Friday, October 19, 2012

Welcome to Hinckley, Ohio

Chapter One

Death brings out the best and worst in people, especially when the death is in the family.

I met my husband's siblings when we all sat down in the attorney's office to discuss the dispostion of Nick's father's will. I already knew Larry; he and I were very close and had been since the moment we met. The rest of Nick's siblings -- Julie, Thom, and Maggie -- I knew by reputation and had a pretty good idea what they were about. I couldn't have been more wrong.

When I met Nick's father, his dad told me that I was marrying the wrong son. He was right, of course, but then he didn't know that Larry was gay either. That would have shocked the old man down to his cradle Catholic soul, especially since his wife Esther knew Larry was gay and knew how her husband would react. No amount of pepper in his food would change his attitude or Mr. Sherwood's mind about his queer son -- or his lesbian daughter come to that. Out of five children, the Sherwoods gave birth to one lesbian and one very gay Larry. In spite of Mr. Sherwood's beliefs, he was a good man and he would have come around in time, without the pepper in his food which was Esther's way of getting her own back when they fought.

I never met Esther, but I heard a lot about her from Mr. Sherwood, Nick, and Larry. I think I would've liked her even if she was a zealot, as are most converts to a religion. At least she loved all her children, if not equally, at least well.

I knew Mr. Sherwood a few months when he sent his children out of his hospital room and asked me to stay. I had no idea what he wanted, but he wasn't long in producing a small metal file box filled with 3 x 5 cards that were filled with names and numbers. Some of the cards were stapled together. The file box contained the details of how much each of his children owed on their inheritance, money Mr. Sherwood had advanced them for various reasons, from a down payment on a house to tuition and more, much more. Nick was the only one who had not borrowed on his inheritance and, according to Mr. Sherwood, was the one who would benefit most from his death. Mr. Sherwood quickly hushed me when I said he wouldn't die any time soon and he fixed me with a no nonsense stare.

"I know I'm going to die soon, and it can't come soon enough. I miss Esther and want to be with her."

What could I say? "I understand how much you miss her."

"Enough of that. Will you do it?" He pointed to the file box. "Will you stand up for me with the lawyer and make sure everything is done according to my wishes?"

"Of course, but shouldn't you get one of your children or your lawyer to handle this?"

There was that look again, the no nonsense stare.

"I have told the lawyer but I don't have the time to do everything that needs to be done. I want you to do it. If you're willing."

"Yes, I'll do what I can."

"Put that in your purse before they all come back. You'll have to fight them all to make sure Nick gets his fair share. They won't give in."

As much as I wanted to help, the idea of getting off on the wrong foot with my almost in-laws did not make me happy. I wasn't afraid of them, but I did want them to like me. It would be an uphill battle no matter what. I'd seen them going through Mr. Sherwood's home with stacks of cards filled with colored dots, a different color for each, parceling out his possessions and he wasn't even dead yet. A plague of locusts intent on getting every bit before they moved on.

Mr. Sherwood grabbed my hand, his thumb making soft lazy circles that sent shivers all through me. "Yes, I'll fight them for you."

"I still think you're marrying the wrong Sherwood. It's your choice, but I wish you'd take some time and think it over. You and Larry are perfect for each other."

I blushed, something I seldom did. "I love Nick."

"You love Larry, too. I know he loves you."

I smiled through the gathering tears and nodded. "It just wouldn't work out."

"Your choice," he said, pulling me down to kiss my cheek. "I wish I could stick around. I'd like to get to know you better."

Nick and his siblings came back into the room, but Mr. Sherwood kept hold of my hand. "I want you all to promise right now to abide by my wishes." All five of them nodded, murmuring yes. Nick was the only one who said loudly, "I promise, Dad." I didn't know that was the way it would always be -- and had always been.

Mr. Sherwood outlined what he wanted in his funeral and what he wanted done about his possessions and the will. Possessions they had already tagged with their big colored dots, none of which belonged to Nick.

Four of the Sherwoods groaned when Mr. Sherwood said Nick got the house free and clear and that the money they owed him from loans would also go to Nick. I didn't miss the daggers Maggie, Julie, and Thom sent Nick's way. Nick was oblivious, tears streaking his face and he stared down at his father's left foot where it stuck out from the covers. He reached down, his fingers brushing the side of his father's foot, a red blush creeping up his neck and flaming his cheeks.

Larry nodded immediately, but it took much longer for Maggie, Thom, and Julie to promise their father they agreed with his terms. I knew at that moment they would never follow through and the only ammunition available was in my bag, the truth that would force them to honor their promises. I didn't know how wrong I was or to what lengths the other four Sherwoods would go to stick it to Nick who, they felt, had had more than his share since he fell ill with spinal meningitis when he was still a child. I didn't know any of it at that time, but I soon found out the buzzards didn't only migrate to Hinckley, Ohio. A small family of those buzzards had descended to pick over Mr. Sherwood's carcass while it was still alive. They began at his home and soon moved to the rest of his life as it trickled away. They didn't mind waiting a few months. Those buzzards had caught the scent of death and waited patiently for the end.


Have you ever heard someone speak about a book or see a movie based on a book and wanted to read the original? I do. All the time. That's the case with The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, also author of Day of the Triffids, which I've already read.

I don't know if it's curiosity (mostly, what Beanie calls my nose problem) or lack of sales resistance. I prefer the former. Basically, it's like someone suggesting books and me deciding which ones I want to read. That's how I finally began reading Jane Austen and found I actually liked it. Before watching the BBC series with Colin of the wet shirt, I began reading Austen but just could not get past the ponderous language. Hearing it spoken gave it life and sparkle and I had to read the books, books I continue to reread year after year. Austen is a place of beauty and romance that still touches my old heart and I do so love the scene between Anne and the captain when he reaches out one very large gloved hand and she places her small hand in his. That is true romance. I see it every time I read Persuasion, which is why I suppose I also enjoy The Lake House because of the connection to Persuasion.

I have to admit that I am a bit surprised that the very wordy Wyndham Midwich Cuckoos is so very wordy and most of what I've seen numerous times in Village of the Damned has not occurred, except for the town going to sleep and anyone coming within its confines dropping off immediately. At times, the book puts me to sleep when Dr Zellaby goes on and on in his philosophical vein. There are moments when he makes sense, like when he told his son-in-law to take his daughter away from Midwich without their baby so she could escape the compulsion that comes over every woman of a Dayout baby/cuckoo when she gets six miles from Midwich, as if tethered by some invisible cable that yanks the mother back. Several more educated and scientific-minded women have already figured out they can escape the compulsion by leaving Midwich without the baby forced on them by the Dayout and leaving the baby/cuckoo in the care of the town without regret or second glances. Only one mother out of the entire population of child bearing females in Midwich had a normal baby, and that is Dr Zellaby's wife, Angela. She was obviously pregnant when the Dayout occurred.

At any rate, I am moderately enjoying the book, but I doubt I'd be reading it at this time if not for Mrs Fitzgerald's mention of the book to her brother-in-law when she was talking about how her midlife baby Jimmy kept her tethered to the house when she had one grown son and a nearly grown daughter. Having a baby at the middle of her life was not in her plans and, as much as she loved him, she was sick to death of being tethered to home with a newborn. She talked about how any woman with a Midwich cuckoo was compelled to return to the "nest" and how it had to be a man writing that kind of hell because a woman never would -- be tethered or find it fodder for a story. I had to read the book then and there.

Mostly, I've been pleased and fascinated by the books I've been recommended in this fashion, but there have also been some dogs. Still, I wonder how many people buy books, not because a friend mentioned them or because of being drawn by the cover art or the author's name, but because a television character or movie based on a book put the idea into their heads. How do you find the books you read for entertainment and escape?

Maybe Beanie is right and it all comes down to my nose trouble. Stranger things and all that.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pieces fall away

Last night I received an email from Hoity-Toity forwarding news from Cutty. My ex-husband, Nick, had died. I thought at first he had died in the last day or so, but he had died October 8 and the obituary was printed in the local newspaper just yesterday. Nine days between his death and the obit and, what struck me as odd, the obit was bare info: where he lived, high school he attended, and date of death, along with his nickname, Nick. Nothing else.

The last I heard of Nick was over 10 years ago. He was living in Uzi Alley, a really bad section of Columbus on the east side, and working for a temporary service while chauffeuring around his girlfriend/fiancee/whatever in an old Cadillac she bought so he could drive her to various gambling venues around the country, which is why he was working at a temp service instead of a full time job with benefits. She was 20 years older than he and very wealthy, but kept him on a leash, a long leash, since she would not allow him to live with her. The woman had retired from publishing and loved to gamble (she'd have to getting into a relationship with Nick) and kept changing the date of their wedding about 5 times. I think it was the carrot at the end of an ever-changing long stick that kept growing like Pinocchio's nose during an orgy of lying. But that was 10 years ago.

Nick reportedly lived in North Linden near the same neighborhood he grew up in and there was nothing about how he died or how long it took them to find him after he died. Considering his penchant for strippers and unprotected sex with whomever he found in a bar or strip joint, I'd guess he died either of a sexually transmitted disease or a heart attack. He would've been 60 on October 27 but didn't make it.

A friend told me last night that he left a hole in the tapestry of my life because he died. I cut him out of that tapestry many years ago when it was apparent I could no longer live with a violent, unfaithful man whose only emotions were none and rage, usually accompanied by violence. He was rigid and abusive and really hard to get rid of. He was also whiny and blamed everyone for his problems. Nothing was ever his fault, like the time he beat me up when I was trapped in a chair behind a table on which sat a computer that didn't belong to me and the wall of the stairs behind me. The only reason he stopped hitting me was because his hand swelled.

Don't shed any tears for me. I got my own back not long after that incident when I proved to him that I was not his punching bag and that he had more to fear from me than I did from him. Of course, he hit me upside the head with a full can of spray starch one evening when he found out I was better at following him than he was of losing me. He ended up with stripes up and down his legs and his right shoulder dislocated when he tried to pull his belt out of my hands. I wasn't in control that night, but my rage was. I would've gotten away from him then but my dad and brother moved him in while I was out picking up new blinds for my new apartment. But that is all in the past. He's dead now and my feelings for him have been dead even longer.

I do wonder what happened to him and why his funeral is being held now. Was he murdered by an angry husband? Have his remains been autopsied or held by the coroner until cause of death could be established? Why is his funeral private and why did it take so long for someone to put it all together? I may never know the reasons or what happened to him, and maybe that is for the best. The last thing I need from Nick or his family is a feeling of wanting justice for wrongful death.

I imagine he died alone and it took a few days for the smell to reach the other residents and his body found. I wouldn't want that kind of death even for Nick. No one should die like that. All this speculation just incites my curiosity and that's never good when it comes to Nick. That's how I found out about his nastier habits and what a fish feeding frenzy was all about, but I expected nothing less from the man who preferred to spend his honeymoon playing militia. It was a fitting end to our wedding since our wedding dinner was spent sitting next to one of his old girlfriends, the woman who aborted his unborn child, and with whom he spent most of the dinner with catching up on old times.

Every day in little ways, the pieces of my life fall away.

That is all. Disperse.