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As of 28 February 2016, due to decline in my health and chronic illness

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013 Short Story Challenge

January 10, 2013 Writing Prompt:

"A young woman dies in a car accident, and her grief-stricken parents are shocked by what they find while cleaning out her apartment."

"After the Funeral, the Grief"

      The funeral, as well as the prior evening’s visitation, had been surprisingly well attended. Verna had many friends from University and at her workplace, so her parents, Vida and Joe, had determined to hold the service on Saturday afternoon, so the coworkers could attend. But even the wake, held on a Friday evening, had been closely packed with mourners, many of whom of course the parents didn’t know.

      That wasn’t surprising; when your daughter is 26, a college graduate, out in the workforce for 4 years, living in another state, of course you’re not going to know everybody she knows, only the close ones. Joe and Vida had not even had the opportunity to meet the new boyfriend, Roger, the one who had been driving the Escalade in the New Hampshire Mountains, at the time of the crash. After the SUV had slid down off the mountain, trashing a guard rail in the process, they wouldn’t ever be meeting him, only mourning that he and their precious only daughter had taken that trip.

      Though her parents still lived in Minnesota, after graduating from Cornell Verna stayed on in Ithaca when she had found a good job, and had roomed for a while with a friend, Louise Kaye, also a Cornell graduate. Then Louise had taken a position teaching English in Japan, and Verna stayed in on their apartment, eventually moving to a smaller one-bedroom garden apartment with a nice enclosed courtyard. Vida and Joe planned to stay on at a motel for the next week, packing up Verna’s possessions, conferring with her landlord about breaking the lease, and taking care of other details such as selling her BMW. Right now they had to get through the funeral, and the grief obvious in all Verna’s friends was both heartwarming, and heartbreaking.

      Even though Verna and Roger had only been dating for about the past three months, both were into the relationship seriously, and had begun to discuss living together. But she had another six months to go on the lease to her apartment, which would be too small for two of them, so they decided to wait and just keep dating. The trip to the White Mountains was intended to be a week at a bed and breakfast, getting to know each other and exploring the beautiful mountain environment. Instead, they had only reached partway when the Escalade’s tire blew and the vehicle skidded off the steep mountain road, plunging to the depths far below.

      By the end of the closed casket funeral, Vida’s eyes were swollen almost shut from weeping, and she and Joe were both hoarse from saying “thank you” to each expression of condolence. They returned to their motel to rest, and early on Sunday morning, decided to start at Verna’s apartment, rather than waiting as they had planned until Monday. The landlord had attended the funeral and brought them spare keys, although the dealership would need to be called to install a new lock in the BMW, since Verna had taken the only keys with her on the fateful trip.

      At the garden apartment, Vida burst into tears again, viewing the lovely location. A former real-estate broker, she realized that “location is everything,” and admired the home her daughter had chosen, in a well-landscaped neighborhood, with a walled courtyard containing a small pool, and benches and a table of concrete. In the spring and summer, perennials would flower along three sides of the narrow two-story building, making the apartment seem like a house in the suburbs.
      The red BMW sat along the curb, shining as if freshly polished that early morning. Walking to the sidewalk leading to the door, Vida wiped away her tears and tried to consciously remember that life was now on would be only her and her husband Joe, not them and their daughter, and certainly never them and grandchildren.

      Joe unlocked the white-painted wooden door, with its small window backed by a perky white curtain with red-trim, actually more suited for a kitchen window, and the two entered the hall. Verna had not been a frilly type of decorator, so the hall held only one side table, and a fake-elephant’s foot umbrella stand in the corner behind the door. The living room, which would have been a parlour in a Victorian, had a loveseat, small sofa, and an armchair next to the fireplace. The extension at the far end held a dining table, also small, with four chairs. Vida remembered that Louise had suggested Verna keep Louise’s portion of the furniture, when she moved to Japan on a long-term contract.

      Joe was making notes of which furniture would need to be removed by a moving company, when Vida crossed the hall to the kitchen. A microwave, a Mr. Coffee, an espresso maker: she knew from reading the lease contract that all the other appliances, dishwasher, stove, fridge, and cabinets, were part of the apartment and not Verna’s. Then she entered the remaining room, the bedroom, which was compact but cozy; or it would have been, if it had not been occupied by her daughter.
      Vida’s hand clapped her upper chest; her eyes widened, her jaw dropped opened. “Joe,” she tried to call, but it was just a breath. Then, “Verna, Verna,” for before her, bent over and reaching into the white nightstand bottom shelf, was a woman about 5’8”, waist-length wavy light blond hair sliding forward, long pianist fingers reaching, wearing a short-sleeved white knit and white shorts, not too snug, and white socks with white tennis. “Verna!”
      The woman finally heard, glancing over her shoulder. “Who the heck are you?” came a coarse, rough, smoker’s voice—definitely not Verna’s dulcet tones. “What are you doing here? Hey, how’d you get in, old lady? Get out!” A long pianist index finger stabbed at the air, aimed in the general direction of the front door. “I’ll call the law on you, you burglar! Out!”  Reaching for the cell phone on the nightstand, the woman began to punch out 9-1-1, then looked back and realized that not just a patrol officer was needed, but an ambulance as well. The “old lady” had turned as white as the bedcover, clutched a fist at her chest, and dropped to the floor. “Well, that’s a fine kettle of fish,” thought Valerie Kane, as she waited for the 911 dispatcher to pick up. “Old biddy breaks in my apartment, sees me home, drops dead on my bedroom floor. What’s up with that?”

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1 comment:

  1. This is great. It's fun to see the twist and turns you've taken. Didn't see that one coming. :)