Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 35 by Dellani Oakes


Everyone is getting ready for Big Earl's funeral. Luke finds Dollie ironing a blue tie.

"Where'd you find a tie, Dollie?"
"Remember last Halloween when Patty and I dressed up like hobos? I bought this tie in Harlan and kept it all this time."
"Nice tie," he remarked.
"You may keep it," she replied with a twinkle in her dark eyes.
"Thank you."
She set the iron up, turning it off. She handed him his suit, shirt and tie.
"I'll be right back," he told her, leaning in for a kiss.
A quick peck on his lips was all he got, but it was better than nothing. He went down to the bathroom and changed. Luke's suit was dark charcoal gray. He'd looked for black suits, but none of them fit. He couldn't afford tailor made, so he settled for what he could get. The tie complimented it beautifully. The blue in it set off the color of his eyes. He preened a little, smoothing his hair with his hands.
When he got back down to Dollie's apartment, she was talking animatedly to her sister and Will. When he walked in the room, she stopped mid-sentence, staring.
"Do I look bad?" He thought he looked pretty good.
"No, you look—great!" She rushed to his side, straightening his tie. It wasn't so much that it needed it as she just had to touch him. "You're the handsomest man I know," she whispered. "And I love you so."
"I love you too," he whispered.
The kiss they shared was longer and more passionate than the earlier one. Neither of their siblings said a word. Luke suspected that they were using the opportunity for the same thing. All too soon, they parted.
"Reckon it's about time to head over to the chapel," Will said quietly.
The ladies settled their hats on their heads, pulling down their veils. The four of them drove in Dollie's car to the chapel with Will behind the wheel. Arriving earlier than most of the congregation, they went inside.
Rachel Henry knelt in the front pew, head bowed. She looked up when they sat down beside her. When she saw Luke's unusually pale countenance, she burst into tears. Holding his face, she kissed his cheeks.
"You look so unlike yourself! Are you sure you're better!"
"I'm fine, Mama. Don't worry so about me."
"You're my precious son, of course I'll worry."
"His fever broke during the night," Dollie assured Rachel. "He's on the mend."
"All from a splinter. I declare! You got to be more careful, Lucius."
"Yes, ma'am. Reckon I do and I will."
"I can't lose another son," she whispered. "I can't." She held his hand, squeezing the fingers until they turned purple.
Luke wiggled his fingers slightly and she eased her grip. Kissing his hand, she put it down on his knee, but touched him from time to time to reassure herself.
"Where are the little uns, Ma?" Will asked her quietly.
"Up with Granny Nation. Ain't no place for children at a funeral."
Luke and Will couldn't help thinking that Granny Nation's wasn't a place for children either, but didn't say so. They did agree that a funeral was no place for children and were glad that someone had seen fit to take the children away.
The chapel was filling up. The family stood near the doors greeting people and thanking them for coming. Samuel arrived with Doctor and Mrs. Starbuck. Jane came in with her friend Louise. She looked like she'd been crying. Louise kept an arm around her, guiding her to a seat beside her mother. She would have gone to sit with her parents, but Jane asked her to stay. The two girls clung to one another as Jane started to cry again.
Just before the service began, Will's boss, Mr. Prentice, and his wife came in. The family had already taken their seats. They saw Will up front and waved as they found a place for Mrs. Prentice to sit. One of the men stood next to her husband, giving her his spot. The small chapel was packed with standing room only.
Luke didn't know if it was respect for his family that brought folks out, the fact that he'd died mysteriously, or they were there to be sure the old bastard was really dead. That was the motivation of at least a few. Luke had heard them whispering when they thought they were out of earshot of the family.
The service was lovely. The Episcopalian minister from town officiated. He was a young man, hardly older than Will, as yet unmarried. Several of the local women had set their caps, hoping to attract his interest. No doubt the reason they were dressed in their Sunday best and scattered about the church glaring at one another.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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