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Chapter 7
Dinner with Drama

“What are your plans for today, Courtney?” Dad asked.

“Thought I’d hang out downtown with everyone else. Ferguson’s Funeral home will receive Nancy’s body sometime today and the Parkers will be there to make arrangements for their daughter.”

“Courtney, why don’t you just stay away? Those poor people don’t need an audience for their grief.”

“Dad, there is definitely going to be an audience! You know Connors Station. I have to be there; Mrs. Parker wants me to.”

“And when did you see Mrs. Parker?”

“Mrs. Wilson and I were at the drug store and saw the Parkers. We expressed our condolences. She seemed so lonely and confused.”

“How well can you know someone you just met? Courtney, I wish you would just stay home and get the rest of your chores done. You made a good start on the garage, but you need to finish.”

“Not today, Dad, please! You’ll need to be downtown and you can keep an eye on me.”

“You still have to mow the lawn.”

“Have you forgotten I’m out of school? I can do that on Monday.” 

“Promise?”

“Yes, promise!”

The merchants were having a banner day, especially those in a four-block radius of Ferguson’s Funeral Home. People were curious, but no one wanted to be conspicuous, so they were shopping.

I still wanted to ask Brother Sherwood his opinion about my activities. He wasn’t hard to locate; he has presence. Although a small man, there is something about him that draws your eyes to him – a peacefulness and acceptance. Small children, old ladies, and puppy dogs love him. In fact, if someone doesn’t like him, you know right away to stay away from that person. He preaches at the biggest church in town, which is surprising. Although considered non-denominational, his conservative brand of Bible-based preaching eliminates all but the most faithful. Dad is not a church goer – just Christmas and Easter – but he said if one attends church, there isn’t any reason to go anywhere else because, “Brother Sherwood preaches you into heaven or into hell, the choice of a destination yours.”

It only took a few quick questions. Brother Sherwood said I needed to be careful misleading others. He said he knew my motives were good, but he was concerned I’d forget myself and use inappropriate means. He said he had confidence I’d make the right choices. See what I mean? You have to love a man like that.

I’d just finished with Brother Sherwood when the Parkers drove down the street. I felt a subtle change in the environment, as if a magnet attached to the front door of Ferguson’s Funeral Home drew all attention. I saw my dad pull up in his car and station himself outside. We were going to have a body – the coroner released it early this morning. I walked over to join my dad, a reasonable place to be and closer to Ferguson’s and the Parkers. I easily heard their conversation. I couldn’t believe it! Ferguson actually encouraged the Parkers to let him prepare the body for burial. He emphasized the impersonal aspects of big city funerals and the “caring consideration” he would give to the preparation of the body. And then, ever the businessman, he went one-step further and suggested a short memorial service!

“We feel a responsibility of sorts – her body was found here, although I’m sure no resident of Connors Station had anything to do with that. We just want you leaving without a negative impression of our little town.” He oozed sympathy!

The news of this latest development spread quickly through the townsfolk gathered in the immediate area. Boy, Ferguson knew his stuff – no one would miss that service. He even volunteered his hearse for transportation to the Parker’s hometown for burial. The only person who didn’t look happy was my dad. I realized he would miss his most of Saturday monitoring the proceedings and escorting the hearse out of town.

As the Parkers left, they passed by Dad and I and Mrs. Parker grabbed my hand and said, “Courtney, please come to the Ferguson’s tonight for dinner. For some reason, just your presence gives me comfort. I hadn’t realized when we met at the motel that you found Nancy’s body. Frank and I are going to discuss the services with Mr. Ferguson. Brother Sherwood is coming to find out information about Nancy, since he’s been kind enough to agree to present a eulogy. Mrs. Ferguson is going to fix a nice dinner for us all. I’m sure no one will mind if you join us, right Mr. Ferguson?”

I told the Parkers it was up to my dad. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of staying; the Fergusons lived in a house attached to the funeral home. But Dad agreed, stating he felt relieved to know I’d be busy, especially when he realized Brother Sherwood would be there to keep an eye on me.

                                                       *****

I wasn’t surprised when Mrs. Wilson emerged from the kitchen carrying two pitchers, one of ice tea and one lemonade. She explained to me, “I volunteered to help Mrs. Ferguson serve. That way, she can join her dinner guests and we can take turns jumping up and down.”

“Here, Franny, take my seat next to your husband. I’ll sit by Courtney.” With that one sentence, she arranged the seating so that we were both across from the Parkers.

Brother Sherwood led a long prayer mentioning each person at the table. I’m sure Franny’s fame as the worst cook in town made him as hesitant about starting dinner as I was.

I’m a picky eater, at least, my dad says so. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I like to be able to identify the contents of my food. A casserole with cheese on top makes me shudder. Wouldn’t you know, the dinner consisted of not one, but three, casseroles? One had cheese on top, one crumbs, and one what looked to be corn chips. An unidentifiable green vegetable (spinach?) cooked to a mushy consistency and dotted with corn and either red pepper or pimiento served as the side dish. Thankfully, Franny served salad and hot rolls.

Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Ferguson took plates and put servings of chosen casseroles on each. Mrs. Wilson stretched the cheese-topped casserole to its maximum extent with smaller portions. If you were unfortunate enough have Mrs. Ferguson serving you, you received a more generous portion. Mrs. Wilson tried to give me a portion with mostly cheese and reached in front of Mrs. Ferguson to scrape a layer of chips from what appeared to be a chili casserole. I watched the adults pick at the hot food and take heaps of salad and at least two of the hot rolls passed around the table. Those who opted for chili casserole were downing glasses of tea and the pitchers were soon empty.

Mrs. Wilson eyed the almost empty salad bowl and tea pitchers, snagging the salad bowl just before Mr. Parker emptied it. Noting his pained expression, she explained, “I think we need more salad and tea. Excuse me, please. I will be right back. Courtney, can you give me a hand?” I followed her to the kitchen.

Mrs. Wilson encouraged me to stay quiet and listen to the adults. She was afraid they might be hesitant to discuss some topics with an eleven-year-old present. I’m a talker and told her I wasn’t sure I could do it. “I’ll tell you what. If a person speaks directly to you, you can talk. And, if no one else talks to you, I will at least once every ten minutes or so. Deal?”

I reluctantly agreed and we returned to the table, Mrs. Wilson carrying the full salad bowl and more hot rolls. I carried two refilled pitchers of tea.

Mr. Ferguson dominated the conversation, giving a brief history of Connors Station, his adoring wife listening attentively. We weren’t learning a thing. Finally, Brother Sherwood interrupted. “Most of us are almost finished with our dinner. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions about your daughter." Mrs. Wilson winked at me.

 


Comments

03/24/2017 1:33am

I have only read this part and it makes me interested about the story. This novel is exciting. I would love to read it from the start until the last part. I am curious about the story of Park Princess. I enjoyed reading this even though I have only read one chapter. Thank you for sharing this.

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I find this chapter very admirable! I want to read more of this story. Maybe you could send me the direct link to where I can access of the preceding chapters so I might read it and follow the flow of the story. I am looking forward to read more of this type of genre because I am into drama. Keep writing!

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Thanks for sharing this story. I've always wanted to read a fresh story. I got fed up reading cliche novels. It is a breathe of fresh air. I am more than excited to start reading this story of your. I will get back to you for feedbacks.

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05/22/2017 12:22am

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Susan Box Mann, Writer