Funeral Talk by Ariana Farquharson

Few survive the whole way through funeral talk, as I know it. Let one body, anybody, in the family or
close-friend-of-the-family circle die, and before the talk is done, everybody has died at least once. Rest
assured most are resurrected via verbal retractions. Just listen to these two ladies – innocent 60-somethings, wide-brimmed church hat wearers, hot-flash fanners, modest high-heeled shoers, self-proclaimed well-versed knowledge-holders in their community’s goings-on – you know, ladies. Anyway, somebody they knew from way back when, one Arthur Kinney, died for real. But a few of his kinfolk got caught up in death during their funeral talk.

Not to mention a few funeral gossip casualties, namely Lessie, Lessie Mayham, and later, Beatrice, Beatrice Shaw. We all know dead bodies have to be buried quick so they don’t rot and disfigure beyond disproof and recognition, but not so quick that some of the kinfolk start complaining about how the real-close kinfolk buried So-and-So so fast they didn’t even get a chance to mourn. Listen. Before the Funeral the first talk between the two ladies happens on the church pews on Sunday, but after the preacher has preached his sermon, of course.
Lady 1 Aw naw!
Lady 2 Yes.
Lady 1 Naw!
Lady 2 Yes, Sister.
Lady 1 You got to be mistaken!
Lady 2 Ain’t ever miss or take a thing.
Lady 1 Sure as day?
Lady 2 Sure as day.
Lady 1 Arthur Kinney?
Lady 2 Arthur Kinney.
Lady 1 And you seen his face?
Lady 2 Like I see yours.
Lady 1 Arthur Kinney that stole all the boys’ girls?
Lady 2 Stole you ain’t he?
Lady 1 Aw naw!
Lady 2 Yes. Heart attack. Bright and early. Tuesday. May twenty-five.
Lady 1 Serves him right.
Lady 2 Sarah say they havin’ his funeral this approachin’ weekend.
Lady 1 Sure enough? Where ‘bout?
Lady 2 At Crenshaw’s, you know, down there on Freedom where they got Billy Johnston and Black
Bone buried.
Lady 1 Mm. What time?
Lady 2 Mornin’, I thank. Saturday mornin’.
Lady 1 Lord still workin’ with me and Mornin’.
Lady 2 Well? You goin’?
Lady 1 Lord willin’.
Lady 2 It ought to be nice. All the high folk’ll be there, you know, the Reverend and First Lady Portier,
the Belmonts, the Harpers – all them. And Lessie, too.
Lady 1 Lessie?
Lady 2 Lessie.
Lady 1 Lessie Mayham?
Lady 2 Lessie Mayham.
Lady 1 Awww nawww!
During the Wake
The Reverend, their Reverend Portier, is talking positive about Arthur Kinney’s life and times, and the
ladies are talking about French.
Lady 2 Portier. Ain’t that French?
Lady 1 It sure as hell ain’t Southern.
Lady 2 It’s got that ‘i’ in there; that’s what makes it so French-soundin’. It look high written down on
paper, too. Reverend come by the bank often – very often.
Lady 1 He might have a French-soundin’ name, but ain’t nothin’ else high about him. Hell, anybody
could stick an extra ‘i’ in their name where it don’t belong, and French-ify it. Just take the ‘i’ out. What
you get?
Lady 2 Porter.
Lady 1 Now that don’t sound nothin’ high, and it sure don’t sound nothin’ French.
Lady 2 Well, it don’t sound too low. Least not like Po’.
Lady 1 I must admit, he does preach mighty rich. Don’t he?
Lady 2 Only on Sundays at the sunrise service. He run out of holy things to talk about by noontime.
Lady 1 Gosh! If noontime service sound rich, I sure wonder what real early mornin’ service sound like.
But you know ‘bout me and Mornin’.
Lady 2 Yes. I do. But you could always buy the tapes.
Lady 1 Mm. Ain’t them old-fashioned?
During the Funeral
The third talk happens, well, at the funeral. Since the ladies aren’t blood-related to the Kinneys, they
stand in the back and whisper back and forth. A random gossiper, another lady, leans in to add her two
cents. Meanwhile, the usual funeral proceedings – prayer, prayer, wailing, tears and such – proceed.
Lady 1 Mm. Mm. Arthur Kinney still look good, even dead. Just like his brother.
Lady 2 Phil dead?
Lady 1 Yes.
Lady 2 Phil Kinney? Dead?
Lady 1 Yes.
Lady 2 When that happen?
Lady 3 It didn’t. You thankin’ ‘bout they cousin, Sherman Kinney.
Lady 2 Oh. Thank you, Sister.
Lady 3 You welcome.
Lady 1 Well, it don’t matter which Kinney man died. It’s all tragic.
Lady 2 Sure enough.
Lady 1 You got any extra flowers, Sister? I sure didn’t bring any.
Lady 2 Here.
Lady 1 Bless you.
Lady 2 Where you guess he goin’ – way up or way down?
Lady 1 Well, if he died like he lived back when we was in school, he goin’ just about everywhere.
Lady 2 Mm! An after-livin’ universal ‘ho’. Shame! Couldn’t ever make up his mind.
Lady 1 Mercy. Say, who that woman? All crazy crying all over the casket? She tryin’ to resurrect the
Lady 2 My Jesus. Well, if I recollect correct, that’s his eldest daughter. I thank they call her Violet.
Lady 1 Mm. She sort of favor Lessie – in the eyes and hips. They kind of lopsided, you know. You don’t
suppose –
Lady 2 Sister, it’s wrong to pry at a time like this. Wait till the reception.
Lady 1 Sure enough. What they havin’?
At the Reception
The reception is at a Kinney house – the ladies have never met these Kinneys. Still they have taken care
of their family greetings, offered their condolences, and the like. A little disappointed with the meager
hors d’oeuvres, they still find a cozy corner to nibble and continue their funeral talk.
Lady 2 Mhm. That’s Lessie’s daughter alright. Just look at those eyes, how they kind of cross.
Lady 1 And those hips, they sort of dip funny.
Lady 2 Speakin’ of dip, this French Onion is delightful.
Lady 1 It’s Portier.
Lady 2 Oh shoot, Sister! Here she comes now. Don’t turn yet.
Lessie Mayham, one of Arthur Kinney’s back-in-the-days lays and babymothers, greets the two women,
catches up with them about life – and death. Then she continues making her rounds.
Lady 1 Soothsayer!
Lady 2 It ought to be extra sinful to lie so awfully bad.
Lady 1 Can you believe she said that?
Lady 2 All the women at Johnson County High, and he had to lay up with her.
Lady 1 Well, she always did have that nice silky Indian hair.
Lady 2 Oh naw! She just greased it up real good.
Lady 1 You thank?
Lady 2 Sister, I know.
Lady 1 How so?
Lady 2 Sleepover.
Lady 1 At Lessie’s?
Lady 2 Yes. That’s when I penned her in on my never-again list.
Lady 1 What happened?
Lady 2 Nothin’.
Lady 1 Nothin?
Lady 2 Naw, not really. She just fooled me into bein’ jealous.
Lady 1 How so?
Lady 2 Well this was prior to my knowin’ ‘bout the grease. She sure enough used to slick it up real good,
didn’t she?
Lady 1 Sure enough.
Lady 2 Had all of us thinkin’ that was the secret to gettin’ the good ones. You know those Arthur Kinney
type like those Indian-blooded girls.
Lady 1 Mhm.
Lady 2 Well, you know I ain’t got a lick of Indian me. Sure as day I saw Lessie’s hair ritual – Disturbin’!
Lady 1 What’d she do?
Lady 2 Why she nothin’ but slopped the whole tub of BB on her head, swooped it up real good, fixed a
silk scarf right tight ‘round it, and went right on to sleep like I hadn’t even seen. I asked her ‘bout it next
mornin’. She told me that was her secret to gettin’ all the guys even with crossed eyes and lopped hips.
Lady 1 So you mean she ain’t no real Indian?
Lady 2 Naw!
Lady 1 Naw?
Lady 2 Naw!
Lady 1 Sure as day?
Lady 2 Sure as day.
Lady 1 No lie?
Lady 2 Have I ever?
Lady 1 Well, I’ll be damned. Lessie Mayham ain’t got natural Indian hair. That sure makes her a heap
less pretty.
Lady 2 Sure do.
Lady 1 Sister, you sure you saw it?
Lady 2 With my two good eyes.
Lady 1 Mm.
Lady 2 Mhm – and neither do Beatrice.
Lady 1 Beatrice?
Lady 2 Beatrice.
Lady 1 Beatrice Shaw?
Lady 2 Beatrice Shaw.
Lady 1 Awww nawww!

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