Sunday, May 22, 2016

A woman attends a funeral as a performer rather than a mourner and finds herself in a strange, musing position. Also, she wields strange power. In a funeral home packed with people, she begins singing "Amazing Grace." She is not an extraordinarily powerful singer, nor is her rendition unusual. Merely she can project her voice into a room and sing in tune. Nonetheless, nearly everyone weeps, and continues to weep, through the eight verses of the song.

Afterward, she sits quietly and listens to man after aging man come to the podium--bald heads, white ponytails, arthritic knees; badly fitting suits, clumsy thick shoes, Masonic aprons. They have names like Chummy, and all they want to do is talk about the old days with Bob, the old days when they weren't old men but wild boys in cars--
Remember the time we drove Bob's car so fast down that back road in a LaGrange and went into the ditch? 
Remember the time we were sitting in Bob's car drinking spiked Orange Crush behind the IGA in Sangerville and the sheriff pulled up? 
Remember the time we had that load of Milo girls in Bob's car and the Milo boys didn't like that so much and one of them shot at us?
Their daughters and sons and grandchildren laugh quietly. Their wives roll their eyes.

The woman who is not a mourner stands up, behind the family members and their instruments, and leads off with a fiddle break, then docilely sings her harmony part. "May the Circle Be Unbroken." She is not part of this circle; she is merely filler. Somehow this does not seem to matter to Chummy. He cries anyway.

Later, at the local theater, as she paces the lobby during the intermission of her son's play, a stranger accosts her. "So beautiful," he mutters and quickly walks away. He means the tears.

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