28 days of flash — Fiction 11 of 28
“I’m surprised she came.”
Shannon picked up her brother-in-law’s whisper as soon as she walked through the door of the church. The vestibule was an echo chamber. It always had been, even when she had gone to this church as a child. They didn’t want to carpet over the marble floors. Even with dozens of people milling around, Shannon’s ears picked phrases out of the air, attached to eyes peering over shoulders and from around arms.
She should have worn black that day, but she didn’t decide to go to the funeral until lunch. With no time to change clothes, she walked into the sea of people wearing black in a bright white button down, jeans, and olive green Tieks.
“She could’ve at least changed clothes,” her sister whispered, opposite the doors and eyeing her.
Shannon wished she’d worn heels. Punctuating her presence with the sharp snap of a stiletto heel in a House of God would have kept her giggling. The accusations she strayed from her faith would gain renewed steam.
Seeing her brothers manning the main entrance to the sanctuary, she took a side door in and made her way to first row, which had a large sign on both ends that said IMMEDIATE FAMILY. She set her purse on the floor and plopped down to read the program. A man approached her with his head tipped to the side, like he was trying to read something off the side of a building.
“Miss, I’m sorry, but this row is reserved for family,” he said, whispering. “There are plenty of seats in rows three and four.”
Shannon folded her arms and leaned forward. “Hi, my name is Shannon Homer. What’s yours?”
Clearing his throat, he said, “My name is Byron Wiest. I’m with the funeral home.”
“Well, Byron, I’m Connie Homer’s oldest daughter, which I think qualifies me to sit here, wouldn’t you agree?” Shannon said the entire thing without blinking, staring straight into Byron’s eyes.
The color drained from Byron’s face and his lips pursed just as his ass puckered, Shannon imagined. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Miss Homer. Would you excuse me?”
Byron made a beeline for the back of the sanctuary, straight for Shannon’s brothers. She turned sideways in the chair to observe the exchange. Tanner turned sharply to stare while Warren’s hand flew to the side of his face. Shannon waved. She wondered if this would trigger Tanner’s irritable bowel syndrome. After a furious whisper exchange, Byron returned to the front row.
“My apologies, Miss Homer. Would you consider moving to the second row?”
Shannon looked at beads of sweat on his forehead growing ever larger while she stared.
“Thanks Byron. I’m good here. You can tell Tanner I have some Donnatal in my purse if his IBS sneaks up on him.” Shannon smiled and crinkled her nose. Being a psychiatrist had some benefits.
Shannon stared at the large picture of her mother that was being projected onto a screen at the front. It had been nearly 20 years since she had seen her up close. They both had more wrinkles. Her mother stopped dying her hair, though, and it resembled steel wool. Fitting, Shannon thought, the most abrasive person in my life would begin to look the part.
The sanctuary slowly filled. A soloist ascended the stairs to sing “In the Garden,” and her siblings filed in. Tanner led the charge and glared at Shannon, enraged that she had dared to show up, she guessed. Warren took a seat behind Shannon, reaching up to squeeze her shoulder. Tanner sat next to Shannon without looking at her or saying a word. He took a small Bible out of his coat pocket and rested it on his thigh, his fingers drumming it.
The service was lovely. One of Shannon’s nephews who was now out of college gave an impressive life sketch of his grandmother. Too bad it was for a woman whom Shannon never knew. Tanner drummed his fingers on the Bible the entire time. Shannon sat in her white shirt, jeans, and olive green Tieks. She waited for the question.
“Would anyone like to share a memory of Constance?”
Shannon stood only to find her brother abandon drumming his Bible to grab her hand.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he said, veins popping and furious.
“There really isn’t a better time than now,” Shannon whispered as she pulled her hand from his and walked toward the front of the church.
She stopped short of the steps leading to the pulpit and stood instead next to her mother’s casket.
“Hi everyone. I’m Shannon. I’m Connie’s oldest. You haven’t seen me around for a quite a while. It doesn’t matter why because this isn’t about me. It’s about Connie.”
She cleared her throat. No one was reading, looking at phone, or falling asleep. Every eye was on her. “I wanted to take a moment today to thank my mother for giving me the opportunity to pursue my life’s purpose. It’s because of her and her unwavering, direct attention that I became the most successful childhood trauma psychiatrist alive today. So mom, here’s to you.”
Tanner stood and said, “Thank you, Shannon, I think that’s quite enough.” Laughing uncomfortably and turning to look at the congregation, he continued, “Does anyone else want to share?”
Shannon didn’t move. In the second row, a girl stood that Shannon didn’t know, but the girl certainly knew Connie. “Hi, I’m Peyton.”
“Hi Peyton,” Shannon said, smirking.
Peyton continued. “The day that I married her grandson, Connie came to me when I had just put on my dress. I thought she was coming in to give me that grandmotherly advice that old women like to give new brides. Do you know what she told me? ‘I was really hoping Henry would marry your sister instead.’ Who does that?”
“You think that’s bad,” a voice called from the back of the sanctuary. Shannon recognized the man who stood as her cousin Jeff. “She told me the day I graduated from law school that she and my dad made a bet at my 11th birthday party on the age I’d go to jail. She was happy that she still had a few years to make that prediction come true so she could cash in. Unbelievable, right?” Jeff laughed. “She was horrible!”
“She was just a mean old woman!” someone yelled without standing.
Tanner yelled, “Look, she had her issues, but we owe her our respect.”
Jeff yelled back, “If I owe her the respect that she gave me, here’s what I owe her.” Jeff climbed onto the pew, turned around, dropped his pants, and shook his bare ass toward the casket. “Love ya mean it, Aunt Connie!”
It went downhill from there for Tanner, but the congregation exploded with stories of Connie’s vitriol and general hatred of everyone. Byron grabbed the microphone and tried to drown out the stories by thanking everyone for coming and inviting them to come to the cemetery. He said it at least eight times by Shannon’s count.
Shannon was still laughing when she walked out of the sanctuary. Opening her journal app on her phone, she said, “Thanks for the memories, Mom.”