Sleetmagazine.com

Volume 14 • Number 1 • Spring-Summer 2022

Scott Gardner

Halloween

The day of the memorial service for Albert fell on Halloween. Despite his ashen appearance, friends and relatives wanted to view their beloved one last time before his burial at the Tryonville Cemetery. Grammy Mooney was disconsolate and could not sleep the night before the viewing. She encountered wicked nightmares of sweet Albert and arose slowly in the morning and prepared to go to the service.

Being Halloween, and what with trick or treat hours changed more to daylight than in the past, it was agreed to hold the service early afternoon so that parents could dress their children in their costumes before accompanying them with their bags through the streets of Titusville. Grammy put on her black dress with matching sunhat, veil, and sneakers and sat patiently by the front door, awaiting the event that was to occur in a few hours. She was logy and depressed, then remembered the cherry pie moonshine that she had purchased from Delmer Tuck last week. It was sure to take the edge off and enliven her spirit, so she went to the pantry and found the mason jar behind a row of dilly beans that she had recently canned. She had never tasted cherry pie moonshine and was intrigued. Delmer usually only offered straight up moonshine or an apple pie concoction.

Cherry had always been her favorite flavor. She had tried to grow her own cherry trees in her orchard years ago, but it had been a dry, hot spring, the soil had been solid, and cherries require cold weather and four years of patience before they bear fruit. Grammy had lacked the necessary requirements and the young saplings soon withered and died.

She put her nose to the mason jar and took a whiff. The sweet and sour aroma masked the brutal power of the moonshine. She took a sip, was smitten, and soon drank most of the contents of the jar. Heaving a large belch, she grabbed her leather purse and headed to the door.

Driving to the funeral home became treacherous. It is a long downhill ride from Route 8 into Titusville and she had to put up with fools in the left lane who complained loudly on their horns about Grammy taking her half of the road out of the middle.

She arrived at the funeral home to find the entrance locked and no answer after pounding on the door. So she strode around back to the garage where the door was unlocked and quietly entered. There was just one car in the two bay garage. She climbed a few steps to the back entrance to the house and found that door unlocked, also. When she entered the room she saw poor Albert laid out in his coffin. He was so handsome in the salt and pepper suit that he wore to church. Though his face was shrunken and powdered like a strumpet, she remembered him as he had always been, as the auburn haired boy that she had loved from the first time they met until his final days. She stood by his coffin and cried. She felt drowsy and weary and realized that all she had needed to fall asleep was to see her handsome husband one last time. She found an open coffin, climbed up a small stepstool, and crawled inside.

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Orie Whitlock was a new addition to the funeral home staff and didn’t know much about work orders or attention to details, but his responsibility was to wheel out the coffins to the viewing area before mourners arrived and that was exactly what he did. He placed them end to end, the old man first and then the old woman. He closed the lids, not sure if that was the process, but assumed that they would be opened before company arrived.

The mourners had arrived by two o’clock and were settling into their seats when old Pastor Jenkins showed up, fumbling through his pockets for his glasses. He took no notice of the two coffins. He approached the lectern with his back to the deceased and opened his Bible. There was a murmur circulating through the crowd; why were there two coffins? Orie wasn’t sure if he was supposed to open the lids, soon decided that it made more sense for him to do so rather than the pastor, and snuck behind the lectern and opened them both. A gasp arose from the assembly. What was Grammy Mooney doing here? Everyone knew that she had been in poor spirits after the death of Albert, but nobody had heard mention of her passing. Pastor Jenkins was busy marking passages from the Good Book and paid no attention to the buzz circulating throughout the funeral home.

Let us all sing along to Amazing Grace, he intoned, and as soon as the music entered the room through the speakers in each corner, Grammy arose and began to sing along. Still bleary eyed, she slowly turned her head and surveyed the room. Everybody screamed. Pastor Jenkins turned to see the fuss and saw Grammy struggling to get out of the coffin. He assisted her, set her straight up on her feet, and welcomed her to join the congregation in the memorial to dear Albert.

Scott Gardner’s short story “Grammy Mooney and the Cisco Kid” was nominated for a Sonder Press Best Small Fiction Award by Sleet Magazine. His story “The Journals of Henry Elder” was published in the February, 2022 issue of The Scarlet Leaf Review. He and his characters wrote a collection of short stories and are collaborating on more tales set in or near Titusville, Pennsylvania. They argue constantly which has made this alliance so much fun.