FUNERAL FOR SAMMY
My best suit came out of the closet on Wednesday morning. I figured I would wear it to work and leave from there to go to the funeral. Putting on that suit was reminder of the funeral all morning at the bank.
The funeral was being held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Newell, the same town we had travelled to for the rodeo dance. With the funeral at two in the afternoon, I planned on a late lunch and then going to the funeral. Judy was not going with me as she had not known Sammy well and the title company was too busy for her to take time off. Judy’s arm was doing better and she could actually type reports two handed. Laura was relieved to have the help and Judy was glad for the excuse not to go to a funeral.
Waiting in the bank parking lot as I arrived at work was Clive Davies. “Howdy, Mitch. I hope you had a great evening. I’m staying out of the bank like you said.” As he talked, he fell in step with me. “It is a public parking lot so I thought it was safe to be out here. Have you thought any more about our discussion from the other day? I think you took my little talk the wrong way.” While he was talking, I kept moving to the bank door. “Look, Mitch, all I am looking for is a little help to move things along. I mean after all, this will put money into both our pockets.” Clive kept trying to step in front of me in an attempt to make me stop and talk with him. This kept him from watching where he was stepping. That was unfortunate for him.
His next step backwards, he placed his foot in a Fido leftover. “Yuck. What the …..”
I pushed past Clive and said, “Stay out of the bank.”
As Clive struggled with the leavings on his shoe, I opened the bank door and stepped through. As usual I headed to the employee break room to make the first pot of coffee. Thankfully Charlie or Mary Beth had a pot ready. On the way to my office Charlie smilingly asked, “Was that your good friend Clive out there this morning? Should I call Sheriff Rawlins and see if he will hassle Clive to a new location. That is after he cleans off his shoes.”
At my desk with a full cup of coffee I started the morning routine. The bank computer reports didn’t have any surprises. No unexpected or unauthorized credit advances. No huge overdrafts outside of normal.
On to my Emails. Charlie forwarded an Email from the FDIC Chief Examiner in Charge of the bank’s last Safety and Soundness Exam. She was asking when the bank response to the exam recommendations would be done. So Charlie was wondering how I was getting along with the suggested Loan Policy changes that were my share of the audit response. The next Email was more interesting.
It was from Letty Parsons. The message went like this:
Mr. Banker Man
Dad did not believe me about the one hundred dollars for the pickup emblem. But Dad kept the money because we need it.
What are you doing about my Dad’s job? He needs help now. Please let us know what job you have found for Dad. You need to hurry. Dad feels worse. I can tell. Letty Parsons
That got my attention. What had I been doing? I brought it to Junior’s attention and made a call on Letty where she lives. It was time to bring it up to Junior again. I sent her an Email saying I would try to find some way of helping. I was pretty sure she was using the free computers at the library and would not get the Email right away.
I felt bad about my lack of action on Letty’s problem, but did not have time to wallow in my inability. Duke Corver burst into my office. “Did you get an answer from Loan Committee, Mitch? What did they say?”
Duke looked so hopeful standing there that I hated to tell him the result of his credit request. But that is what you do as a loan officer. “Duke. Good to see you. I presented your request at Loan Committee, but there was some real resistance.”
Before I could finish, Duke jumped back in. “But you made a good argument for me, right? You won them over.” Duke could tell it was not good news. “Oh, don’t tell me they said no. After all the business I do with this bank. They can’t see their way to financing me into a new pickup? That’s just not right, Mitch. I got a bite on that demo unit I live in. You know the one. You commented on how much you liked it when you were out on the last collateral inspection.”
I put on my best banker face and said, “Duke, the Loan Committee gave it some serious thought. But you have maxed out your credit line and sales are down. You said that yourself. It’s just not a good time to go further into debt.”
For a short while Duke looked like he was going to blow his top. Then he took a deep breath and collapsed into a chair. “Dang it. I know you’re right, Mitch. But Ned came to coffee this morning in his new outfit and bragged about how smooth a ride it has, and about all the electronics. Like he knows how to run one percent of that stuff. He is going to drive me bananas always having to be one up.”
I was glad Duke was being reasonable about this, but he was looking so defeated. I threw him a small bone. “Duke, I’ll talk this over with Charlie and see if he has any solution.”
Duke sat up straight and leaned across my desk. “Would you do that for me, Mitch? You know I can go to the car lot and get financing but you guys have always worked with me. If Charlie thinks it’s too much debt, I can live with that. I’ll just have to change where I go for coffee. I can’t stand to listen to Ned brag about his new pickup one more time.” With that Duke got up and headed out.
Judy had been a Cracker Jack loan processor when she was at the bank. Susie was her replacement and had been at the job for a year. Susie had a long way to go to learn the job. In a year she had learned some basics but anything complicated challenged her abilities.
I stopped by her work cubicle to drop off a new loan request for her to prepare the note and collateral documents. Susie was talking on her phone and she indicated it would be a short time until she was done by holding up her thumb and forefinger a little ways apart.
It appeared to be a private phone call from what I heard. “Amy, this sounds like fun. I’ve never played a villain. I’ll call you later so we can firm up our plans. You know who is here wanting some more slave labor out of me.”
The part I heard made me wonder for a little but then I thought I figured it out. “So does Chris Fergo have you auditioning too?”
Susie gave me a perplexed look and said, “Yeah, whatever.”
Out of a reflex I said, “Well say hi to Emily for me.”
After that Susie really gave me a puzzled look. “You mean like your ex-wife? Why would I see Emily?”
“Well, isn’t she in the play too? I thought the way she was hanging all over Chris that she was sure to get one of the lead parts.”
Susie said in a pained voice, “You wouldn’t catch me anywhere near that Community Theatre. It’s all these old people trying to act cool. Yuck!”
Once again I was mystified by a conversation with Susie. I explained what I needed for loan docs and headed back to my office shaking my head. Judy was so sensible and easy to talk with when she was in the bank. Why was it so hard to communicate with Susie?
Frank stopped at the bank and asked if he could ride along with me to the funeral. I didn’t think my plan of keeping distance from my friends until I could deal with Broken Glass applied to Frank. After all, he was single now so no family to endanger. On the drive over he told me, “I moved out of the ranch house yesterday. Bill Larson was released today and he sent word ahead through his attorney that my services would no longer be needed.” Frank ran the ranch for Larson while he was in prison for his connection to a fraud charge that showed up when his associate robbed my bank a year earlier.
“That’s too bad, Frank. You seemed to be doing well with the ranch management. What are you doing for a place to live?” Frank and Laurie had been living in Larson’s main ranch house as part of the management job. I cringed inwardly thinking of Frank’s situation. First his wife leaves him and now he loses not only his job but his home.
Frank mumbled something I didn’t quite catch and I asked him to repeat it. “I’m staying with my brother until I find something of my own.” That caused me another mental twinge. Frank’s brother drank as heavily as he did, or used to, and lived in a trailer house almost as bad as the one Letty lived in.
I asked, “What did you do with your horse? You could have brought him over to my place. Dan would appreciate some different company then Biscuit.”
Frank looked even more sheepish. “Actually I was going to ask you, but I ran into your folks and they offered to let me board the horse at their place.” Before I got the wrong impression, Frank hurried on. “They didn’t want anything for boarding him but I couldn’t let them do that. So I worked out a deal where I’ll help with an occasional chore in exchange for the boarding cost.” Knowing my folks, they will dream something up for Frank to help with so he feels like he is covering his cost. But honestly my folks kept the place in such good shape by themselves there wasn’t much for anyone else to do. Did I mention my folks are pretty good people.
I broached the next question rather tentatively. “Doesn’t your brother drink a little? I mean won’t it be hard to stay sober living with him?”
Frank laughed lightly. “Funny thing about that. I thought the same thing. But watching him go down the tube drinking like a fish every night, reminds me why I don’t drink anymore.” Frank was quiet for a little while then added. “Of course I might not be able to stay there very long. He’s already getting cranky about my ‘sermonizing’ as he calls it. I guess I have been a little sanctimonious about being sober.”
That was a switch – Frank being sanctimonious. But I had noticed he was now monitoring my alcohol intake whenever we were together. He was making statements like, “You know, Mitch, that’s your third beer since I got here.”
I tried to think how to say it nicely and finally decided just to say it. “Frank, you have been a little sensitive to everyone’s consumption since you quit drinking. It is a little ironic since in the past your friends used to comment on your intake level.”
“I am an alcoholic and now I see it in everyone else. Some of the old timers in the program warned me about this. But, Mitch, you do drink a lot. Would you like to take the short test to see if you might be an alcoholic too?”
That took me back a little. I had never considered my drinking an issue. “I think I’ll pass, Frank. Maybe next time.” The pickup went quiet as we pulled into Newell. It took about two seconds to find the Episcopalian Church. The small town usually had almost no traffic. Today there was a steady stream of cars and they were all turning in the same direction. I went with the flow and spotted the church. We had to park almost a block away due to the number of people.
Funerals are not anyone’s favorite thing to do unless you are the undertaker. As usual there was a display of pictures of Sammy at the entry of the church. The pictures ranged from early childhood to recent photos. There was one large photo on an easel showing Sammy’s wonderful smile. I counted and spotted the last two of his three ex-wives. I wondered how many wives he would have ended with if he had lived to old age. Sammy definitely liked the women and they definitely liked him.
Speaking of women, I noticed a high percentage of young attractive ladies scattered generously throughout the crowd. I am not talking ‘take them home when the bar is closing’ looks. I am talking ‘asking them out on a proper, expensive date’ looks. That is assuming they would stoop so low as to look at me. I glanced at Frank and followed his gaze. He was noticing the same thing.
The picture had drawn a circle of the beautiful young ladies. There wasn’t a dry eye among them. A couple of them were near hysteria as they wept and carried on. I turned to Frank and said, “I’ll be glad if there is anyone crying at my funeral. Can you believe this?”
Frank rolled his eyes over the mourners and their histrionics. “I doubt if Elvis had this much female histrionics at his funeral. How soon until a couple of them go into a faint?” It was no sooner out of his mouth when a beautiful blond drooped to the floor. I could see the look of surprise from the lady standing next to her. If I read the expression correctly, she was thinking ‘Damn, she beat me to it.’
If this wasn’t Sammy’s funeral, it would be enjoyable to watch. I was reminded of this as I moved past the lady on the floor and noticed Sammy’s parents standing at the entrance to the nave of the church. I knew them from some frequent visits to his home while in college. Both parents were looking past me and trying to decide between humor and disgust.
It made my chest tight to read the lines of grief in their faces. These two had gone through a lot with Sammy but they still loved him. I squeezed a lump in my throat back down and said, “You have my sympathy.” What a rotten poor thing to offer to people who had lost their son.
I tried to get by with a handshake but his mother brushed my hand aside and gave me a big hug and handed another out to Frank. She said, “It’s nice to see some real friends of Sammy instead of all those emotional types.” She waived her hand at all the beauties starting to file into the church. She said in an admiring voice, “Sammy sure had a way with the woman.” Then she winked and added, “Just like his dad.”
I herded Frank forward trying to separate from Sammy’s folks on a bright note. The usher from the funeral home tried to lead us to the front of the church. I disappointed him and dropped into a pew toward the back. The good Lord would be too shocked if I sat near the front of a church.
People continued to file in and the church began to fill up. The view from the back was mighty pleasing as the bevy of past girl-friends started to take their seats. The most recent addition, Mary Sue that we met briefly in Custer, was strangely absent.
Halfway through the service I was thankful Sammy hadn’t been a Catholic. Catholic clergy can make almost any service stretch twice as long as necessary. The pastor doing the sermon kept things on the straight and narrow until he made the mistake of asking if anyone had a few words to say.
There was a rush from the girlfriends but a surprisingly husky blond beat all the others to the microphone. I didn’t recognize her, but she identified herself as, Joey, Sammy’s first wife. She had definitely put on some weight since her college rodeo days. Her remarks revealed she was still carrying a torch for Sammy.
After she had cried and carried on for a short while I saw Sammy’s dad having a conversation with the pastor. He must have told the pastor to cut off the eulogies. The pastor waited patiently beside Joey and when she had another crying break down he grabbed the pulpit back. “Thank you Ms. Joey.” As there was a renewed rush to take Joey’s place, he held up his hand and said, “The family has asked me to curtail the eulogies as they are just too painful to hear.”
I leaned over to Frank and whispered, “He was honest. If they all carried on like Joey, they would be too painful to hear.”
The service moved along to the end when the pastor said, “Now we will have some special music as we allow the congregation to file out. Please allow the bereaved family to leave first. The ushers will release you pew by pew. There will be a short grave side service at the cemetery. Following the grave side service, there will be refreshments and a light lunch served here in the hall.”
The Millers were about even with my pew as the organist finished the intro music for Amazing Grace, a favorite hymn of a lot of Christian congregations. As I watched the Millers struggling by with their grief, the first few lines of the hymn rolled past my ears. It was not until the second verse that I looked up to see which vocalists were doing such a full throated heart felt rendition of the hymn.
Sheriff Timothy Rousch in full spotless uniform was carrying the tenor marvelously. He had a strong clear voice which sounded as if he had years of vocal training. At first I wasn’t certain who was doing the beautiful balance with the baritone. As my eyes focused into the distance at the front of the church, shock descended on me. The baritone in the neat blue western suit was Art Kennedy. The dirty son of a bitch who was responsible for Sammy’s murder was two-faced and deceitful enough to pretend innocence by singing the ending song for Sammy’s funeral.