coroner standing over you mom's lifeless body told me you were responsible for a suspicious death and you were protected from prosecution. He told me to get you before you got me.
I thought it wouldn't come to this. So, DO I finish the job here? Or, do I let go and let the next words which come out of that mouth be an apology to everyone here? Because if you think I'm letting you go to disrespect those here who don't deserve it, you're one warning away from me snapping. And, I'll tell you now you're the one who will fall.”
He was shocked. Mitch didn't say a thing and Ty looked at me with awe. Gregg's face had turned from red to purple and I knew he was a cunthair from blacking out. He nodded and I eased up my thumb over his jugular but didn't let my grasp go completely.
“You may speak now Gregg.”
“Guys, I'm sorry.”
“And, I'm sorry I disrespected you.”
“O.k., so here's the deal, Gregg, and maybe it's not my business, but your partying days are over at school. In order to get a hope of running things, you've got to concentrate and you've got to accel. Your attitude has to change and you've got to start being a member of fraternal organizations and donating your time to worthwhile causes.
Every other weekend, you'll come home and you'll do a piss test for your dad. In return, he'll give you a fucking allowance. No money gets handed off to you in the future and if you don't like it, he'll cut you off now. Got it?”
“I'll let you up, but don't get stupid and think I'm forgetting you got your final warning. Now, get your ass in there and you sit it down and we're going to plan a funeral for a loving mother, wife, and business leader of our community. If you can't find the feelings, then fake it for all I care, but when I need you to be there, you be there and you perform flawlessly. Got it?”
What was funny was even Mitch said “Yes” in answer to what I said.
I let Gregg go and he looked at me like he was shocked that someone had treated him in the manner I had.
“Gregg, I've got ears all over the place and believe me, I'll hear if you've screwed up. Your dad might not come get you out of that school, but I'll be there like a black cloud to piss on the parade you've got going.”
“I won't. You want me to change and I'll change.”
“No, I want you to better yourself. Maybe your mom didn't know how to show love, but sometimes love is shown by giving it to yourself when it's not provided by others.
Tonight, Ty told her he was going to do that and she self destructed. The end result is now we're at a crossroad.
Change happens or it doesn't. You can do it and I believe in you. They believe in you and if you feel weak, give me a call. If you've got people who won't back off, then give me a call.
It's not weak if someone comes in and makes your day better and it's not going to be seen as weak if Heather comes in and cleans house. They'll be so ashamed they'll be pissing themselves.
He nodded and asked, “What's your name?”
“Lance, I'm Gregg. Can we start over?”
“Sure, but no, we can't Gregg. What you can do is remember what I requested and as long as you forget the drama, I'll forget it too.”
Mitch smiled and gave Gregg a hug. Ty smiled and came over and said, “I'm really falling for you.”
“I promised someone I would let you walk your path. I'm going to do that. I just removed some obstacles for you and for him.”
I looked up and said, “Gregg, if you're drinking as much as your mom was, then it's going to be hard. I'll tell you now, it's going to take all you have, to do it.
I'm not a believer in rehab clinics and I'm not a believer in hope. What I am a believer in, is a set of handcuffs and the power they possess.
You might ask what I'm referring to and I'll tell you. You see a man can say he's an alcoholic and kill someone behind a wheel. The judge might even slap his hand. BUT, isn't it fucking amazing the man couldn't control his drinking in the free world, but he can when he's behind the fences of a prison?
He's able to cross those fences to go get the drink at any time he wants to, so that tells me he's blaming it upon it having control over him when he's really got control over it. He finds that strength, with the help of a fence.
My twelve step program includes a pair of handcuffs also. The twelve steps you'll find are to the basement of my funeral home. Either stop it, or you'll find your ass down there.”
He looked at me and said, “I will stop.”
“No, tell me you HAVE stopped. I don't want WILL in the sentence. Tonight, alcohol cost you your mom. It's nearly cost you a future. It cost Ty a mother that loved him unconditionally, but you boys have a father who will do that. Love him and I'll support you every step of the way and we'll be a family.”
He settled and I saw the anger replaced by the pain.“Why'd she do it?”
Mitch answered, “Gregg, she did it because she played all her aces and found out it wasn't going to work. A huge part of me wants to believe she passed out behind the wheel, but in my heart of hearts, I think she realized the road to help and the road to being healthy were too tough. She didn't realize love can change things and how fast they'll change. I think you just met love head on, and you survived.”
Gregg smiled and nodded, “If he fights as tough against others to protect Ty, they don't have a chance.”
“You got that right, but in this relationship, Ty's got options and he's got free will. Hell, we've not even had a first date yet and both of us have fought battles against this family to do it. That sucks.”
Gregg nodded and said, “You've got my permission. I think you'll be good for him. You didn't lay out any options I didn't think of before, but I was just too lazy to do them myself.”
“No, they're not hard. You'll see me doing it and you'll see Ty doing it. Ty doesn't realize it, but what organizations he's not a member, I will be. Believe me when I say we're going to expect you to be at the meetings.”
“Well, I've got a question about an organization which isn't one you think of normally, but I'd like to be a member of it.”
“Loafers.” (Loafers is a car club in Hannibal, Missouri.)
“O.k., your truck's cool if you'll drive it with sense. That stunt out there a minute ago is what set me off. They meet the last Tuesday of the month and the second Thursday. I'm a member.”
“Yeah, that truck out there I drive qualifies and take a look and you'll see a Loafers sticker in the rear window. It's won Shine and Show the last two shows. Each of my funeral cars get the treatment it gets and if I put all three in a show, I'll tell you there's a three way tie coming.”
“Yeah, it takes work to get them there, but once they're there, it's easy to maintain them. I'll tell you the trick which wins me awards.”
“Rolling the truck back a foot and shining the tire so even when it's rolled forward, it's shined. It's come down to that detail once in a competition and I won. Also, a white glove ran over it will not find anything.”
“Yeah, so if you want to be a member, you'll have to wait until college is over, but they'll be glad to have you and I'll sponsor your membership.”
“O.k.” Gregg looked at me and said, “I'd like to see your truck better. “
Ty looked at him and said, “I've not ridden in it, but it's beautiful.”
“It is, and compared to other Escalades, it stands out because it's a funeral coach. People don't expect to see one at a show and when they see one that doesn't look like all the rest, it wins them over. Now, let's get to the questions, my laptop's booted.”
Mitch said, “Gregg, I'm sorry we couldn't tell you better than the way you got told.”
“It's no problem, Dad. I was over at a girl's house and being a jerk to her. When I checked my messages, I left her and came right home.”
“Is it someone you want to know better?” Ty asked.
“No, but for me, that all stopped a few minutes ago. From now on, I'm going to either be serious, or I won't be seeing someone.”
“Cool” Ty stated.
Mitch said, “What's the next question, Lance?”
“Groups and organizations your mom was a member.”
“She was a member of the Lions and the Rebekkahs. Dad's an Odd Fellow.” Ty said.
“O.k., Cool, Mitch, how does the Odd Fellows work about age requirements?”
“They'll take the boys, but I'd prefer they wait until twenty one.”
“How old are you guys?”
Gregg smiled and said, “I'm twenty.”
Ty blushed and then looked down, “I'm eighteen. I'll be nineteen March 17th.”
“St. Patrick's Day....cool, I'll be able to remember that.”
“How will you remember it? I can't remember it.” Gregg stated.
“Easy, I'll be green with jealousy if another man remembered it and I didn't.”
“Oh, that's cool.”
“What's yours, Gregg?”
“How'd you remember it?” asked Mitch, "I can't remember it."
“If you want to know, it's a gay guy remembering it, so just understand when I tell you. Gregg's hot in his own way. I think Ty's better, but that's me. So, Hot in months means August to me and I'd have to be drunk not to see how hot he is so that'd have me drinking a fifth of anything.”
“Cool” Ty said. “I'll have it memorized now. Not that I think Gregg's hot, but by remembering you think I'm hotter.” He laughed.
Gregg chuckled and I asked, “When was your mom's birthday?”
“December Twelfth” everyone said. “She ingrained that into us and we'd never better forget it.”
“What's your dad's?”
I looked at Mitch and he looked at the boys. They didn't know.
“I find it really fucking sad you know your mom's because she was so insecure she'd be forgotten and your dad took back seat. He's in the driver's seat now, so we're going to remember it and I better hear him tell me from now on you guys remembered. When is it Mitch.”
“O.k., I've got it memorized.”
“How'd you do it?” asked Ty.
“He's the head of the house, so he's number one. There's four in this family and that's the day.”
“Sorry dad” Said Gregg.
“No problem, your mom would have thrown a fit if you remembered it”
“That sucks.” I said “But, it changes from now on.”
“O.k.” said Ty. He reached his hand out to his dad and put it on his dad's hand.
“Ok, The obituary is going to be lengthy because she's a local business person.
Don't ask me why, but the newspaper thinks quantity means quality. What I do in these instances is I request a full page so photos of her life are given as a memorial to her. They give it and surprisingly, they don't charge for it. I imagine it's all the advertising she did through them, but I don't know.”
“Well, when they ask who's going to head the business, I'll tell them I'm heading it.” said Mitch. “I had to go to those training seminars too and I can do it. What they'll expect is for me to keep the numbers up and to keep the good will in the community out there. So, I can do that.”
He looked at Gregg and said, “Gregg, if you'll shape up, I'll hand over the reins when I retire. However I'll tell you now, that will only be after you've stood by my side and ran the company with me for ten years.
After that, then I'll expect you to run it with dignity. If during a period of five years after the day you take over, there's one incident which brings one ounce of ill will towards this family, I'll tell you now, I'll step in and sell it.
If you can do that, then by then, I'll have enough money in the trust that Ty will receive the same amount. You two are equal in my eyes and as much as your mom didn't even try to hide it, I promise you now I mean it.”
“O.k.” Said, Gregg.
Mitch looked at Gregg and said, “Now, what are your grades really looking like at this college and I don't want any bull?”
“They're sucking, but they will come up.”
“O.k.” Mitch said
“Do you and your wife have plots picked out, or have a favorite grave yard?”
“No, we never picked one out. I'll leave it up to the boys what they want to do there.”
Gregg looked at me and then looked at Ty, “What do you think Ty?”
“Mom never said if she'd like a grave, or not. I know she never went to grandma and grandpa's grave, so to me, it never mattered to her. It's your call Gregg.”
Gregg looked at me and said in a small voice, “This is going to sound cruel, but my memories of her are going to be bad. I've heard they can take cremated ashes and make different things. What I'd like to have done is for her to be cremated and the ashes be placed in a bronze sculpture and be placed in the sculpture gardens downtown.”
“I don't know if they'll let it happen. Part of me says they'll do it since she was a prominent business person, but a bigger part of me says the city council will balk because they'll see it as if they do it for her, they'll have to let everyone be put in there. I'll see if I can get some answers from the city manager.
The other side of the coin would be finding a piece of land shortly outside of the city limits and then placing the sculpture there along with a fountain, and an asphalt drive and make it so it's an open picnic ground so people could go there and enjoy their families. I know some people in the garden society who would jump at the opportunity to landscape it and that'd be undercutting the city. Or, you could do it along the highway and based upon her stature, we could appeal to the state and have it be a designated rest area.”
“Cool, you'd do that?” Gregg asked.
“No, but I'll help you if you guys want to do it.”
Ty smiled and knew I'd thrown the ball in Gregg's court so hard he knew it was a direct challenge to not think of himself, but to think of his mother's memory.
He looked at me and said, “O.k., we've got options. Let's have her cremated and we'll find the statue first of all and then if the city won't consider it, I'll get together with dad and we'll do the picnic grounds idea. I think that would be a good option because I could help a Boy Scout achieve his Eagle Merit badge at the same time.”
“Cool, and a good idea.” I said.
The door bell rang and I looked at Ty and Mitch, “Let Gregg answer it. It's the queen of bad attitudes. Gregg, just be nice to her and she'll settle. Don't fuck with her too bad because she'll be serious as a heart attack on you.”
“O.k., is she cute?”
“She's my little sis, she's a babe, but don't tell her I said it.”
Ty chuckled and said, “Gregg, you'll like her. She's a knock out.”
Gregg asked, “She single?”
“She's got a serious date in a week. If you can make her head turn, then all the power to you, but you better be serious because she's closer to me than my right nut and I'll cut yours off if you hurt her.”
“Damn dude, chill!”
“Go answer the door Gregg and turn that charm onto her.”
Gregg went to answer the door and Ty looked at me and chuckled. “Wouldn't it be amazing if you and her got together with Me and Gregg.”
“It'd be awesome, but Gregg had better respect her, because she's never been with anyone more than a date and most of those have been with me, so that don't count.”
“She thinks she's not worthy or something, but she's a real sweetheart.”
Gregg brought her in and seeing her outfit caused me to blush. She looked like something straight out of a dominatrix shop. She looked at me and said, “He says you already handled it!”
“Yeah sis, he chose his battle and I couldn't wait around.”
“Shit, and I got all dressed up so I could intimidate him.”
Gregg smiled and said, “Looks pretty hot to me.”
She looked at him and said, “Is this guy for real?!”
“I told him if he wasn't I'd cut his nuts off.”
“Ooh, and he took the bargain??”
Ty smiled, “Yeah, he bargained the family jewels.”
She smiled and said, “He's a babe.”
“Yeah, and so's mine.”
“Yeah, but he's a BABE!” she whispered.
“Well, get to know him. Pull up a seat.”
“I feel like I'm not dressed for the occasion.”
“Sis, you're dressed in black, what the hell else could they want!”
Mitch busted out laughing and said, “You didn't introduce us.”
“Oh, I'm sorry, Mitch, Ty, and Gregg, this is Heather. She's my best friend in the world and Heather, this is Ty's dad and his brother. We've been planning their mom's funeral.”
“Okay...and you are fine with me dressed in this manner? Because I could really use a house coat about now.”
I stood up and handed her my suit jacket. “Sis, it doesn't go with your outfit, but now, do you feel better?”
“Much better, but I think Gregg liked me as I was.”
Gregg blushed and Ty chuckled. I looked at Gregg and he smiled shyly at me. “Gregg, you know the ground rules. Go play if you want, but what I did earlier, she can do six different ways before you know it was done. She's a girl...she doesn't fight fair.”
“Shush you!” she giggled..
“Well, you don't. But I love ya just the same.”
“Yeah and I love you too.”
“ANYways, guys the next thing I need to ask is this and I'm going to explain it so it makes sense. These here are signature forms for me to do the embalming and services. Kinda sorta, I should have had this paperwork signed before I did anything, but the embalming's already done. Her body's already been prepped for makeup and she's fit to be cremated if you want a closed casket and cremation. If you don't want embalming, then I apologize.”
Mitch said, “NO, we asked you to do your job and you did it. Here, let me sign the papers.”
He signed the papers and then, I said, “O.k., here's what I suggest and you can either do it, or not. It's up to you.”
“O.k., What you've got is a fork in the road funeral service. You've got her in a casket which is good for a viewing, but you've got a cremation which doesn't require a casket.
You can rent the casket and it'll cost you half the cost of a casket, or you can burn the casket and they'll do it. But, what I suggest is do the viewing and then do the cremation and then donate the casket back to me and I'll use it for a person's funeral who can't afford the full cost of a funeral.
Now, it's an option, but I can't charge you for full the use of the casket.”
Ty looked at me and said, “That was confusing.”
Mitch looked at him and said, “O.k., let me explain it and then you'll understand it.
Say your toilet was broke but your house was going to be torn down in a month. If you wanted a toilet, I would tell you I could fix it for you, but it'd cost you the full price of a toilet.
Now, I could lease the toilet to you for half the cost of a toilet and you can eat the cost of it, or I could sell you the toilet and with your permission, come back and get the toilet and then donate it to someone who is needy and could use it. But, I can't tell you who that person would be...which is understandable, but you have to just trust I'll be a man of my word and not go out selling the toilet to someone else.”
“Yeah, that's perfect. BUT, you get to write that off as a donation and I'll get you the tax forms for that.”
Ty looked at his dad and said, “That's cool. We'd be able to help someone who needed it.”
“Yeah, that's the general idea.”
Ty smiled and said, “I say do it."
Gregg nodded and Mitch said, “Do that and I know you'll do it.”
“O.k, so the next question is already a given because Gregg got told earlier it was going to happen. What I'll do is not have you charged for it since I made it mandatory, but I will need you to sign off on the box there. And that is a viewing or what is commonly called a visitation.”
Ty smiled and said, “I agree.”
Mitch nodded and Gregg said, “I agree, but you don't know how hard it's going to be, Lance.”
“No, and I'll tell you why it's not going to be hard.”
“You're going to be standing up there and all these people are going to be up there smiling and they're going to be telling you what a great person your mom was.
You'll be wondering how the hell they knew such nice things about your mom that you didn't and you'll soon realize that person's as full as shit as a Christmas goose. They'll all be and what's sad is about halfway through this farce, you're going to be hit by how sad it is your mom was so fake with everyone and how nice it would have been if she'd given everyone a chance.”
Mitch said, “She loved me once, I think, but I don't know. There were years when the boys were born that I loved her, I know.
After Ty was born, she inherited the distributorship and we moved to this house. Then, she got to be really hateful. It got to be so that I looked at this house and hated it because it took the love and it was gone. You don't know how many times I drove by that little house we used to live in and wished we had the love back.”
Heather said, “That's sad.”
Mitch nodded and said, “Yeah, it's sad because I know she was a great person.
When we dated, she had so many hopes and dreams and I genuinely believed all she wanted to be was a plumber's wife. Then, her parents and her brother were killed in that car wreck and she was left holding the bag on the distributorship.
She really hated it and I think she really resented me because I didn't want to run it by myself. I told her I'd run it with her and she got really hateful and said if she had to be in it, she'd run the thing herself. It didn't matter to me what she did with it because I was doing what I wanted to do...be a plumber.”
Heather said, “So, I'm getting this...she got hateful because she didn't want to run it. Why didn't she just sell it?”
“Beats me. I told her to, but she said it'd be selling her family's legacy.” Mitch shrugged.
Gregg wondered aloud, “I wonder if she'd sold it if she would have been a good mom.”
“Me too” said Ty
“Well, boys, if I get that way running it, then tell me and I'll sell it. Whatever it becomes doesn't matter to me if it costs me this family's love.”
“Dad, if you don't want to run it, then sell it.” Said Gregg.
“No, you'll learn something about me, Gregg, and that's I really did want to be in there with your mom.
Every seminar and meeting we went to, I was there learning beside her. Not one time did she accept any ideas I had and believe me, I had plenty.
Now, I've got a chance to do something with those ideas and I've got hope. Plumbing isn't as it used to be and it costs more and more to stay in the business. So, what I can do is sell the business and give the effort I wanted to do with your mom.”
“Wow” said Heather.
She looked at Gregg and said, “O.k., what am I missing here?”
I turned to her and said, “Gregg's going to be a good boy and he's going to shape up. He's going to be a member of organizations and he's going to start making good grades.
When he's done with school, he goes into the business with his dad and they run it together for ten years. Then, after that, Gregg takes it and runs it. If at any time Gregg drops the ball and screws up for five years, Mitch will come in and sell it.”
Heather nodded and said to Gregg, “Can you keep your head out of your ass for that long?”
“Yeah, but Lance and Ty and Dad have all said they'd help me and be there to give me support. Lance has said he'll come in and help me and has even offered your help if anyone gives me shit at school over not drinking and buckling down.”
“You agreed.” she looked at him with a cocked head.
“Yeah, it's things I wanted to do, but didn't have the inner strength to do before. It was too easy being popular.”
“O.k.” She said. Then, she looked at me and said, “You offered my help without asking me?”
“Sis, I knew you'd help.”
“Asshole, ask me next time.”
“Ok, but sis, Gregg's a great guy if you give him a chance."
“Yeah, even the best decorated vehicles can turn out to be lemons, so now we're having a lemon tell us it's going to suddenly start running good.”
“Yeah, and we're going to be there to invest the time into Gregg because we believe in him. He'll shape up.”
She looked at Gregg and said, “Gregg, let's go in here so I can speak with you.”
He followed her and I looked at Mitch, “She likes him, I can tell. She's going to put the fear of God into him and then she'll sign on board.”
Ty chuckled and said, “Dad, she doesn't normally dress like that. I think she did it to make Gregg afraid of her.”
Mitch chuckled and said, “I nearly died when Lance said, “She's dressed in black!” He slapped his knee and gave a belly roll. “I wasn't going to laugh because she looks like a sweet girl.”
Gregg came in and said, “Lance, would you come here for a minute.”
I looked at Mitch and Ty and said, “Excuse me.”
I went into the living room and said, “O.k., guys what's up?”
Gregg looked at Heather and said, “You ask him?”
Heather gave me a sheepish grin and said, “Lance, come here, I need to ask you a question.”
“O.k., what do you want, dear?”
“I'm deciding on something and I want your opinion.”
“Well, I told him if I signed on board, we have to date.”
“And, he said he'd only date if it was with intentions of marriage because he promised you.”
“And, I told him that would be all fine and good, but I'm planning on seeing someone else and he told me to either be serious, or not, that in order to see him, he wanted a commitment.”
I looked at Gregg and said, “Do you mean it?”
Gregg smiled and said, “You really did mean it when you said she's a knock out.”
Heather looked at me and slapped my arm, “Why the hell don't you tell me these things!”
“Babe, if I told you those things, you'd think I was more serious than I am. Then, that'd be leading you on. That's not fair to you, so I keep my mouth shut.”
“I tell you you're hot all the time.”
“And, you tell me you'd have my babies too. If I played along, you'd build yourself up. Now, you've got someone here who wants to give you those babies and you want to ask him if he's serious.”
“What about Norman?”
“Well, does Norman want a date, or is he telling you he wants commitment like Gregg is?”
“Oh man, how am I going to tell Norman I can't.”
“Do it in a way that tells him you're sorry, but someone else stepped up to the plate and he's more serious than you imagined. Then, offer him a chance with one of those girls at that table and offer to set him up with one.”
“You're too sweet.”
I looked up at Gregg and said, “You hurt her, what's left of you, I'll kill”
He smiled and said, “Lance, look at her! She came in dressed in that outfit and it just screamed at me! Then you put your jacket on her and it screamed at me again. If every time she gets dressed in something, it turns me on, then what will I do if she takes her clothes off?”
Heather slapped me and I said to Gregg, “Here's the deal and you can take it, or not. Heather and I have a standing date on Saturday nights.
We'll move the day to another day, but we get the entire evening for us. You, your brother, and your dad can have that as a boy's night, and you can take Bub, but Biff and Bridgett get to come with us.”
Heather chuckled and Gregg gave me a look and said, “Who the hell are Biff, Bridgett, and Bub?”
Heather's chuckles turned to full out laughter and I said, “Your kids.”
“I don't want no kid named Bub!”
I turned to Heather and said, “See, I told you Bub's an asshole, even Gregg don't want him!”
Gregg looked at me and I stood up and hugged him, “Gregg, since we were little, we've had this joke ever since she said she'd have my babies for me. So, we had fictional kids. Bub's the asshole of the bunch, You'll catch onto the jokes and just realize we've been friends since we were six years old.”
“Wow and not one time did you think she's a knockout!”
“No, but I do think she's great looking, but sexually, no.”
“Wow, you really are gay!”
“I tell him that all the time” she said.
Gregg said, “Lance, I know I'm supposed to be in mourning for my mom, but it's hard feeling anything for her except pity and anger. Do I have to be in mourning so bad I can't see Heather while I'm off of school?”
“Ask her, I'm not the one who's running your social lives.”
“But you told me I had to put up a good show!” he whined plaintively.
“Oh hell, if Heather agrees, then go out. But, I want you there at visitation and I want you there for all the functions. There's no changes in that decision.”
Heather stood up and said, “Gregg, I'll stand there with you and you just dab your eyes with Kleenex. It will make you look mournful and you'll be amazed at how it'll go over. I'll hold your hand and when someone comes along that I think will look at you doing it with such sympathy that they'll go out and tell everyone how broken up you were over her death, then I'll squeeze.”
He looked at her and said, “That'll be cool because the others will say I've got the best looking girlfriend they've ever seen.”
She smiled and then I turned to her. “Heather, here's something you need to think about.”
“What's that, babe?”
“Joan said she thinks you're prime material for being an administrator. All you have to do is get more education.
If your sig-o is in college, and you could go back and get it, I bet Joan will even find a way for the hospital to pay for it.”
“She said that?”
Gregg looked at me and said, “Heather, my Aunt is a real great woman. If she said that, she meant it. If the hospital doesn't pay, I'll ask dad and he'll pay for it. I'd really like to have us be together.”
She looked at him and said, “Let's get the first date done and then I'll give you another and another and then we'll cross that bridge. If you're genuinely serious, I'll do it.”
They hugged and he said, “Lance, thanks.”
“No problem, I knew she'd think you were hot just as soon as I saw you. We both were looking at your brother and since I got him and you're straight.....well, she got you.”
Ty came into the living room and said, “Dad said he's going to bed. He's tired. What are you guys talking about?”
“Well, you remember when you came up to tell me there wasn't any creamy Italian?”
Ty looked at me and began giggling. Heather looked at me like I'd lost my head and she snorted which really got Ty laughing. Heather started laughing and then she said to me, “You are so dead."
Gregg looked at us and I said, “Gregg, some day Heather's going to get lessons on something and when she does, she's going to come home and practice When that day comes, you'll be truly amazed.”
By this time, Ty and Heather are rolling and I said, “Gregg, the night Ty and I met, we were at the table and I was telling Heather that she couldn't watch me have sex with him because I'd give him head and she'd wonder how the hell I did the things I did with my throat.
Then I told her it wouldn't be the time for me to give lessons. About then, that stud came over and told me he didn't have creamy Italian but he had ranch. I told him if he was the cowboy and he still didn't take the hint I wanted his phone number.”
Gregg looked at Ty and said, “Oh brother, I've ignored you too long. That was a 'come on' if I ever heard one!”
Ty smiled and said, “If I gave him my number, and he'd been straight, then I would have gotten fired.”
“Ty, think of it, how many straight guys do you hear talking about giving head?”
"And, if someone asks you if you'll be their cowboy, wouldn't you take it they were interested? Sheesh, I'm not gay and I got that one!”
Ty looked at me and said, “Thank God for Aunt Joan.”
Gregg gave him a look and said, “Aunt Joan was there?!”
“No, she met him at a party and got his number and then gave it to me.”
“Wow, Aunt Joan's going around getting guy's numbers for you? She never did that for me!”
Ty looked at him and said, “You wouldn't know what to do with a guy's phone number if she got you one.”
Gregg looked at him and started laughing. Heather looked at Ty and said, “Ty, you're my new little bro, but that one put you into the blond hall of fame.”
“They have one!”
I went over and hugged him and said, “Babe, come here. We've not even gotten to be together and they're picking on you.”
He snuggled into my embrace and said, “Man, you smell good, what cologne is that?”
Heather said, “That's your man hon. You could smell him in a crowd.”
Gregg said, “He did smell good when we hugged, but I was too shy to ask what cologne it was.”
I looked at them and said, “Guys, each of us has an individual smell. Mine is this one. I can't wear deodorant and I can't wear cologne because it makes everything smell awful on me.”
Ty looked at me and said, “If I smelled that way, I wouldn't want to wear anything else.”
“Well, I'm yours hon, so don't worry.”
He looked at me and said, “Lance, this is going to sound funny, but would you go to bed with me and just hold me so I don't sleep alone?”
“Babe, I'll do it and you don't have to worry. I'll hold you.”
“Man, you don't know how long I've just wanted to be held while I was sleeping.”
Heather turned to Gregg and said, “If I take these leathers off, are you going to throw wood?”
She looked at him and said, “Well, If I leave them on, you'll throw wood and if I take them off, you'll throw it, so either way...If you want to be held while you sleep, I'll do it too.”
“No, I just want to sit in here and have you hold me on the sofa.”
I looked at Heather and said, “Babe, I'm taking Ty home with me. Tell Mitch I'll bring him back and I think it's best we call Joan. They've been through trauma too. They watched a dear friend die tonight.”
Ty said, “Man, I forgot about them.”
“I'm sure they'll understand.”
“Well, they might, but I need to call them.”
“It's about six thirty, let's wait.”
We left and as we drove to my house, Ty held my hand. He said, “Thank you. You've been way better than I ever imagined.”
“No, I've been a dick.”
“Your brother is now afraid of me.”
“No, he's now giving you a chance because you taught him not to underestimate you. Either you had to do it, or he would have pushed you to it, but the side of him I'm seeing now, I've not seen since we were little.”
“Yeah, he's got his guards down and that's what it took. I think it was for the best.”
“Well, I hated doing it.”
“Did you see dad complaining?”
“No, and that's because he was worried about what Gregg was going to do. I'll tell you now Gregg's going to fall hard for her.”
“Well, she'll certainly be the best thing for him.”
“Yeah and I'm really excited for him because I know if given love, he'll be great. The person I'm worried about is your dad.”
“Dad will be o.k.”
“No, it's going to hit him hard. Right now, he's still in a bit of shock because he's going to be 'up' for you kids, but when the house is empty and silent is when it will hit him and that's when he'll need us.”
“Yeah, whenever I have a funeral like this, I tell the person to give me a call any time day or night and I'll be there. Usually within a week, I'm getting that call and I rush right over.
It's sad because even though your mom and he had problems, there was a sense of normalcy there.
One day, he'll look at the clock and think to himself, “She'll be home in a minute and then we'll go out to dinner” and it will hit him. OR, he'll be in a grocery store and he'll out of habit throw in her favorite food and it will hit him. I tell you now, when it does, it's a part of the grieving and there's not much I can do but be there. It's accepting and it's the hardest part of grieving because that's the day they realize that person's not coming back.”
“Yeah, you're going to handle it in your own way and so will your brother. What's sad is I think you're going to handle it good. Your brother, when it hits him, he's going to really really take it hard.”
“Why do you say that.”
“Here's why. Your brother, if your mom had let him go into the distributorship, would have realized what she did for a living is hard and it's stressful.
I think he thinks she just went in and bossed people around. You seem to be paying attention in school and you can cross correlate that what might work for you in a hotel could work at a distributorship, or at a funeral home. I think he's not applied that same logic and when he gets in there and sees it's actually work, he'll be telling himself, “Oh my God, I misjudged her.” and it will hit him hard.”
“Yeah, I never thought of that. I think that's why she rode him so hard. Do you think if she had made it retirement and given it to Gregg that she would have been nicer to Dad and me?”
“I don't know. That's hard to say. Personally, I don't know the situation enough to know what her stressors were working there. Your dad's probably going to do excellent because he has a lot of ideas he's willing to try. Things like cross advertising work real well.”
“Yeah, I never thought of that. In a way, I could see us cross cross advertising.”
“Really! Tell me how.”
“Well, the hotels going to have banquets as parties. One thing I want to do is have a Graduation party each year that makes it so kids don't go out and drive drunk. I could see an add that says, “Stay here or here. It's your choice” showing the hotel and your funeral home.”
“That's a good idea. I'll cross promote for Graduation and for New Years. During the Summer, I'm going to do some advertising in churches on fans like they used to do in the olden days. I've also thought about yard sticks and fly swatters. Things people use every day.”
“Well, for more modern day uses, I'd suggest ink pens, cigarette lighters, and car key fobs.”
“I'll support everything but cigarette lighters.”
“No, you could do it and get your message across.”
“Have lighters that have the grim reaper on them offering to light their cigarette saying, “Go ahead, put another nail in your coffin” and on the back have the name of your funeral home.”
“That's kind of cute, but that'd be like be putting the name of my funeral home on a beer can cooler and saying, “Go ahead, have another for the road. Sick, but it'd get the message.”
“Man, I never thought of that.”
“One thing I'm going to do in the future is expand over in Quincy. It won't be a funeral home, but a morgue.”
“Yeah, you may not realize it, but I've got a morgue which holds twelve bodies at the funeral home.
Since 9/11, they've had federal guidelines that a morgue has to have special guidelines. What I didn't know was when I built the funeral home, how things would be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, a lot of funeral homes don't have federal guideline morgues and they got shut off the federal contracts. It's not hard to pass the test and it's not hard to meet the guidelines... all I had to do is fill out the paperwork and send it in.”
“O.k., so what did that do?”
“As I said, since 9/11, the guidelines changed and then we've had disasters right and left and then the war. So, what you don't know is my morgue is constantly full.”
“Huh? I thought you said you only had fifty eight funerals last year?”
“I did, but when Katrina hit, there were bodies. And for them, I took in bodies. Then, There've been other disasters. Since anything which is federal requires FEMA money, I get the bodies and I house them.”
"So you want those contracts?”
“Hon, it's twenty five hundred dollars for each body. I might store one up to a month, but they rotate real regular.”
“Wow, I didn't know that.”
“Well, it's not well known. So, what I want to do is build a morgue up in Quincy which's closer to the airport and then get a truck which will handle the containers.”
“So, you'd be a warehouse for bodies?”
“That's a morgue, hon.”
I chuckled and said, “Tell me yuck when you're dealing with the live ones. There's nothing wrong with it.”
“So, how do you make the money?”
“As I said, they come in on a cargo plane. Me, I take the flower van over because it's refrigerated and I pick up sometimes three at a time.
Then, I drive them over, and take them in. For each body I make a thousand to drive it to my home, five hundred for the storage, and then a thousand to take it back to the airport when the month's over. If they want me to bury it, then I do a closed service and get paid for that.”
“So, they're closed containers?”
“Yeah, it's an aluminum casket that's just a rectangle box. I'm sure you've seen them before and not known what they were..”
“So you never see the body?”
“Sometimes, no. Other times when I bury it, I do, but it's basically paperwork.”
“Wow, that's quite a bit for what little you do.”
“Yeah, but the government pays private morgues to do it. Otherwise, they'd have to have all sorts of federally paid people to do it and once on a government's payroll, they don't get off. This way, we have to meet the guidelines.”
“So you're telling me the morgue is just a big refrigerator?”
“Wow, would you need someone to work for you if you did that?”
“Yeah. Why? Do you have someone in mind?”
“Yeah, he worked at Chili's and he's going to school, but his grades started sliding and...”
“O.k., so you're telling me the guy's going to drop out of college?”
“He might, but what I think is if he works for you, the pay would be decent and then he could have the time to study?”
“Do you think he'd study?”
“Yeah, he seems to be sincere about it, but I'm not sure how he'll handle the dead bodies if he sees one.”
“Well, to be honest, I wasn't prepared my first time either. Mine was in anatomy class and I had to pay six hundred dollars for the privilege.
There was me and a girl who shared the body. She just plain refused to touch it. She took the class to see a guy and then, he backed out at the last minute. What ended up happening was I had to do it and ended up having to pull both of our grades.”
“How'd you get over it?”
“Well, what I did was I took a few deep breaths and then went into the room and pulled the body out of the morgue. They had them on surgical gurneys, so I had to be careful to fold out the carriage a few of the guys ended up having their's spill and by then, they had the thing cut open and all the innards spilled out. It was a mess.”
“So, what did you do?”
“Well, what helped me was I had a talk with the body. I realized she at one time was a live person, so I made up a whole great big long life story for her and talked to her about her day and as I did it, I cut her open and did the autopsy.”
“Man, that had to be something!”
“Yeah, With ours, just remember they used to be alive.
If you're ever in the embalming room and happen to be in there with a body, one thing you'll have to remember is I'll have them covered with a sheet at all times. Some people don't but I figure laundry is cheaper than someone's being scared to death.”
“Isn't it scary?”
“Not for me anymore. The only time I was scared was when I was getting ready to embalm once and a friend of mine played a trick and put the body I was working on away and laid down on the table himself.
In that funeral home, there weren't any phones in the embalming room, so I had to leave to answer the phone. He'd put Heather up to calling me and asking all sorts of stupid questions. I didn't get it at the time, but when I went back in the room, and was preparing the embalming fluid, I heard a moaning and at first, I didn't want to turn around.
Then, I thought to myself, “Fool, if you don't turn around, you'll not see who it is and you can't defend yourself.”
SO, I turned around and saw the sheet moving and said, “If you're alive, moan. It moaned and I ran out of there and called 9-1-1.
It wasn't funny after that, because the police, ambulance and first responders were all dispatched. They were having a funeral upstairs and the fire department guys ran into the middle of the funeral. The ambulance guys knew where the embalming room was located, so they got there. The owner of the home was pissed!"
By this time, Ty was laughing his ass off. “I bet you were scared!”
“No, I ran to the bathroom and locked the door. My martial arts knowing ass was scared.”
He was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes, and said, “I know it's not funny, but that's hilarious.”
“Yeah, and when you go into my embalming room, you'll see a phone on each wall. From now on, I don't leave it when a body's out and I take all calls in there.”
“Isn't that disturbing?”
really, the pumps and the machinery are computerized and are
“So, how do you do it?”
“Ty, right now, I can't answer that. Your mom's in my funeral home and I think it'd not be right. After a while, I'll either tell you or I'll show you. It's not hard and it's not as bad as you think.”
“O.k., is it gory?”
“No, autopsies are gory as you have someone's brains in your hands. I imagine your dad's job is messier than what I deal with.”
“Oh, I've gone on calls with him where sewage pipes were clogged and it was a mess.”
“How'd you get over that?”
“Well, to be honest, I didn't. I left the house and my dad used a ShopVac to suck everything out and then after it was all out, I went in.”
“O.k., so did your dad give you any pointers of how to deal with it?”
“No, he told me to find another line of work.” He giggled.
“I understand. What's your friend's name?”
At first I was shocked. And, then after sensing his embarrassment, I said, “Ok, I'm going to ask some questions which I'd like you to answer. I'm not grilling you, but I need to understand some things.”
“You get an allowance from your parents, right?”
“Then, why are you working?”
“To be honest, I don't know. Part of me did it to stay away from the house.”
“Ok, so now that your mom's gone, why don't you quit your job and focus upon your studies.”
“Well, I'm seriously thinking about that, since it'd give me more days I could spend with you. But, I'd like to have a job where we're close to each other so I can be with you.”
“O.k., that's an honest answer, so I'm going to say a few things. First of all, the job in Quincy at the morgue wouldn't be getting closer to me at all. In fact, I'm planning on being up there two times a week and letting that person do their job.
If you want a job so we're close together, I'll hire you, but Ty, you've got to bring your grades up.”
“Ok, would you spend time with me if you hire me?”
“Babe, you'd be my assistant. I've been meaning to hire one, but it's not been a high priority. However, I'll tell you now what the job entails.”
“Well, let me ask how many hours a week you need to work and how many hours a week do you need to study?”
“It varies, but there's parts of it I'll never use.”
“Ok, tell me one.”
“And why do you think you won't use it?”
“They're hiring accountants.”
“And, what makes you think the accountants won't steal from the hotel?”
“I mean exactly that. Your job as manager of a hotel is going to be assuring that no one's stealing from you, as well as overseeing your staff. If you're trusting your staff to report to you when there are thefts of items, then what happens if they don't, and they're stealing televisions out of rooms and you're not seeing it on an accounting sheet?”
“If you give people room to steal, they'll do it. I'm sure at Chili's, there's employee theft all the time.”
“And, the manager doesn't catch it?”
“No, they don't mind us taking some food.”
“And the tables and chairs and things off the walls?”
“No one takes that stuff.”
“Or, is it a shift manager who takes it and doesn't report it to the manager and then gets it replaced on the next order?”
“No, the manager would catch it.”
“O.k., so if the manager was stealing, then would the owner know?”
“I doubt it.”
“So, he's blindly trusting the manager.”
“A damned fool.”
“No, not everyone steals everything, Lance!”
“Ty, I'll tell you a true story.
When I first opened, I had mints out by where everyone signs in. It's a courtesy thing.
Then, a little old lady came in and started dumping the dish into her purse. On her way out the door, she'd go into the bathroom, raid the toilet paper and then take the Soft Soap dispenser on her way out the door.
The first time it happened, I was thinking, “Fucking kids!”, then three days later, it happened again, so I checked the sign in sheets and didn't see any of the same people's names.
So, what I did was I made a point of standing and greeting people at the door. Sure enough, she came in and walked right over and poured the dish into her purse and then walked straight to the bathroom.
After she left, I went in and the soap was gone.”
“Did you have her arrested?”
“For stealing less than five dollars worth of items? No! The police would have laughed my ass out of town.”
“What'd you do?”
“I went to the candy store and I got Chocolate covered Garlic. Then, I watched and right before she came in, I switched the dishes. She poured it in and then went to the bathroom where she didn't find any soap or extra rolls of toilet paper. She left and that's the last time I've seen her.”
He laughed and said, “Man, that's wicked.”
“No, that's called fighting fire with fire. She knew she'd been caught and she knew I'd not keep tolerating her doing it. It served as a subtle notice.”
“O.k., so what's the job as your assistant entail?”.
“Well, here's what it will include. On nights we have ....hold up a minute, we're at my house. We'll finish when we get inside.”
“Awesome house, it's beautiful. Did you have it built?”
“Yeah, how'd you know?”
“It's nothing like the others in the neighborhood. It looks old, but I can tell it's new.”
“It is. Well, it's a little less than a year old.”
We went inside and I gave him the three dollar tour. After the tour, we went to the kitchen and I got him a Coke. I brewed a pot of Hazelnut Roast. Then asked him when the last time he'd eaten. He said it was yesterday at lunch, so I asked him if he wanted an omelette. He did, so I told him to get into the fridge and get the eggs, milk and the tupperware container of the tomatoes, onions, ham, and grated cheese.
Then, I got the hash browns out of the freezer and some chicken fried steaks I had left over. I got into the cupboard and got out the Alfredo sauce.
He looked at me and asked, “You hungry?”
“Breakfast is my big meal.”
“From the size of that bowl in there, I'd say you were hungry for pasta salad!”
“Oh, well that was a surprise.”
“People surprise you with food!”
“NO! Your Aunt Joan invited me for lunch today. So, I made it to carry in.”
“Yeah, she invited me as she said she wanted me to meet the whole family and then, she made her solarium available so we could sit in there enjoying the view and get to know one another.”
He had tears in his eyes and said, “That sounded romantic. I wish it had been that way.”
“No, this is great. I like this as it is because we're learning what the other really likes hands on.”
He smiled and said, “Well, I've learned you eat huge breakfasts! For me, breakfast is a pop tart and that's it. I eat a huge lunch.”
“And I wondered why your grades were low. You're starting your day with junk and waiting until lunch to feed your brain. I bet your grades in your afternoon classes are better.”
“Well, with me, I eat a big breakfast and then keep a small refrigerator in my office and throw together a salad....with creamy ranch, or Poppyseed dressing.”
He laughed and said, “Someone probably stole the creamy Italian!”
We hugged and he smelled me and then kissed my neck. “I've wanted to do that since I met you.”
I smiled at him and then hugged him again. “Since I've met you, I wanted to do this.” I pulled back and kissed him.
He smiled and said, “Me too, but I was shy.”
“Don't be, with me. There's going to be love between us and I'll tell you now, when we're here, this is a safe zone from the outside world where we can't do it.”
“What do you want on your omelette?”
“Load it down. You've got everything I like.”
“Well, there's mushrooms up there too if you like them.”
“Love them, but the ham will be good enough.”
“Ok, now that I know you like omelettes, I'll make a variety of them and put sausage, or mushrooms, or salsa on some.”
“You cook like that for me, I'll stay around forever.”
He leaned over and kissed me and I said, “Ok, then we've got a deal. So, now that I know what it's going to take to get your grades up, I'll tell you now we're going to study together. I want them perfect and I'll do what it takes to see I've not only got the most gorgeous guy in that college, but the smartest.”
He smiled and said, “Thanks babe.”
“Nothing to thank me for.”
“Yeah there is...lots.”
“I should be me thanking you.”
“Well, then let's both consider ourselves lucky because I feel like it.”
“Me too, so what about the job?”
“Oh that!” I said turning to him and smiling. “Basically, it's a gofer job. When we need more tissues, or chairs, or if flowers are delivered, then that will be your job. If you want, you can go with me in the mornings and we can fetch bodies from the hospitals.”
“What does that include?”
“Well, first of all, we'll get a phone call from the hospital. What I have at the funeral home is a map in the office that I put a pin in, and then write it on the white board beside it. It's real hi-tech.”
“So, when you get to the hospital, what do you have to do?”
“Well, we go in the back door and there's a desk. We check in and show our credentials. Then we're led to their morgue and then, we transfer the body from their gurney to ours. We strap it on, and then take it out to the Escalade. Once it's fastened in, we go to the funeral home and place it in our morgue which is separate from the federal morgue.
Then, if there's another pick up, we go get it. If not, then what I do is I go ahead and process the body, prep it and then embalm it Usually the paperwork from the hospital will tell me if there's no embalming requested under religious affiliations.”
“Some people don't want embalming? Is that legal?”
“In our state, we have a high concentration of Amish and Mennonite. They don't like embalming. So, we can do it legally. But, what that requires is we have the funeral service within a day. The good thing there is they don't want any additional prepping of the body, so no washing is required and the hair style is done in a plain bun. The clothing is usually really plain and they want the plainest casket available. So, once I have it done, I wait for them to come since they don't have phones....well, the Amish don't, but come to think of it, I don't get Mennonites calling either. They come and they take the body with them.”
“Yeah, they have the funeral at their village, but the state does require them to have a lockable casket now which they didn't use to have. The state also requires a vault for all bodies unless cremated.”
“O.k., so if I worked for you, we'd do all that?”
“If you worked for me, I'd have you doing everything I do except embalming. I'd want you to know the whole business so you'd see what I did for a living. I wouldn't expect you to do it all, but I do want you to know what it's like. It's not hard and it's a good living.”
“That's what I was going to talk with you about at a later date, but do you think you'd mind if I switched my major so we could work together?”
“What about the hotel?”
“Lance, my heart's not in it. I know Dad's not going to mind, but I'm worried about disappointing Aunt Joan and Uncle Mark.”
“They're smart and I'm sure they'll understand. It's not like they can't hire someone else. If you like the funeral business, I'll hire you, yes. But, I'll also pay for your schooling as it's a business write off and when the time comes, I'll make you a partner in the home.”
He smiled and said, “You'd not mind?”
“Mind? Hon, you wanting to be with me is a blessing. Us being able to work together is a Godsend. So, if that worries you, then don't be worried. We'll talk to everyone and let them know. But, promise me you'll finish this semester no matter what.”
He nodded and said, “You'll study with me?”
“Yeah, I'll do everything with you and might even pay to audit the labs if you want. That way we can be partners. It's not hard and once you get over things, you'll see it's quite nice.”
“Yeah, I think you'll like it. And, I'll be patient and explain everything to you.”
When breakfast was finished cooking, I told him, “Nuke that Alfredo sauce and while you do that, I'll wash up the griddle.”
He did and we sat down to eat together. He stopped me and said, “Babe, thank you.” He leaned over and kissed me and then said, “I forgot clothes, but I'd like to take a shower.”
“O.k., I've got casuals, What sizes do you wear?”
“In what? Pants, I wear 32/34, shirts, large since I'm broad in the shoulders, and shoes, 10 ½.”
“Well, my pants will be too large as I'm a 34/34, but the shirts will fit and shoes, well, these clodhoppers are a size 12 ½.”
“Man!” He smiled. ”Do you have belts? I think the pants can fit.”
“We'll check, I do have belts. By the way, I've got an appointment tomorrow to get a suit cut, so you can ride up and be fitted too. While we're at it, I'll have your dad and Gregg go and that way you all match.”
“That will be nice, I don't think any of us owns suits. Dad has jackets, but they're so outdated, he looks like that football announcer on tv.”
“Oh, well, your dad's in the business world now, so he'll have to know where the best suits are made in the area.”
“My dad's not going to take to suits too well. He's broad and short, so he thinks they make him look like Danny Devito.”
“Nah, you're dad's built nice. Yeah, he could stand to lose a few pounds, but I think if we talked him into going to the Y with us, he'd find out it'd be fun and healthy for him as well as keeping him from being lonely at the house.”
“Well, get your dibs in first because once he gets to working out there, the guys there will have him going out to eat and getting fat.”
“No, your dad's a leader. I think he'll be amazing some people out there because I think they're expecting your mom's style. I think he's going to be a lot less on the iron fist and more on gentle nudges. But, I bet when it comes to cutting through the bull, your dad's going to call them out real fast.”
“Well, everyone's used to working for mom, so they'll do their jobs, but his new ideas will probably be shot down by them.”
“I doubt that. I bet he tells them real fast he expects their jobs to be done, but at the same time, he's not going to be overruled. Just wait and see.”
He finished eating and said, “That was delicious. You really should have a restaurant.”
“No, I'd lose my ass because I'd be out eating at other restaurants I enjoy better.”
“Where do you like to eat?”
“I forgot, you travel all over for your job.”
“Yeah, in Quincy, Sprout's Inn and Friday's. Tuesday's has a nice salad bar. Hannibal, Logue's. Perry, Perry Junction, but their salads about kill me as I'm allergic to MSG.”
“Yeah, sometimes if I stop at a McDonald's I'll get a Big Mac and the lettuce on it has it and it's not so bad. Instead of feeling like I'm being strangled to death, and having a really strong taste of beer in my mouth, I have a taste of chocolate in my mouth.”
“Wow, and the salads at the Junction do that?”
“Yeah, but outside of Perry is a restaurant called Rustic Oak which is awesome. It's like Bass Pro Shop meets a restaurant. Lot's of taxidermy animals and lots of rustic canoes hanging from the ceiling or walls.”
“Wow, never been there.”
“Well, how about tomorrow night, we go there as a family. Let me call Heather and see if she's available.”
“Don't do that, they're probably asleep.”
About then, the phone rang and I said, “That's probably her.”
I went to the phone and saw the caller I.D., it was Joan. “It's Joan.”
“O.k., I need to speak with her.”
“Hi Lance, How's it going?”
“Things are going well. How are you fairing?”
“It's been easier, last night was rough.”
“I understand, we were wanting to speak with you, but didn't want to call and disturb you.”
“You should've, there wasn't any sleep being done here.”
“I understand. Ty and I are here and neither of us have gotten sleep.”
“Yeah, I spoke with Mitch and he said he got some and thought Gregg was sleeping with his girlfriend.”
“Yeah, they were getting ready when we left.”
“So, how's things with Gregg?”
“Things started being rough, but we came to an understanding. I think he's ready to change his life and I know Heather will be sure he does.”
“Heather. Are you referring to Heather your friend, and my nurse assistant?”
“Yeah, I introduced them and they hit it off.”
“Oh Lord, he's all wrong for her.”
“No, I think you'll be amazed at how he's changed.”
“Lance, I beg to differ, but there's not enough changing that boy could do.”
“Well, let's just say he got a wake up call last night and now knows he's expected to change and there won't be anymore non-sense.”
“It'd have to take a severe amount of brute force for that to happen, that boy's the most unruly boy I've ever met.”
“Well, let's just say it didn't take that much force, but I did apply pressure.”
“Yeah. But, let's not get into that. You'll be amazed.”
“I already am. I expected there to be a lot of problems. I thought Mitch was being polite and not mentioning any of the problems.”
“No, Gregg and I had a talk and things got a little tense, but then he realized in order not to pass out from my hand being around his throat, he had to agree.”
She laughed and said, “Well, that would do it!”
“Yeah, underneath all that anger and hatred is a sweet guy.”
“I had no idea. He used to be when he was little, but I would have sworn his mother was too much of an influence on him.”
“Well, she did her damage, that's for sure.”
“Yeah, and as much as I hate to say it, Mitch and the kids will be better off.”
“Yeah, Ty's here, would you like to speak with him?”
“In a moment, I need to ask you some things first.”
“Ok, go ahead.”
“Is there anything I can do to help with the funeral preparations?”
“Well, we've got to go pick out some items at the funeral home, but other than that, most of everything except the obituary is completed. Well, if you do happen to have photos of her, it'd be welcomed.”
“I'll get out my photo albums. Most of them were taken with the view behind them, so that's probably not suitable.”
“No, we'll use them. Omitting them will make it seem like she didn't appreciate it. What happened was a moment which wasn't always like it was, so we'll use it.”
“Brilliant thinking, I'll get you what I've got.”
“Well, it will help as I'd like to get copies so both Gregg and Ty have discs with their mom and them together, They might not fully appreciate it now, but in the future when the pain diminishes, they will.”
“You're doing miracles with them, you know that?”
“No, it's a miracle Ty's in my life.”
“I understand, I feel that way myself quite often about Mark.”
“Then you understand how fortunate I feel.”
“Yes, I do. Now to the next item on the agenda. Lunch today is still on. It's not going to be a happy occasion, but we'll do what we can.”
“Good, Ty saw the pasta salad I made and thought I was a big eater.”
She gave a huge laugh and said, “I bet. Now, I'm going to ask you another question and I'd like to have an answer if you can give it. If you can't because you think it might not be good, then just say “Not at this time” and I'll understand.”
“Mark and I have felt for quite some time Ty was getting the short end of the stick between those two boys. Their mother didn't help that any, but as hard as it was, we loved her because Mitch loved her.
Do you think Ty really wants to manage the hotel, or do you think he was doing it because there wasn't anything else affording itself?”
“Ummm, that did come up in the conversation and he's a bit afraid of disappointing everyone. But, he's wanting to speak with you sometime on that subject.”
“Ok, good, I'm glad this is coming out into the open. I'm not the least bit upset. We care for him and we wanted things the best for him.
Mitch has said he's treating the boys equally and I believe him. Mitch will still be in the partnership and that's not going to change, but we didn't want him doing what he didn't feel compelled to really doing.
Does he have a thought of what he'd like to do? I mean Mark and I will do everything we can.”
“Yes, coming into the funeral home.”
“Oh....are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Things are going splendidly for us and I think it's perfect. In fact, I think the match between Gregg and Heather is perfect too. You should see the way he looks at her.”
“It's not like a lion at a fresh kill is it?”
“No, more like a love sick pup.”
“Wow, I would have never thought it. He's a good looking boy, but even the devil himself seduced Eve.”
“Yes, and just wait because they'll be there today. Now, if you really want my opinion, I'll tell you now, the one I'm most worried about is Mitch. He's in the false 'up' mode right now and I think he's doing it for the boys.When this settles, it's going to hit him hard.”
“I believe it too. They really did love each other once and things changed. I can't put a finger on it, but it was about the time her parents died.”
“Yes, and somehow, pride got involved there of which I'm not real sure why, and she let it control her and anger entered like a dam opening.”
“You described it perfectly, your grief counseling is very perceptive.”
“Yes, and they seem to be opening up and accepting it.”
“Are there some moments you can spare today so we can all get the obituary written and things chosen?”
“Sure, we'll do that at the house. Then, we can go to the funeral home, I've got a call in to her beautician at Penny's and she's supposed to call me back. Is everything prepared there?”
“Yes, she's waiting and then we'll have everything prepared except for flowers and the funeral cards.”
“Good, I want things to be prepared before Mitch cracks.”
“They will be. Well, here's Ty, and I'd like to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. It seems like pieces of a puzzle have fallen into place between us.”
“Hon, you're sweet and he's adorable and I think you're a perfect match.”
“I do too. Well, good bye.”
I handed the phone to Ty and then went into the kitchen to wash the plates.
When they were done, I went upstairs to lay out my gray suit. It's being lighter than I needed it to be wasn't an asset at the funeral home, but in social settings, it was perfect. I didn't lay out any clothes for him as I wanted him to know my closet was open to him as was anything in my life.
When all this was done, I went back downstairs and made motions of telling him I was going into the living room. I went in there and then got on my laptop. I answered emails and began writing up the obituary.
Where questions were, I wrote them out in another text file. I wanted to be as prepared as possible because I knew the scanning of the photos would be a long process. My Dell had dual processors, but still nothing was as slow as that scanner.
Ty came in and tears were coursing down his face. He plopped down on the sofa and hugged me from the side. “Thank you.”
“What'd I do.”
“She's so happy for us it's beautiful and she was completely satisfied with me not going into the hotel management. She says from what you told her she thinks we're doing great together.”
babe, we are.''
“Yeah, and I just want to thank you. She says she can't imagine the changes we've all done as you gave flattering descriptions of how Gregg's changed. It's hard to say it, but her not believing is going to be typical of our whole family as he was that big of a jerk.”
“Well, he's not now, so let's give him the chance.”
“If he screws it up, the twelve steps to the basement of your funeral home won't be touched because I'll throw him down them myself.”
“Hon, don't think negatively. There's going to come a moment when he'll screw up and we've just got to love him and guide him back onto firm ground. Don't be ready to pounce, o.k.?”
“You don't know how good it is to hear you even correct me about him and pull me back onto firmer ground. I'll give him the chance because I know how you'll guide him and he'll respond. Thanks.”
“No problem babe.”
The phone rang again and when I looked at the caller ID, I saw it was Ty's house.“Hello?”
“Hi Lance, this is Mitch, I don't know if Joanie's called you yet, but everyone's meeting at their house for lunch.”
“Yes, we just got off the phone with her.”
“Good, how are you two doing?”
“We're doing great. We had breakfast and if I'd known you were up, we'd had you over.”
“Oh, that's o.k., I'll eat better at lunch. So, what's on the itinerary for today?”
“Well, what we're going to do is we're going to have lunch and then we've got to pick out flowers for the casket and we're going to pick out funeral cards.”
“Ok, so what else is needed?”
“Scanning the photos and finishing the obituary and we're about all set.
One thing I do want you and Gregg to do is tomorrow, I've got an appointment with my tailor and I'd like to get you all matching suits. You'll need the tailor as you'll need suits for business too.”
“Lance, I hate to tell you, but suits don't look good on me.”
“That's because you've not had a good tailor. We're going to change that. The one I have is the best I've ever met and believe me, I've had suits cut in a number of places and this guy is tops.”
“Your business requires suits. For mine, I can get by with polo shirts and slacks.”
“Mitch, can I interrupt you there?"
“You want to know what that picture gives to your customers and the public?”
“Yeah, it gives the impression because it says, “I'm in a situation where I need a suit and I can get by without it because the pistol in my jacket over there lets it happen.
How many times have you gone into a social dinner and seen someone dressed like that when you knew you were to wear a jacket?”
“O.k., so, change the course of things and let your staff wear the polos and slacks and you take over in a suit.
A suit says power and it says control. You might rule with a gentle nudge, but believe me they'll hop to it because you're the one who's obviously the boss.”
“Ok, so this guy will make me look like I'm taller and thinner?”
“He'll cut the suit to give the appearance of height, but as far as the other, Ty and I are going to be working out at the Y and we'd like you to schedule times with us so we can work out as a group.”
“I'll do that. I've been thinking about doing that and the thing which has stopped me is no one else to do it with. If I can do it with you guys, then it'll be great and it'll keep my mind off the fact I'm actually working out.”
“Yes, and here's the clincher. When I work out, I get sweaty and rather than going in and taking a shower immediately, I go in and sit in the whirlpool and then do some reps between the pool and the sauna. By the time those are done, the stiffness and soreness you'd normally associate with working out will be gone. Then, a nice hot shower and you're good to go.”
“When do you want these scheduled?”
“Well, Ty and you are needing to talk about his schooling. He's spoken to Joan about it already, but he's a bit worried about what you'll think. What I've learned is some of his classes aren't doing so good. I'm stepping in and he and I are going to salvage them by studying together. But, the other part we need to discuss.”
“Let me guess, he's not wanting to go into hotel management?”
“O.k., I'll support that, does he have an alternative picked yet?”
“Yeah, he's thinking about coming in with me into the funeral home.”
“O.k., I'm not going to make any judgments there because I know you make a damned hard job look easy. But do you think he'll be able to do it?”
“To be honest, if he was wanting to do it alone, I'd tell him 'it sucks', but, with us doing it together, it's going to be great.”
“Well, make sure it's what he really wants to do first and then, I'll back him on it financially.”
“No, that's not what we're asking. Financially, I'll back him as I can write it off. All we're asking is for your blessing.”
“That's the easy part. I know when you're doing tough things with someone you love, it makes the hardest job easier. I tried to get Wendy to see that, but her hard headed-ness put me off.”
“Yeah, and the good thing is if he goes to school for it, I'll be able to study with him and help him more. I'm excited about it because to be honest, we get along that good.”
“I know what you mean. You boys just look good together. It's a perfect match. I can't be happier for him, and you don't know how many good things I've heard about you.
Joanie's head over heels for you And Mark, when I spoke with him, he filled me in on the number of people who all swear by you and I can't tell you how proud I am of you when I hear that.”
“You deserve it. I'm envious. You've been in the business community for what? A little over a year or so? And, it's like you came in riding the white stallion son. People set in their ways are just blown away by you.”
“Well, it's been a labor of love. What's made it so easy is I've had really bad competition.”
“Well, I'd like to think it's going to be easy like that for me, but I know it's going to be rough.”
“Well, we'll be here for you. What I think will be good is you've got the love of your boys and I and you've got us pulling for you in your corner.
That combined with taking the time to do things for yourself like working out and building up yourself, is another part of it. One other thing I'm going to ask that I've not spoken about with Ty is making a night where it's family and us either eating at each other's house, or going out and doing something together. From what I'm understanding, Joan has Sunday's at her place, right?”
“Yeah, she's had it for years and you should know you're a part of that now.”
“Good, that's going to be another great source of familial support for us all and it'll strengthen our bonds.”
“Speaking of that, I didn't get a chance to tell you, but how you handled things with Gregg was exactly what he needed.
If you'd gone soft, it wouldn't have done anyone any good. You weren't overly harsh and I think if you had been, I'd have probably stepped in, but you did it with the perfect touch and that boy realized you did it with love. It's amazing how he hit the kill switch on that attitude of his and we all saw a side of him we'd not seen in a long time.”
“Yeah, and that's another thing I need to bring up with you that I just spoke with Ty about.
There's going to be a time when he screws up. You know it and I know it. When it happens, the key to things is calm correction and just reassuring him we're there for him and know he can do better. If need be, as I said, I'll step in or Heather will and take the obstacles out of his way. I think with enough support built into the structure we've got, the bonds will be enough to keep it going forward.”
“I agree completely. Now, I'm going to say something else and please don't take offense at first, but when I first saw Heather, I was like, “Oh my God” and I'll tell you now, I expected Gregg to go into the mode which had me convinced there was no hope for him.
Then, that look came across his face I know so well and saw it was love at first sight. The perfection that girl has shown me in the few hours I've known her is amazing.
After you two left, I couldn't sleep and I got back up. She must have heard me moving around and she got up and came back in and just sat with me at the table with her hand upon mine. I'll tell you now, if I was twenty years younger, I'd give my son a run for his money.”
“She's a keeper that's for sure. What's underneath is pure tiger and Gregg needs to know that. What is going to be amazing is she'll do it in ways that will show him what she can do, but not do it to instill fear.
When she does some of the things she does, watch her and then see how fast she gets back her bearings. It's scary”
“That's what he needs. But, what I'm happiest for is the timing of you and she coming into our family. It's like a void happened which was pure negativity and you two came in with positive energy. The only way I can say it is to imagine going through the worst hurricane you've ever been through and within moments of it's being gone, the sunshine coming out and giving warmth and comfort. The feeling I have is so hopeful for my family now, I just can't express it.”
“I understand. It was lonely here for me and I hate to say it, but I'm a very visual person. It's to the point I get superficial with it. And, when I first met Ty, I was lost to his good looks.
But, when he called Friday, it was like seeing the coin having two sides and both being wonderful. Knowing that, when I met Gregg, I saw his looks and knew she'd fall for him as she was gaga over Ty, but I also knew his attitude would piss her off.
I think even though her outfit was way over the top, it was perfect for him because it showed she's all woman and yet, it told him she could be a bitch. Then, when she started opening her mouth in our conversation, I think you guys expected her to be that person which if you must know is just super sweet.”
“Oh, I know. When she sat in here with me, she told me you two's life stories together and I'll tell you that girl loves you. You might not be related, but she's your sister in all ways. Now, hearing you speak so highly of her, it's got me so proud of my boy's choices because as a parent, I would love to hear mine speak of each other as you two do.”
“You will. It's going to take time, but you will.”
“I hope so.”
We spoke for a few more moments and then Mitch said, “Gregg and Heather just walked in. I'll get off the phone and see you guys later.”
“Ok, tell them we love them and we love you too.”
“Back at 'cha.”
“From My Keyboard To Your Heart”,
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