She parked the Datsun in an empty spot near the courthouse, and got out. The sun shone down high and white overhead, casting crisp-line shadows on the sidewalk beneath her feet. The sidewalk was cool, despite the warm day. A memory of frost. She locked her doors, and started walking- glad, once again, that she had decided to wear tennis shoes instead of pumps. The clock tower chimed out the hour, then sounded ten solemn tones- as if it, too, were mourning her grandfather's passing.
You must login to vote
The cemetery stood some four blocks from where she had parked her car. It was situated in a small, ray-shaped section of grass behind the local church. If anyone important- a president or a movie star- was ever buried in such a churchyard, Deborah mused, the attendees alone would block traffic on both sides of the road. Her father, however, was neither. The turnout, including herself, numbered just under twenty. Most of them she didn't know. They wore thick, black overcoats on top of suits and dresses. They sniffed and coughed, and shuffled their feet to keep warm. She slipped into their ranks unnoticed.
The priest was old enough to look ready for the coffin himself. He rambled and mumbled, occasionally slipping into ornate Latin for no obvious reason. He held his book out with one hand, and kept his robes closed against the chill wind with the other. His wispy white hair blew wildly about his head, and that was what Deborah watched for the majority of the sermon. The sun rose a little higher into the sky. She decided that she was about ready for lunch.
Then the sermon was over, and they were lowering the casket into the earth. Deborah took her place in line, and let some of the fresh earth fall from her fingers onto the hole as she passed. Goodbye, Gramp.
"You look like him, you know."
She looked up. "Huh? I mean, pardon me?"
The old man looked uncomfortable in dress pants and button-up shirt. Deborah took one look at his tan cheeks, his faded blue eyes, and his leathery hands, and pegged him for a farmer. His wispy iron-gray hair floated around like a halo in the wind. He looked mildly embarassed.
"You're his granddaughter, aren't you?" he said.
"Yes...how did you know?"
"He used to talk about you a lot. You're exactly like he described you."
Oddly enough, she found this statement disconcerting. "You knew him, then?"
The old man looked at his shoes. "He was my closest friend."
There was an uncomfortable silence, broken only by the monotonous, idiot whistling of the wind. Deborah looked over at the grave- as if she expected Gramp to offer up some conversational topic- and was amused to see the old man doing the same thing. She smiled, and he smiled back at her. His face was hard and lined, but not unfriendly. She decided she liked him.
"It's cold out here," she said. "I think I'm going to stay in town for a while, and have some lunch. Can you recommend a good place to me?"
"Ryan's Place has good pasta, if you like pasta."
"I do." Deborah found herself smiling again. Twice in one day! And of all days...
"Wonderful," said the old man, and clapped a round-brimmed hat on his head. "If you don't mind, could I share a table with you? My treat."
Deborah drew her jacket around herself. "One condition."
She smiled again. "I'll need your name."
The old man grinned. "Silas Parish," he said, and put out a hand.
She put out her own, and shook it. Just as she had expected, his hands were leathery and scarred from work. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Parish. My name is Sarah Wilson."
"Pleased to meet you, Sarah Wilson."
The restaurant was every inch the quaint small-town bed-and-breakfast ma-and-pa diner. There was a fireplace in the far wall, with a small fire- a real one, she noted- burning away at a few spare logs. The tables bore real checkered tablecloths. Deborah and Mr. Parish took a seat near a small, square window with matching curtains. Silas twitched the curtains aside, revealing a picture-perfect view of the bell tower.
Deborah sat down, set her jacket aside, and picked up the menu. Silas spent a long moment putting on a pair of reading glasses. They listened to the sounds of the restaurant. They looked at their menus.
Finally, Silas broke the silence. "So," he said, and she almost jumped. "I don't know about you, but the Homerun Breakfast sounds mighty good right now."
"Um." She looked the menu over again. "I'll probably have a, um-"
"Why did you wear jeans?"
Deborah blinked. "Huh? Oh, that..." She looked down at herself. "I don't like dresses. I don't wear them unless I have to, and I don't honestly think that my grandfather- Gramp- would have wanted me to be uncomfortable for his funeral. Does that make any sense?"
He looked at her over the half-moons of his glasses. "Of course that makes sense. Good sense, too. I'm old-fashioned myself. I'm used to wearing fancy, uncomfortable dress clothes for important occasions. I recommend the club sandwich, by the way."
She felt herself relaxing. Silas had an easy, rambling way of talking that put her at ease. He went from club sandwiches to her grandfather, and from there they began a back-and-forth of things they had liked about him; everything from his Hand-Shake method of money loaning (Silas), to how he would take on the voice of the Big Bad Wolf with such cheerful over-the-top gusto (Deborah). A pretty young waitress in slacks and a white apron came to take their orders. Deborah asked for the club sandwich.
"So what about your wife?" Deborah said. "Is she still around?"
"I'm afraid I don't have a wife," said Silas. "Never have, as it happens."
"Oh...I'm sorry...I just assumed..."
"It's okay. Oh, wonderful! Food..."
They ate, and silence reigned for some minutes. Eventually, Deborah ran the last of the fries she intended to eat through her ketchup, chewed the lukewarm bit of potato, swallowed, wiped her mouth with a napkin, and looked up. Silas was already watching her, as though he knew she was about to ask him something. She went ahead anyway.
"It's probably none of my business," she said, twisting the napkin between her fingers unconsciously. "But...why didn't you ever get married, Mr. Parish?"
"Silas," said Silas. "And I'm afraid that's something I'm not quite willing to talk about yet."
"Don't be," he said. "I don't hold it against you. Are you thinking about dessert?"
"In the middle of the day? I don't think so."
"Good," said Silas. "Let's get gone, then."
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.