Gertrude has been sitting in the hospital next to your husband of forty-eight years who had a stroke followed by a massive heart attack. She calls her children: Lucas, Joshua, and Michaela. She tells them she doesn’t know how much longer he has, and they all tell her to call when she finds out. Her girlfriend comes to the IC unit with a change of clothes so she can go to the adjacent room and shower. Her husband, Murray the CPA, tries to talk. She grabs his hand and notices that only the left side of his face is moving. The right side is frozen. Murray tries his hardest to talk and slowly Gertrude gets it word by word. It’s an apology for an affair he had with the cleaning lady, Rosalie, some thirty-five years ago. Gert thinks that’s the most exciting and interesting thing he’s ever told her. She leans over and whisper in his ear.
“I’ve been fucking the Rabbi and your brother for years.”
Soon Murray passes. Gertrude checks her make-up, pops a Lifesaver, and calls the kids as the hospital staff flits about.
Back at the house, before the children start arriving, Gert fields some condolence calls. She also calls the Rabbi to set up the funeral. The kids arrive and stay at the Holiday Inn instead of at the house. They go out for breakfast and show up after ten.
Gert hustles them along because to pick out a casket. She tells everyone that she wants the burled walnut, but Marty wanted a plain pine box. She sends Michaela and Joshua home to write the obituary and then goes to the Lucas to the cemetery to inspect the pre-paid grave site. After that, she goes to the Temple to give the Rabbi some tidbits of Murry’s life. Everyone agrees that they shouldn’t miss lunch so they all decide on the Crab Shack and have lobster rolls in honor of Murray’s favorite dish.
In the morning the kids drive over to the house and their mother’s all dressed up in a new black dress.
It’s 8:30 p.m. and all but Gertrude and the children have gone. Michaela, filled with sorrow sits alone in her father’s study at his desk unable to hold back the tears. She’s the only one in the family who cried for the loss of Murray. All the others sit around the kitchen table picking at the food telling unflattering stories about Murray and don’t laugh or cry but shake their heads in unison along with Gertrude.
Written by Paul Beckman – Madison, Connecticut – USA
Feature Photo by Johana Pena
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One Comment Add yours
Almost sounded like a set-up for a joke until the end. Decades of togetherness does not necessarily mean happiness. Betrayals, resentments, and deathbed confessions leave their marks. Great vignette.
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