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They all met at the old home before the funeral.


'James,' his mother said, hugging him too tightly. 'I am so glad that you are here.'

'Mother.' He looked closely at her face, one that he had not seen in five years, as if it were another specimen he needed to examine and catalog. 'Where are the others?'

She smiled and wiped down her face with one of his carefully arranged handkerchiefs. 'All in the living room. You are the last to show. Talk to them.'

'I really have no choice now.' He turned to walk away.

'And be nice.'

He could not make that promise. Being back in the old home forced him to recall so much of his past that he thought, just for a moment, maybe I could...

No, not yet.


They really were all in there. James saw both of his older sisters, Marjorie and Florence, paired together on a loveseat (almost twins in their mourning black; they'd hate that pointed out to them - make a note); his older brother, Trevor (divorce did wonders for his complexion); and young master Rupert, younger brother and younger everything (no improvement there). The TV was on a local news channel. The weather would be perfect for the rest of the day.


'Ah, the scientist has arrived.' Trevor got up and shook hands. 'Really wondered if you would be here.'

The two sisters did not give James a chance to respond. Like some awkward tag team, they both hugged him in succession and chatted about mom and the house. He could feel their old tears and smell their heavy perfume all over his suit (same brands? Perhaps).

'Oh, Gawd. You came.'

'You're here.'

'We thought you wouldn't...'

'It was so sudden...'

'Oh, yes.'

'So quick.'

'Oh, yes.'

'Yes.'

'Yes.'

This went on for quite a while. James looked at the grandfather clock he knew his whole life.

'The service is at 3 pm?'

Rupert changed channels without looking up. 'So they say.'

'And is it our old friend, the good old priest?'

Everyone looked at James.

Trevor knew.

Marjorie, and therefore Florence, knew.

Rupert looked confused.

'Why say it like that?'

He really did not know the story. James sat down on the sofa next to him.

'The good old priest hated me.'

Rupert frowned. 'Father Flanagan?'

'Father Funagain.'

At least Trevor laughed. Marj and Flo tried to keep it in, their guffawing and snorting covered by an infomercial advertising the benefits of a drone that worked as an air freshener.

'You remember my pranks?'

'Based on their aftermath...or aftermaths.'

'Yeah, well, Funagain was not just a priest; he was a teacher. I tormented him mercilessly and he never caught on until the old man caught on and made me apologize to him...in front of the whole damn school.'

The other siblings continued to smile.

'But I mean,' Rupert squirmed a bit, 'what did you do? All kids pull pranks or try things to see how far...'

'And get beaten and grounded for a year, missing summer vacation and prom?'

'No, I mean... Well, that was a lot. Went too far. You must have done something really bad.'

'Oh yes, my younger bro, it was.'

They still smiled.

'What was it?'

'Bananas.'

'Bananas?'

'Yes. Remember: the old man was an importer. Always had too much of something lying around those warehouses. Well, I thought it would be good to set him up.'

'We all did.'

Marjorie almost slapped Florence for that.

'Sorry! Said I would never tell.'

'Don't worry. I was going to tell him one day.'

Rupert looked at his older sibling with both respect and confusion.

'All of you...?'

'You were at a different school, so we did what we did without you. Filled an entire set of rooms with the skins. Silly thing to do. Even sillier that he saw them and still managed to slip on a few of them. And no camera for it. Very sad. And silly.'

'And no one snitched,' said Trevor.

James looked at his older brother.

'I know. I did it all for me, anyway. Only problem was getting rid of all of those bananas. The old man actually remembered something about his business. Also knew that I did not act alone. But I never said a thing.'

Someone had turned the television off.

'It should be a very nice service today. A lot of fun.'


*

Father Flanagan spoke.

'Even as we sit here in the house of God with tears in our eyes and pain in our hearts, we must take comfort in the fact that his offspring now sit here and share their grief together as a family; a group that cannot be broken. They have one son who is even a scientist and has become an expert on neuroscience and the human brain. I take some pride in this as he was one of my dearest students and proved himself to be quite a challenge to my instruction.

'Yes, quite a challenge...

'And let us now rise and recite our final prayer.'


*

It really was a beautiful day. The mourners were not great in number, but James recognized certain faces from his past and was happy to see them in the folding chairs.

'Good to see you here.'

'So nice to see you.'

'Such a nice service.'

'He was so loved.'

'You are a good son for being here.'

'Do you ever hear from...?'

Father Flanagan did recognize him from a distance. He smiled for a moment and then returned to the casket. The whole had been dug a few days earlier, but James had made a point to see that everything was perfect.

'Mother, I hope that this is what he wanted.'

'Oh, James. It was perfect. Just perfect.' She still had his handkerchief.

'He did like this time of year.'

'Oh, yes.'

'And he had a sense of humour.'

'Oh, yes, and... Wait a min. What?'

'Oh, nothing. Just thinking about the past with the others.'

It was very much on his mind. The others left and James was left at the grave site with his thoughts. He was there for his family and that was all they wanted. But he wanted a little bit more.

Perhaps it was cruel to leave that banana peel in the vestry for Funagain, but he could not change his ways now.

No, the old man would not have approved of that.



November 28, 2020 02:38

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2 comments

Such a creative story, amazing job!

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Kendall Defoe
04:39 Nov 28, 2020

Thank you...I wondered about where to go with this one.

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