Thursday, December 06, 2007

Opal Gray

Opal Gray by Vikki

Opal Gray and her son Earl pulled up in front of the funeral home. Opal was eager to get out of the car; she had given up driving nearly thirty years ago because cars just moved too fast. She was unfamiliar with her son’s car and was becoming extremely frustrated because she couldn’t find the handle.

“Danged new fangled automobiles, and their hidden handles!” Opal exclaimed as she randomly pushed buttons.

“Mom!” Earl said loudly becoming equally frustrated as his mother readjusted all the settings on the passenger side of the car. “Hold on and I will help you.” Earl slowly pulled himself out of his car and made his way around to the other side. He stopped to get her walker out of the backseat and realized that she was still looking for the door handle. “Mother, be patient. I will help you out of the car as soon as I get your walker,” he said sharply.

“Well for the love of God, hurry yourself up,” she folded her arms and mumbled profanities under her breath. After Earl finally fought the walker open, he was not surprised to find that his mother had locked the door.

“Very funny Mom,” he said with his arms folded and his lips pursed. “I know all your little tricks; I’ve got the keys.” Earl stood with one hand on his hip and the other dangling the keys. Opal turned her head towards her son and slowly lifted her knobby middle finger as she held her other fingers down with her other hand. “Again, very funny Mom.” Earl unlocked the door and opened it quickly. He was hit in the face by a foul odor. “Mother, that is disgusting! Try to control yourself better than that.”

“Oh, shut up,” Opal sneered, “I’m old, I can fart when I want!” Despite the odor, Earl helped Opal out of the car. “Get my purse out of the back,” she said as she gripped the handles of her walker. Earl grabbed the bright red oversized handbag; it felt heavier than it should have.

“I’ll carry it Mom. Whadda’ya got in this thing anyway?”

“Never mind that now,” Opal said rancorously as she started scooting her way to the door. “Now hurry up, we’ve got a funeral to plan.”

The two made their way into the high-end funeral home and was greeted by smiling young woman, “Hello, can I help you?” she said.

“Yes, we’re here to plan Bus Gray’s funeral,” Earl explained.

“Would you like to follow me, please?” The young lady stepped out from behind her desk and led them down a long hall. It was hard not to notice that she had a prosthetic leg; it was clearly visible and it creaked has she walked.

Taking her old lady privilege Opal asked,” What happened to your leg?”

“It was a freak accident actually,” she explained as they were still walking down the hall. “I was walking home from school when a car flung a piece of metal that nearly sheared by leg completely off.” The young lady directed them into the room, “The wound was too severe and they had to take it off.” Opal and Earl took their seats around the large rectangular table. “Would you like some coffee or water?”

“Oh yes please; I’ll have coffee,” Opal smiled showing off the false teeth that she remembered to put in her mouth that morning.

“I’ll have water,” Earl said. He was noticeably embarrassed by his mother’s forward questioning; his face was red and his shoulders were stiff. The young lady stepped out of the room. “Inappropriate, Mom”

“What are you talking about?” Opal shrugged her shoulders.

“You asked that lady about her leg.”

“So, how else was I going to know?”

The young lady returned with their drinks. “Paul is your funeral director, and he will be with you shortly.”

“Well, this place hasn’t changed in twenty years.” Opal took a short pause as she looked around the room, “Same roll-top desk, same hideous wall paper.”

“Why were you here before?” Earl questioned his mother.

“This is the funeral home I used when your aunt Thelma died.”

“Thelma died?” Earl was surprised, not only that his aunt had died and he didn’t know about it, but she died twenty years ago.

“We planted that old bag at Hilltop Cemetery so fast; we just didn’t have time to tell everybody.”

“Oh, that’s right, she dated Dad before you married him.”

“I did not steal your Dad from her,” Opal slammed her hands on the table, “they were broken up when we started dating!” She took a moment to regain her composure, “it is not my fault that she never found somebody else to spend her life with and then died of a broken heart. Not my dadgum fault!”

“Okay Mom, calm down; I think I hear the funeral director coming.” Earl could hear footsteps clomping on the hardwood floor. A corpulent man entered the room.

“Hello, I’m Paul Strang,” he reached his hand out to shake their hands, “you must be Mrs. Opal Gray.”

“That’s me.” She showed him her teeth.

“Well we are in luck; your husband preplanned his funeral about twenty years ago.”

“What?” Opal yelled.

“He…uh planned his funeral all the way down to the cemetery that he will be buried in.” Paul explained calmly to Opal. “However, the casket that he had chosen is no longer being made.” Opal was confused but she thought it best to let the man continue. “All we need to plan is the day and time.”

“Well if it was up to me, I would have it sometime if the afternoon,” Earl threw a wink at the funeral director.

“Well…it is not up to you so I will have it in the morning,” Opal always went against her son and everybody else, for that matter.

With little warning, a low rumbling noise emanated from Opal’s backside. The smell was putrid and absolutely mind-stopping. Paul made a face and held his breath, and Earl turned a deeper and hotter shade of red. Opal sat quietly, a beatific smile resting gently on her lips.

“I have to…uh…crunch some numbers, if you’d like you can look at some caskets.” Paul took the two in the selection room and quickly left.

“Mom, I can’t believe you did that.”

“What?” Opal acted as if she did nothing.

“You polluted the air in that room, Mother! Forget it. Just pick a casket; I like this one.” Earl pointed to a wooden casket with a white crepe interior. He didn’t really care for it, but knowing his mother, she wouldn’t pick a casket that he liked anyway.

“I don’t think your father would care for that one; I like this one.” Opal pointed to a casket that had an off-white interior. “Now were did that funeral director go?”

“Here I am,” Paul popped his head around the corner. “Have you already made your selection?”

“Yes I have; I think my beloved Bus would love this one.”

“Okay, if you will join me back in the conference room we can finalize the plans.” Paul led them back into the conference room that now smelled like fresh rain and sulfur.

Opal slowly sat down in her chair and grunted as she lifted her oversized purse onto the table. “Before we go any further, I have one request,” she opened her purse and pulled out what appeared to be a rolled up hand towel, and she placed it on the table. “I would like this to be buried with my husband.” As she pushed the hand towel towards Paul it came open; inside was a small dead dog.

“Mother,” Earl gasped, “what happened to Poppy?”

“I feed him the last of your father’s pain pills,” Opal tried to look sad. But the truth was, she never liked the dog, “I thought it was best this way.”

“You are something else Mom, I…I…I…just don’t know what to say.” Earl was tired of dealing with his mother.

“Really, its fine…it’s not the first time I buried someone with their dog.” Paul flipped through the paperwork in front of him. Suddenly, he stopped flipping. “Hmmm…this is a little unusual. I see that Paul wants to be buried at Hilltop Cemetery in the plot next to Thelma Bouffant. Is that his mother or daughter?”

Earl’s spine stiffened while Opal’s mouth formed a thin pink line. The color drained from her face, and more sulfur escaped from her old hiney. Paul realized he had not treaded lightly on this potentially touchy subject. The color drained from his face when the old lady’s stink reached his nose.

“You just give me that dadgum dog right back. I will not bury his little Mr. Precious Poppy with his cheating soul!” She reached across the desk and grabbed the gruesome package. Stuffing the dead dog back into her handbag, she left the room in a huff, scratching the gleaming hardwood floors with her walker. “EARL! Take me to the car right now!”

Earl stood awkwardly, and listened for the slamming of the front door indicating his mother was outside. Reaching across the desk, he shook hands with the fat funeral director. “Um, thanks, for, um, everything here. I’m sure it’s going to be a lovely service since Mom won’t be there.”

“I am sorry for my lack of discretion,” Paul said.

“No, no. I’m sure this was Dad’s way of getting himself a peaceful sendoff. A sulfur-free sendoff. Don’t worry.”

An awkward moment passed.

“Well, uh, thanks. I’ll see you at the service.”

Earl turned and left, and Paul stood alone, confused, and wondering if he smelled like an old lady’s ass.

Copyright Reserved for Vikki.

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