A mix-up with Pastor Darnell’s schedule takes Deanna “Dee” Ramsey from a wedding hike to a funeral with a floor show. Dee wants to take a little break from her responsibilities, but there’s no way that’s going to happen while Rev. Beem is plotting a comeback. He’s hoping that his Forgiveness Festival will make everyone forget all about those awful pictures. He’s fighting to recover everything he’s lost—his position in the church, his self-respect and his family.
A vicious attack at the church leads to a murder in a ballroom with a wrench. Dee jumps at the chance to help the Chicago Police Department solve another crime. But when the criminal crosses Dee’s path, this time it’s personal—the murderer has kidnapped Dee’s mother!
Rev. Beem was at an unusual loss for words. He had arrived at the funeral home just in time to see several coffins being wheeled from one room to another as the staff tried to organize the viewings and services for the day. Why in the world would the family insist on holding services so early in the morning? The staff could hardly be blamed for any complications: the arriving mourners were causing “traffic jams” by blocking corridors and wandering into the wrong rooms.
The reverend was disconcerted by the strong smell of food in the building. Perhaps one of the staff was heating up a snack. The fragrance of fried chicken was deeply disturbing coming from a funeral home with a crematorium. Maybe he was hallucinating, but the reverend now believed he smelled bacon! The food odors mixing with the scents of lilies and gladiolas made him feel a bit queasy. The management should do something about the ventilation in this place!
He finally found a harried funeral director who stopped placing signs by each of the idyllically named rooms to usher the reverend into the correct one. Rev. Beem would be officiating at the home-going service for Willa Parker, 92 years old, death due to complications from pneumonia. He had written the name when Kendrick called him this morning and he checked the name on his note against the name on the small marquee by the room’s entrance, just to be sure.
At the door of the Heavenly Rest room, the smell of food was much, much stronger. He heard a mourner saying, “Girl, this is a hot mess! They’re calling it a ‘pre-past’ instead of a repast. People are in there loading food on plates like they at a party! They havin’ breakfast with the body!”
Her companion, a silver-haired woman with a pinched mouth replied, “I ain’t never heard tell of nothin’ like this! We better get in there if we want to get some of that bacon. I think the grits are going fast, too.”
It was true! There was a buffet table set up just inside the doors. The bereaved waited dutifully in line to help themselves to an old-fashioned Southern breakfast, complete with fried chicken and biscuits. They carried their loaded plates to chairs, many of them sending youngsters back to fetch them coffee or iced tea.
Rev. Beem felt like he had stumbled into an episode of the Twilight Zone or that new series, Punked. He clutched his dignity in a firm fist, determined not to be disgraced as the hidden cameras rolled. He approached the front of the room, stopping at the casket to say a brief prayer for the deceased. Around him, he heard whispered conversations.
“Didn’t they do a good job? Granny looks better than she did when she was alive!”
“I told them not to put that ugly silver lamé dress on her. She looks like a space alien!”
“I’m leaving here and going right to Granny’s house. Nay Nay thinks she’s getting that armoire, but Granny promised it to me.”
“Willa wasn’t no saint, no sir! She didn’t start that holy rolling until she was too old to do anything else!”
“They say she had more money buried somewhere in her back yard. Me and Pookie’s going over there soon as this is over. I got some shovels in my trunk!”
These are her loved ones? This is the respect she’s due at the end of a long life? Rev. Beem squared his shoulders, vowing to give this poor woman as dignified a service as he could, under the circumstances. He also vowed to get even with that Darnell Davis for setting him up like this!
ML Barnes is the pen name for Mari Lumpkin Barnes. Mari has been a practicing word nerd for most of her life, proofreading and editing others’ words for nearly 30 years. She’s never met a bookstore that she didn’t like and she loves adventures (mostly of the literary variety). Mari lives with her family in Hammond, Indiana.
“Crossing River Jordan”can be purchased on http://flyingturtlepublishing.com, from amazon.com or smashwords.com