Ramona Flanagan should have been ashamed, but she wasn’t; she couldn’t help the way she felt. She knew this should have been a sad occasion, or should have been. She knew she should have been playing the role of the grieving child, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Even the sight of Mama laid out in the open casket, looking more at peace than at any other time in her life, wasn’t enough to open the dam and release the wave of emotions that should be flooding her body. Rather than sit there and cry, Ramona Flanagan smiled unashamedly. Let them interpret it any way they damn well please, she thought, and she knew exactly how they would interpret it. Well, they can all go to Hell!
She sat back in the over-stuffed leather armchair, arms folded defiantly across her breasts, and stared at her mother’s corpse. She fought to suppress the giggles that tried to burst from her mouth as mentally she started to sing, Ding dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch! Ding dong the wicked witch is dead…
She wanted to dance, wanted to sing the merry tune out loud, just like the munchkins did, but then that would not have been considered acceptable behavior. Then again, when have I ever done anything that was acceptable? Her body trembled with the urge to give into her desires, but she needed to regain control—for Paulette’s sake.
Half an hour later, what seemed like an eternity to Ramona—after all, she had to sit there and smile and nod as their friends came up and offered their condolences—the priest finally arrived.
Ramona stifled a snort. This ought to be good for a laugh.
She sat back in the chair and watched as the priest spoke briefly with Paulette, who had gotten up to greet the man, before taking his place at the front of the room. As the priest started to speak, Ramona laughed to herself as the lies slipped effortlessly from the man’s lips. Nobody knew the real Rosemary Flanagan; nobody, that is, except her. Not even Paulette knew the woman for the witch she really was.
Twenty minutes later, when the well of lies ran dry and the priest muttered his final prayers and expressed his sympathies to both women, Ramona got up and, slinging her purse over her shoulder, approached her sister. “I’ve had it with this crap,” she said in a harsh whisper. “I’m leaving.”
She started to walk away, but Paulette grabbed her arm. “No.”
Very subtly, so as not to draw attention to their conversation, Ramona yanked her arm from her sister’s grasp. “I’m going home,” she hissed.
“What are people going to think?”
“Frankly, Paulette, I don’t give a damn. I really don’t. She’s dead, and I’m glad she’s dead. You should be, too. Maybe now we can get one with our lives.”
A loud noise caused both women to jump. They looked around for the source of the sound, and only when they realized that all eyes were fixed on the front of the room did they turn their attention to where their mother rested. The lid of the casket had fallen shut.
“Protest all you want, Mother. I’m leaving.”
“Ramona,” Paulette whispered.
Giving her sister a withering look, Ramona waited for Paulette to continue. The younger woman knew better than to ask of she would be back for the evening viewing; what she wanted to know more than likely concerned the events of the following day.
“Will you be at the cemetery tomorrow?”
“I don’t know,” she replied off-handedly. “It’s possible, but I sincerely doubt it.” Without further word, she started for the door.
A started gasp from those gathered brought her up short. She turned in time to see the lid of the coffin rise unaided by anybody in attendance. “I’m not impressed, Mother.” As she turned once more to leave, the lid came crashing down, the thunderous clap of wood against wood echoing in the small room.
Ramona whirled and stared at the coffin. “Stop it, Mother,” she hissed. “This is one time you’re not going to get what you want.”
The coffin lid rose up, and fell, Again and again. Up. Down. Up. Down. Faster and faster.
Racing to the front of the room, Ramona threw herself on top of the coffin, but even with her full body weight, the coffin lid continued to thump away as if the woman inside wanted out. “Stop it,” Ramona screamed. “Just stop it, Mother. You always had to have the last word, didn’t you? Well, not this time, you wicked old bitch! May your Godless soul burn for all eternity in Hell!”
She felt hands on her, pulling at her, trying to get her down from atop the casket. “Get away from me,” she spat. “Leave me alone.”
As suddenly as it started, the thumping stopped.
Ramona waited until she was certain her mother had had her say before sliding from her perch on top of the coffin. She brushed away the hands reaching for her, straightened her skirt and jacket before pushing her way through the startled crowd. At the door, she turned, her gazing fixing fleetingly on each person in the room before coming to rest on her sister. And there her eyes lingered. “You don’t know. Any of you. If you did, you’d be rejoicing over her death. But you’re clueless. Don’t mourn for her. She doesn’t deserve it.”
Without another word, she opened the door and walked out.