- Keith's version
"dis on, dey ron dey ron dey ron dey
papa doo ron,
dey ron dey ron dey papa,
dis on dey ron dey ron dey ron dey papa ooo,
oooh-oooh-oooh-oooh" I Met Him On Sunday, The Shirelles
Nana Eddie was old the first time Keith met her, and that was 30 years ago. Man, she was old.
She was scary too, right from the start. One of those little old ladies wearing a wig looked like it was scraped off the back side of a diseased donkey. Wore the same housedress and sweater every time Keith had been dragged to her house bearing a care package of Mom's home made, health-conscious soul food. Big purple knots up and down her legs and bony arms. Neck like an uprooted, dried out beet. Keith remembered one time she'd pulled her skirt up high above her knees, exposing an inch (which was an inch too many) of gnarly, peeling,ashy, waxy, stubbly, leaking old-lady thigh-flesh. "You don't want you getting no diabetes boy. End up like Nana Eddie, got me some sores won't never heal!"
He'd nearly fainted in horror, jamming his face into his mother's lap, but too late. The vision of Nana Eddie's stained unmentionables had been burned permanently into his memory cells, and would forever be the first thought that popped into his head whenever he was in the company of very elderly relatives.
And lately that had been more often than not. They were dropping like flies. He realized that probably meant he was getting older, too. He was grateful that his mother and father took care of themselves, and were ultra conscious of the health-hazards faced by African-Americans. They watched what they ate, exercised, kept their minds sharp and challenged.
And hell, for all her hard times, Nana Eddie lived well into her 90s. There was longevity in their family, although he never could quite figure out where exactly Nana Eddie fit in the Charles' family tree.
But she was a member of Mom and Dad's church, and about the only time Keith ever did attend the church of his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, was during a family funeral. Quality time with the folks.
He was a good son.
The circumstances of Nana Eddie's passing were rather sad. She'd been alone for a year after her husband died. Keith's mother visited as part of the church caregivers group about 3 or 4 times a year, apart from holidays. Other than visits from church members, Nana Eddie was pretty much on her own. She'd outlived any of the friends who could tolerate her company. She'd been dead several days before they found her body. The communal guilt resulted in an overflow crowd of mourners in Keith's old African Methodist Episcopal church. In fact, of all the recent funerals his parents had compelled him to attend, this was by far the best showing. Standing room only.
Well, good for Nana Eddie. He pictured her floating above the front of the chapel, admiring herself in her beautiful, mahogany casket. Keith didn't ask, but he imagined the church must have paid for everything. He'd noticed the funeral company's hearse wasn't exactly a state-of-the-art model. The two men who'd arrived with the casket were both white, which struck Keith as odd. He assumed they were chosen because they were the most economical. Nevertheless, you'd never know that this was a discount funeral service by Reverend McBeatty's passionate, melodramatic sermon, which had been going on for nearly half an hour, and seemed nowhere near concluding. Keith assumed the Reverend was feeling a little guilty himself.
Keith had volunteered to be an usher because that would mean he wouldn't have to sit down anywhere near his parents, and they wouldn't notice if he sneaked away. He thought he might take a little stroll outside. There wasn't a lot about the old neighborhood that still held his interest, in fact, most of the memories were pretty bad, but even sucking back a cherry Slurpy at the corner AM-PM would be preferable to another 30 minutes of Reverend McBeatty.
He glanced around the room in search of his parents. True to form, they were in the front row. He caught a glance of his mother digging her elbow into his father's ribs, saw his dad wake up with a start.Keith wished Nana Eddie a happy trip and made his way towards the back of the chapel.
He noticed one of the funeral directors, the younger one, stationed at the chapel entrance. He must be one of the Sons of Fisher and Sons. Keith thought at first that the man was asleep standing up. His arms were folded across his chest, and his head was bobbing up and down gently, the way it does when you're desperately trying to stay awake in class. He suddenly straightened up with a violent jerk of his head, and looked around the room as if he'd been caught doing something wrong.
Keith chuckled to himself. He gave the attendant a good, hard look as he approached the chapel entrance.
Kinda cute, Keith thought. Kinda weird, though. Well, what makes you think he's weird, Keith interrogated himself. Just because he's an undertaker. For half a second Keith wondered what kind of man would choose to do something like that for a living, then he reminded himself about his own chosen occupation, and chuckled again.
Who the hell was he to judge?
But the guy was kinda weird. He looked like he was going to have himself a good old-fashioned crying jag. Keith had never seen a mortician cry on the job. But sometimes shitty things happened on Keith's job and all he could do was cry. Maybe the funeral attendant was moved by Reverend McBeatty's sermon.
Keith wondered why he was thinking about the funeral attendant at all. He wasn't that cute, was he? Keith didn't really believe in gaydar, but he wholeheartedly believed in physical attraction. This time he gave Son of Fisher a really good once-over, and decided that if nothing else, he was flirt-worthy. And it would be good to keep in practice.
But no sooner had Keith thought the thought than the man was brushing past him, out the door. And he WAS crying.
Keith gave him a few minutes, then followed him outside.
When Keith spotted the other funeral director, the older man, sitting in the hearse, he decided to change tactics, at least temporarily. He was an out and proud gay man, but trying to pick up a guy in front of his father, at a funeral, was way out of Keith's league. He decided to go get that cherry Slurpy after all.
By the time Keith had walked around to the front of the church, he'd changed his mind again. Fuck it, nothing else had been going on in his life romantically since the break-up with Dennis. And when would he ever get a shot at fucking an undertaker, for God's sake? He decided it was worth the risk of rejection, not to mention eternal damnation, and marched decidedly back to the church parking lot, in Son of Fisher's direction.
And practically ran right into him.
A little embarrassed and anxious, Keith automatically stuck out his hand and said the first thing that popped into his head: "Wonderful service."
Son of Fisher looked mortified, and for a very discomfitting split second Keith thought that he wasn't going to shake his hand.
Well, fuck you honky redneck limp dick piece of shit, Keith thought, just as the man finally held out his hand, after wiping it rather roughly against his pant leg.
Keith took his hand, and held it a moment too long, surprised at the sudden rush of warmth and tenderness he was feeling. Something about this guy, Keith thought. Something needy and sorrowful and open. Better run like hell, boy, Keith warned himself.
Against his better judgement, Keith engaged Son of Fisher in a conversation about Nana Eddie. Even though the guy stared at him like he was from another planet, Keith plunged forward, afraid if he stopped talking Son of Fisher would float up to the heavens with Nana Eddie, both of them laughing their heads off at Keith's futile efforts at trying to charm this Addam's family cast member's pants off.
Or any article of his clothing for that matter.
Well, he's not interested, Keith thought to himself. Let's extricate ourselves from this with as much dignity as possible.
Son of Fisher turned away, and glanced up at the bright, hot sky above them. Impulsively, Keith brushed the back of the man's jacket with his hand, not really even wondering how he got spiderwebs all over himself.
The man turned back and looked at Keith with an expression of abject sadness. Keith felt himself falling into the man's eyes. Run, boy, run, he thought to himself. Too late. He touched the man's face, just under his right eye, where a dusty tear clung to the soft pale hairs of his cheek. Keith felt the electric charge, heard it snap, smelled the residual wisp of ozone.
They talked a little more, but Keith couldn't swear to what was said if you pointed a gun to his face. He remembered asking the guy for his business card, and shoving the card quickly into his pocket, as if afraid the man would snatch it back.
The next thing he knew his Mom and Dad had grabbed hold of him and were scolding him for ducking out of the funeral, and missing seeing the beautiful look on Nana Eddie's face as the coffin was closed.
David Fisher, of Fisher and Sons, Keith thought to himself, glancing over his shoulder for one last look.
Ready or not, here I come.