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FOLLY BEACH
by Dorothea Benton Frank

Genre: General Mainstream Fiction, Mainstream

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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .
 
The minister’s voice was a booming gothic drone. Pastor Edwin Anderson, our pastor with the movie-star looks, suffered from the unfortunate delusion that he was Richard Burton. He really did. Today of all days, it seemed he was brushing up to deliver the soliloquy from Hamlet. It was ridiculous. On any other occasion I would have been chewing on the insides of my cheeks until I tasted blood. I didn’t dare look at my sister Patti or I’d surely blow my composure. What was the matter with that portion of my brain? Gallows humor? Wait! Did I really say gallows humor? Honey, that is the last term in the world I should use and that’s for sure. But there it was. Some small twisted secret pocket of my mind, with no permission from me, plucked out the most insensitive detail of this somber and terrible event, made a joke of it, which would surely and extremely inappropriately reduce me to a snickering idiot if I didn’t pay attention to myself. I cleared my throat, hoping it would send a signal to Pastor Anderson to bring it down a notch. He shot me a look and continued channeling Burton. God, he was unbelievably good-looking. Another inappropriate thought. It was true; I was verging on hysteria but who wouldn’t?

The miserable weather just added icing to the unholy dramatic cake of a day. One minute, the skies above New Jersey were dumping snow and in the next, sleet fell like tiny ice picks. I was amazed that the governor had not closed the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. Everything was a sheet of ice, the temperature around twenty. It was only by God’s holy grace that we had all made it to the cemetery without flying off the highway and into a ditch. I was pretty sure the ditches were filled with mangled bodies.

There were probably only twenty of us huddled under the tent at the gravesite, standing, because the seats of the folding chairs were soaking-wet. We all attributed the sparse turnout to Mother Nature, but to tell you the truth I was in such a fog I barely knew what was going on around me. I could not have cared much less who showed up and who didn’t. Over the last eighteen months, my life had become so isolated and my circle of friends had narrowed to almost no one. And now this.

We had skipped the traditional wake, deciding on a simple graveside ser vice with the most accommodating pastor from our church. I didn’t feel like talking to a lot of people, especially given the circumstances, and Addison was not particularly devout.

“Are you all right, Cate?”

Patti spoke in her normal tone for the hearing-impaired right over the minister, the sleet, the rain, and the wind. Considerations like when to say what and how loud did not occur to Patti. At all or ever. Sometimes that could be humorous, but other times it was unnerving.

I was definitely startled by the pitch of her voice. Was I all right? Was I? No. I wasn’t all right and we both knew it. Sisters can read each other’s minds. I just looked at her. Answer this, Patti, I asked her telepathically, how could I possibly be all right? We were gathered in the most inclement conditions February in New Jersey could offer to bury Addison, my husband of way too many years.