Published On: Sun, Mar 9th, 2014

The Funeral (Hotel Saint John Conclusion)

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Hotel Saint John’s: fiction by Steve Benson

Conclusion

The Funeral

By Tuesday morning Marty still had not heard from the printing company so he used the phone in the director’s office to call them. He recognized the voice of the same cheery secretary when she asked him to please hold and have a Merry Christmas. A minute later Mr. Black picked up his line and told Marty that the job had gone to a more experienced applicant. Marty thanked him and hung up the phone. It was exactly what he expected but it still stung.

After the breakfast service, Marty started going through his clothes to find something nice to wear to the funeral the next day. He settled on the pants he wore to the interview and a black button up shirt. He took his things to the laundry room where he carefully ironed and then hung them from a plastic hanger. Clothing left out in the men’s bay usually disappeared so he took them to the director’s office. Carolyn, the director of the shelter sat at her desk typing on the computer.

“Carolyn, is it OK if I hang these in here?” asked Marty as he held up his clothes.

“Sure Marty, and have a seat. I need to speak with you.” Marty hung his freshly ironed outfit from the coat rack and then sat at Carolyn’s desk.

“Marty, we just received a call from the police station about a family of six who needs a place to stay for the holidays. We’re over capacity as it is and will have to ask some of the single male residents to leave so we will have enough bedding for the family. I’m sorry to do this so close to Christmas Marty but it looks like you’ll have to leave for at least a couple weeks. I know you have a funeral in the morning so please stay tonight and then tomorrow after the funeral you can leave.”

Marty sighed but shook his head to show he understood. He tried to hide his disappointment from Carolyn but wasn’t sure he had succeeded. “No problem, my uncle left me a small amount of money so I should be able to stay at one of the weekly hotels on Kearney Street until things free up here.”

“Marty, again I’m sorry. Come and see me tomorrow after the funeral. I’ll give you a ride to the hotel.” Marty left the office and went back to the kitchen to prepare for his last lunch service.

Wednesday morning Marty used a small part of the few hundred dollars that Rusty gave him and took a taxi to the south side of town to go to his graveside funeral. Other than the Chaplin and the honor guard, Marty was the only one in attendance. The snow that blanketed the city so beautifully a few days before was now stacked in piles along each side of the roads that wound through the graveyard. Soot and mud had turned these piles of snow a dirty gray color, intensifying Marty’s already despondent mood.

After the Chaplin read a few kind words and a description of Uncle Rusty’s service to the military, all seven members of the honor guard fired three simultaneous rounds into the overcast sky, sending Rusty off with a twenty one gun salute. Two members of the honor guard removed the flag from the coffin and began folding it while four other members lowered the casket into the ground among the hundreds of other snow covered white crosses. Marty was proud of his uncle and being a soldier himself, he was moved by the ceremony.

The Chaplin read the Lord’s Prayer. Marty withdrew into himself, thinking again about the chance reunion he had with his uncle. When it first happened, the phrase Christmas miracle had entered his thoughts but that idea quickly faded when Rusty died. There had been no real miracles since then either. He had had an uncomfortable conversation with his sister, failed to get the printing job and was told that he would have to leave the shelter soon. Not a miracle in the bunch. Marty tried to concentrate on the funeral but found it difficult as the weight of his problems bore down on him.

As he stood there waiting to receive the flag, a hand touched his shoulder. He turned to see a face that was familiar yet different considering how many years since he had last seen it. The face had a few new wrinkles and a little extra weight but there was no doubt who it was.

“Nora?”

“Hi Marty,” she said as she leaned in and hugged her brother firmly. Marty returned her embrace, breaking a fifteen year dry spell of family hugs. Danny stood at Nora’s side holding her hand and silently looking up at his uncle.

“What are you doing here?” asked Marty.

“I had to come,” replied Nora. “I couldn’t miss Uncle Rusty’s funeral. And besides, I knew you needed me.”

“Why would you think that?”

“I got a letter in the mail yesterday, it was from a nurse at Saint John’s Hospital. She said that she was writing it on Uncle Rusty’s behalf. It looked like she wrote it the night he died. She said that Uncle Rusty wanted me to know about you, she told me all about the shelter.”

“Nora, I’m so sorry. I….”

“No, I’m sorry,” Nora replied. “I’m sorry for not staying in touch with you. I’m sorry if it seemed like I didn’t care, because I do. I shouldn’t have let the past get in the way of our relationship.” Tears streaked down Nora’s face as she spoke.

“I’m just as guilty,” replied Marty. “I could have done a lot of things different.”

“It’s OK Marty. We’ll talk about it later, on the ride back to Topeka. Right now let’s say goodbye to Uncle Rusty.”

Marty embraced his sister again while a member of the honor guard played taps on a bugle. As Marty hugged his sister, he looked over her shoulder and saw Danny looking up at him with wide eyes and a bright red stocking cap on his head. Marty smiled down at him and wondered if he liked fire trucks.

***************************************

Steve Benson is currently writing this bio in third person.  Prior to this, he spent a fun six weeks filming a short movie with his wife Jill and many of their friends.  The end result will hopefully be finished before Christmas.  Steve would also like to apologize to everyone he was snippy with during the shoot.  He inherited his mother’s temperament and his father’s hindsight.  Steve has recently finished a novel named Venganza.  An early version of the first chapter of Venganza was published in In Other Words: Merida a year and a half ago.  Steve lives in Merida Mexico with his wife Jill and their dogs Molly, Vince, Chata and Ruby.  Steve would like to stop writing in third person now and I would like to encourage everyone to stop buying dogs.  There are millions of great dogs in the shelters or on the street who would make a loving addition to your family.  If you can’t adopt, please support the shelters.  We spent tens of thousands of years making dogs dependent on us so let’s not turn our backs on them now.  Thanks for reading my story and or my bio!

Painting: Samuel  Barrera

Mexico Travel Care

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