“They’re selling postcards to the hanging,
They’re painting the passports brown,
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors,
The circus is in town.”
There was a phone call. That much I remember. It was a Thursday. The man on the other end of the line announced himself as officer so and so of the such and such police department. It was Thursday at exactly 7:22pm. I know that because as officer so and so told me of the horrific car accident I just stared at the kitchen clock above the refrigerator. The small hand was creeping its way upward toward the eight, reaching for dusk. The big hard was locked two fifths of the way between the five and six. I spent the entire time the officer told me about the death of my wife determining, for certain, that it was indeed two fifths of the way. Both of the clock hands jutted out from a smiling sun hand painted on the clock face with a small inscription just below. Don’t worry…be happy is what it said.
That was nearly an even seventy-two hours ago. It was now 6:30pm on Saturday night and I was standing in Doubleday Funeral Parlor. I found this all out later, after the fact. I came to at the head of the sympathy procession line. People were shaking my hand and giving me hugs and crying. My mother-in-law was next to me and she was crying. Her ex husband was next to her and even he was crying. What the hell was all this about? Why was everybody crying? There was a clock. Both hands were on the six, dead on straight down. Then I saw the casket. It was closed, but I knew my wife was in there. God, she would have hated all this.
I just wanted to know what had happened. I wanted to know what day it was. I wanted to know where I was. I wanted especially to know where my daughter was. Who had been taking care of her? Was I? Was anyone taking care of me? I really wanted to know what I was supposed to do now. Mostly I just wanted to know when this god damn wake was going to be over. I leaned into my mother-in-law, Jane.
“How much longer do we have here?”
“What are you talking about?” she whispered with that same annoyed tone she had every time I asked a stupid question.
“What time does this thing end?”
“This thing ends at eight,” her whisper growing in volume. “You’d probably know that if you had anything to do with making the arrangements.”
I decided not to ask any more questions.
She never liked me and I never liked her. Maybe if I was a friend of one of her sons she would have gotten a kick out of me being a third rate singer-song writer still trying to make a living off the one hit that appeared on the soundtrack of a film my friend, Frankie Lee, directed. He was able to get my demo past the producers and studio, and a little ballad I wrote played over the happy ending, just before the credits rolled. As it was, to her I was just some boy who didn’t want to grow up. I was that asshole who wore ripped jeans and dark aviator sunglasses when I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. I was that schmuck who left her daughter home alone with her granddaughter in June while I went and toured shithole clubs, only to return in September with two hundred and eighty-seven dollars in net ticket sales and a wicked case of gonorrhea. Those were just some of the reasons Jane hated me. I hated her because she was always so right about me.