By Mickey J. Corrigan
Champagne Books: http://goo.gl/Oy8E8z
Imagine a job where you are paid to attend the funerals of strangers. Now imagine finding love again in the ashes. Literally.
There was a small group, all of them family. I mean family. Mobster-type family. And Yvonne and me. We were all standing there in that horrible, mucky, bug-infested swamp. Maybe a hundred other people were out on the lake, out on the clear part of the lake, out there for the fishing contest. So I wasn’t alone with the Sopranos. But I didn’t feel safe. What if they figured out I was not one of them?
The high grass was more brown than green. Royal terns and an occasional osprey swooped overhead. Small boats with electric motors bobbed gently on the flat lake, glistening in the afternoon sun. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting, except for the goons in black suits surrounding me and Yvonne.
Our little party had gathered at a clearing off a trail in a shallow marsh area. Someone, a brother or a partner or something of the deceased, stood holding the urn. The rest of us had assembled in a kind of tight semicircle around him. Our feet were in the mud and the thick, close air smelled like phosphorus, like the suds in a washing machine. The Everglades tends to reek of fertilizers, runoff from the sugarcane fields and agricultural land upstream.
We were facing the water and the guy with the urn had his back to the lake. Sunlight ricocheted off the surface of the lake, blinding us, even with our sunglasses on. Everyone had their heads bowed against the glare and we were all sweating like pigs. Relentless swarms of mosquitoes buzzed around, drilling into any exposed flesh. The whole situation was intolerable. I had to restrain myself. All I wanted to do was snatch up that urn, heave the ashes into the water. Just get it over with.
The guy with the urn had this ugly, punched up face, snow white hair, pinky rings. A big-mouthed, self-inflated bastard, swollen with his imagined importance. His jowly puss, the beer-keg gut, the tailored shirt and diamond cuff links. What an asshole. A big blowhard.
You know how some people feel the need to turn everything into a political event, to grandstand just because they have everyone’s attention? This guy was like that. We were sun-blind and melting in the heat and our blood had been sucked out by hordes of thirsty bugs. We stood there suffering while he talked. Talked just to hear himself talk. Unbelievable.
I didn’t hear a word the guy said. Instead, I watched Yvonne the whole time. Her delicate face floated like a white cloud above her black silk dress. Her shiny hair fell from its topknot in loose strands that clung to her long damp neck. Every few seconds she swatted another insect that had gone to work on her arms or face. She looked like she needed a refreshing breeze from the kind of cool wind that could only be found somewhere very far away.
Part of me wanted to be the one to carry her off to just such a place. Another part wanted only to get away from her, to put major distance between myself and all the insanity. The insanity that came with years of involvement with a married man. A man married to the underworld. An underworld populated with scary boring assholes like the guy making the speech.
Then the gator appeared.