"Oh my Gawd," Ceil said to herself. "Where did the time go?"
She knew she had to be on the twelve-fifteen to Mount Vernon. She also knew she had to iron her black dress and find her black shoes.
But she also knew that the macaroni and cheese wouldn't bake itself. Waiting for the cheesy crust to form, removing the hot mixture from the pan, and transferring the hot dish to the Tupperware container had taken longer than expected.
"People like a little something after a funeral," she told herself. "A little nosh."
Dressed in her slip and bra, Ceil quickly ran the iron over her dress and slipped the garment on, stepped into her shoes, and grabbed the Tupperware container.
"I'm leaving now Harry."
There was no response..
"You know, you really should be going to my cousin's funeral. Harry"
Again, no response from Harry.
Why did she bother? Harry never talked to her. Never. She knew that.
"Well, good-bye then," she said as she grabbed her little black purse. "I'm leaving now."
As usual, Harry said nothing.
Ceil knew she had ten minutes to catch ther train to Mount Vernon. "Too bad they didn't have the funeral in the Bronx," she thought to herself. "Well, if having her funeral in Mount Vernon made Ruthie happy, that's all that mattered."
Ceil missed the twelve-fifteen. She got lost in the station. It wasn't until after one o'clock that she was on her way to Mount Vernon. A nice man in a grey suit slid over to give Ceil a seat.
"Oh thank you Sir," Ceil said politely although she would have preferred the window seat.
The man eyed the giant Tupperware tub containing the macaroni and cheese.."I'm going to a funeral, Ceil explained. "My Cousin Ruthie. Died from a goiter. This is a little something for after the funeral."
The man edged away from Ceil and toward the window.
"Can you imagine?" Ceil asked the man who was now hiding behind a newspaper. "Killed by a goiter," she said as she wiped her brow with a Kleenex. "My cousin was only fifty-six years old. Gone. Just like that."
Ceil thought about the Kleenex in her purse. "You know," she explained," you can never have too many Kleenexes at a funeral," She removed a small package and took out the tissues and neatly smoothed each of them so they were in a perfecly flat pile. "Never enough Klennexes. That's what I say."
That must have been when Ceil missed the announcement.
The loudspeaker called out, "All those getting off at Mount Vernon, please use the first two cars. First two cars only for Mount Vernon."
By the time she realized her mistake, there was nothing she could do. She gathered up her purse and Tupperware and ran toward the front of the train. But it was too late. The train had already begun to slow down."
"Wait!" Ceil yelled. "Wait for me! I have to get off."
Ceil was in the third car when the train started to move again.
She called out to no one in particular, " Stop this train.I have to go to a funeral."
There was a slight gasp as the passengers in the car looked down at their feet. No one wanted to make eye contact with this woman."It's my Cousin Ruthie. She's dead. Don't you see? It's her funeral! Didn't you people know that I had to get off this train at Mount Vernon? Why didn't any of you say anything? It was very important!" No one said a word. " All of you listen to me." she yelled. "I had to get off this train." Her screams became louder. "I had to get off this train to go to a funeral. Isn't anyone listening to me?? I'm missing my cousin's funeral!"
There was utter silence in the car. Ceil was completely out of control.
"Lady. Lady," said the conductor, who had just entered the car. Trying to calm her down, he said, "Now lady you can get off at the next stop. That would be North Pelham Just cross under the bridge and wait for the train going back to Mount Vernon. It'll be here in about twenty minutes." He patted her on the back. "Now you just sit down and wait for the announcement."
She took another sheet of Kleenex and tried to dry herself off. She stuck a wad of Kleenex under each armpit. Her dress was sticking to her back and the Tupperware was making her arms ache.
The Mount Vernon bound train roared into the station and the door opened right in front of Ceil. The conductor held the Tupperware as Ceil mounted the steps.
"Those passengers exiting at Mount Vernon, please use the last two cars. Last two cars for Mount Vernon."
This time Ceil paid attention. She listened closely and when the conductor yelled. "Mount Vernon!" she was the first one in the aisle and the first one off the train.
She dashed up the platform steps and ran across the street. The funeral home wasn't far away. She would be there soon.
The building was surprisingly quiet. No one was outside waiting for the service to begin.
"Oh Gawd," she said to herself. "They must have started the service without me." she wiped the perspiration off hersel as best she could and took a moment to freshen her lipstick."
She opened the heavy wooden door.
The room was empty.
"Where is everybody?" she yelled to the only man in the room. "Where did they all go?"
"To the cemetery Miss." he said. "Left about ten minutes ago."
Ceil sat in the first red velvet seat and began to cry.
She had disapointed Cousin Ruthie by missing her funeral.
But more importantly, she had disapointed herself.
Ceil looked in her compact mirror and saw the face of an old woman. A stupid old woman who couldn't even find her way to a funeral. A woman who had a husband who hated her
When had it all gone wrong? When had life stop being fun? She might as well be lying next to Ruthie in that goddam coffin.
She sat in the empty room unfolding Kleenex after Kleenex as she silently wept.
Then she dumped the container of food into the trash can and slowly made her way back to The Bronx.
Harry would be waiting for his dinner.