Take Aunt Florida, for instance, who was sitting forward in the back seat of Fannie’s car. She lived in Long Beach, California, and went to “school” part-time and had taken up Karate and kick-boxing. Big-boned and tall as she was, she didn’t look like the type to kick at a dog, much less a human. It was her still face—no, her slow way of smiling. She was shy, intelligent, humble and content to simply listen, the opposite of her older sister Fannie; or maybe Flora, as she liked to be called now, simply wasn’t quick enough to speak before one of the sisters began over-speaking her. Flora had flown in for the funeral, which said it all: she still valued family and place in spite of belonging to that other time and place, California, as far away and different as the divide between earth and heaven. This was a new day and age and the old lady whose funeral they had just been to hadn’t belonged anywhere, anymore, so God had called her home to that cabin in Gloryland she always talked about. Everybody else, her many children and grandchildren, wanted their Gloryland cabins on earth. Preferably, with wheels.
Colorful cars—even the older models—were waxed, bright and in rows before the sinking, brittle shack surrounded by woods. Two had those spinning chrome rims that continue to spin like pinwheels in wind even after the wheels have come to a stand-still. Little girls in pastel dresses with matching bows on their many stubby braids, and little boys in white shirts with bow ties, were chasing about the clean dirt yard bound by acres of green and home of the chirring locusts. And of course the yellow flies. The sisters hugging necks and crying on the porch looked mad, slapping yellow flies on one another’s arms and faces.
Hey! Zeke could vouch that they weren’t above a fight or two. They were here to take stock of and divvy up their mother’s meager belongings, then get the hell out of these woods. To be done with one another, you might say, till next year’s family reunion. Depending on the matter in dispute, it could take six months to a year between get-togethers for heads to cool down and hearts to heat up. All week they’d been on the phone, arguing about funeral arrangements, arguing about whether or not to sell the old home place or hang onto it as a keepsake, all except for Flora who spoke little and mumbled through her gold-trimmed teeth. She was the silent type, given to traveling light. Younger and more modern that the other sisters. Zeke could stomach her but his mother Fannie and the others were making him sick with their greed and loud overlapping talk and breakthrough wailing.