Mourning of Pear
is dead. PearDaddy is dead and you flatly dont care. PearDaddy
is dead, and you feel just awful about not caring, but you cant
drive a tear even when you pull on your arm hair real hard.
This morning they came and got you and all your cousins and piled
you in the back of the longest cleanest black car you had ever
seen. The man driving was awful nice and he was full of tissues
and hard candy for all the grieving grandbabies. That was supposed
to include you, and you looked at the tears being nicely produced
by your cousins as pretty as you please, and you pulled on your
arm hair again. If you could have gotten to your newly forming
armpit hair fuzz and pulled one of those, that would really sting,
but your mother had you smothered in an excess of black lace.
Who in the world even makes black lace? And you thought of that
doll that BabaShy got you for Christmas this year. The one that
she ordered as part of that dolls of different countries series.
You had picked Miss Canada last year and you were so disappointed
'cause her outfit was plain and the doll was very white and simply
looked like everyone else you knew. So this year you had picked
Miss Spain, figuring she would be all exotic and stuff, and sure
enough you were right. She came dressed in black lace with a big
funny hat. She even had tiny stockings. The ones that only come
up to the thighs, not the big ol' everyday pantyhose that you
see your mom struggling to put on before church. These tiny ones
had a black band across each thigh that BabaShy called a corset,
and then she blushed and said something to Mother about the doll
being a little too real for her tastes.
You were parading this very same doll around and deciding that
she must be a dancer in that getup, so you were twirling her down
the hallway and saying, I am the queen of Spain with my
garters and my high hat. You spun and spun until you fell
down giggling. Then BabaShy came in and said that all of us girls
need to quit squealing as PearDaddy had a headache.
See now that was the problem. PearDaddy always had a headache.
He never was any fun. You refused to smile when women you recognize
but cant name put their hands on your head and pat you like
a dog. Neighbor women. But you gave Mrs. Nobles a big smile, and
you twisted back and forth to show off the lace of your black
dress. You knew that Mrs. Nobles would make dumplings for when
you all go back to the house later. Mrs. Nobles placed a gloved
hand to her throat and told you how sorry she is, and you wanted
to cry, just for Mrs. Nobles, 'cause you knew she was expecting
it, but still you couldn't cry for PearDaddy. It would be like
crying for a stranger. A stranger that never laughed, or ever
even played a game with you. He just was not any fun at all. Not
one iota, your mother would say.
It is an overcast day which suits a funeral. Wouldnt it
be funny, you think, if it was a bright sunny day? It would seem
ill-fitting. Like wearing your Mothers high heels. God knows
to make it sunny on Easter but rainy on funerals. Its only
proper. The preacher says ashes to ashes, and then BabaShy places
a purple flower on the coffin, and now you see how old she looks
and how sad. When did this happen? She looks much older than this
morning at the funeral parlor. And you only now notice how white
she is, how all your mothers olive coloring must have come
from PearDaddy. PearDaddy was once BabaShys suitor, courting
this impossibly white woman. Was she always this white? You dont
recall ever even seeing PearDaddy leaving that musty wing chair.
He maybe said two words to you in all of your years. How did this
man ever woo any woman? It has started to drizzle and you bow
your head and look at the big hole they made for him and hope
enough rain water will form on your head to fall and look like
an actual tear.
But now you see Mother with your two aunts holding BabaShy up
like shes about to pass out or something, and it just about
breaks your heart. Will BabaShy keep the big house all alone?
Shes too old to find another husband. Is this it then for
her? You taste salt in your mouth and realize you are crying at
Great Aunt Pearl sits down next to you and you notice her folding
chair sinks into the mud a good half foot from her weight. She
is wearing an orange hat and you think it doesnt suit the
occasion, like if the sun was shining. She leans in close and
you worry her chair will all but sink completely.
Did you girls get to eat any of those blueberry pancakes
your mother made? Pearl doesnt even whisper.
You just stare at BabaShy.
How old are you now Marie? she says loud as can be.
Get away from me; cant you see Im grieving for my
dear PearDaddy? This is what you want to say, but all you say
is Im eleven now, maam.
Look at you now, crying up a storm, Pearl says and
laughs a high laugh. Shoot child. You wont see many
here crying. And Ill tell you why right now. Your dear PearDaddy
never was any fun.
You pinch a glance at BabaShy and think that perhaps fun is not
the most central thing to be in this wide world.
long time resident of the American South, Lockie Hunter
now lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, where she is enrolled
as an MFA student in the creative writing program at Emerson College.
Her fiction and humor essays can be found in the pages of The
Emerson Review, The Morning News, and in a special
upcoming Appalachian edition of Southern Hum. Lockie is
currently working on a Southern novel that she hopes will help
to preserve some of the eccentricities and joy of her family and
hometown. You may find more of her work at www.lockiehunter.com.