Terry stood nervously and alone outside of St. Sebastian’s, facing Aumonier Street. Behind her the stained glass windows of the church showed their images muted and in reverse. Her full length black dress and veil became her; her long hair was swallowed up in her dress. She stared blankly out into the street, so intently that she missed the fact that Cathy came up the side walk.
“What are you doing out here?” Cathy asked, startling Terry. “Shouldn’t you be in there with your family?”
“Should,” Terry grudgingly admitted. “But it’s real bad. I thought I’d wait for you out here.”
“What’s going on? Shouldn’t your grandfather have lied in state yesterday? He was real important.”
“Should have,” Terry replied, like a broken record. “But the family spent the entire day fighting over the arrangements.”
“Why? Didn’t he leave some?”
“He did. That’s what Uncle Ernie wanted to do. He was supposed to be laid in state at Santa Lucia. Instead the three of them—Uncle Ernie, Aunt Vickie and Mother—spent the day fighting on how to do it. My grandfather spent his whole life trying to make a bunch of Italians act like Anglo-Saxons, but now that he’s dead we’re back to the old country. Like Mother says, when we love, we hug, when we hate, we slug. We kids all sat around listening to it. It got so bad that even little Richard couldn’t stand it any longer. Daddy and Aunt Mabel sat around with us.”
“But. . .shouldn’t the wishes of the dead be honoured? Why couldn’t they just leave it to all of the help that he had?”
“The help knows that, although Uncle Ernie has the legal rights, Aunt Vickie and Mother have the political pull with the CPL and Denise’s old man. So they canned the lying in state and cut straight to the funeral today. But I’m glad you’re here.” She looked at her watch. “I guess we need to go in—the funeral starts in ten minutes.”
They turned to start down the side walk so they could go in through the narthex and be escorted to their seat, but Terry saw the side door to the nave. “Let’s go in through here,” she said, walking through the gap in the tall ficus hedges and down a short side walk and up a few stairs. They came to the side door, passing a security man who opened it.
“Good to see you, Terry,” the guard said. It was one of Lucian’s senior security people; Terry knew him well. “And you, Miss Arnold.” He turned back to Terry. “You’re not with your family?”
“You’ve seen why, don’t you?” Terry asked.
“Unfortunately,” the security man said.
“I thought we’d just go in from the side. But how come you’re not at the back, with the body?”
“That was the original plan,” he replied. “The cops showed up about a hour ago, told us they’d take care of the main security detail at the back of the church. Most of us went over to Santa Lucia to set up the wake. I stayed here at the side.” He looked around to see if there was anyone else other than Terry and Cathy. “You ask me, there’s something going on. I don’t know what, but. . .I can’t do anything about it.”
“I understand,” Terry said. “Thanks for all you’ve done. I know Grandpa always thought a lot of you.”
“That’s about the only compliment I’ve gotten lately,” he sadly replied.
“Well, we better go in. When you look like I do, nobody forgets you’re not there.” Both the security man and Cathy got a chuckle out of that as they eased the door open and went in.
The family was seated in three rows. The first were the children and their spouses, that is those who still had spouses—Vickie’s divorce had been finalised only three weeks earlier, over her father’s objections and those of the church. The second had the children—Patty and Lisa Langley, the youngest, were nearest the centre aisle, then Ken and Jack Gerland, and finally “Little Richard” Marlowe. The last had the other relatives, mostly Lucian’s in-laws, but also relatives like Shu-Yi. Terry walked over to the second row.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” Cathy protested.
“I need you,” Terry told her seriously.
“Okay,” Cathy replied. Terry stopped at the end of the pew and genuflected, then they sat down close to the outside end of the pew, Terry first in and Cathy following.
“What’s she doing here?” Richard asked, noting the intruder.
“Shut up!” Terry scolded her little brother. Eleanor turned around and glared at her daughter but said nothing. Terry settled into her seat and looked forward, not praying first but hoping for a little peace and quiet before the funeral Mass actually began. Cathy looked around to see who was there.
“You know that Denise and her parents aren’t here?” Cathy asked in a low voice. Terry looked around to see for herself that Cathy was right.
“They hate my grandfather,” Terry explained.
“Yeah, but they declared a national day of mourning. School got out. And look at those TV cameras in the back. I think this is supposed to be live on both TV and radio. Something is going on.”
“In this place, who knows?” Terry replied. It wasn’t long before Bishop Santini began the Mass by blessing the body in the back of the church, then processing into the church with the body, along with the altar boys and the small choir that they had assembled for the ceremony.
They got through the Scripture readings and the responsorial psalm without incident. The time came, however, when Ernie was supposed to get up and give the eulogy for his father. Ernie hadn’t had the chance to even rise from the pew when a shout came from the back of the nave.
“Power to the people!” the male voice cried. Everyone turned and realised that a group of protesters from the University had gotten into the church. They started yelling slogans and obscenities as they raced together down the centre aisle, carrying cans of red paint. Their technique was obviously well rehearsed, because, as they passed the front pews where Lucian’s children sat, they threw the red paint, which hit squarely on Lucian’s coffin, splattering the altar, the floor and everyone else around—including Santini—with the paint, which had been thinned slightly to make it easier to throw.
Those around the casket, seeing the onrush head on, scattered first to whatever exit they could find. Those in the pews were so shocked at the speed and brazenness of the assault that they froze in fright, although many of them began to scream in panic. A few in the back started to make their way out. The family’s reaction was mixed. Ernie was unable to speak or move from the shock of the event; he was also the recipient of some of the paint, as he was at the end of the pew. Vickie and Eleanor got up and started to yell in support of the demonstrators. The children for the most part were small enough to make a dive and get under the pews, but for Terry this wasn’t an easy option.
“We need to split!” Cathy yelled at her friend. She pulled on Terry’s right arm and they came up out of the pew. Getting into the aisle, they could hear some noise coming up the side aisle. They turned to their right to see another group of protesters, armed with paint, coming straight at them. The girls realised that their timing for getting out of the pews was too slow, for as they stood and looked at this group of yelling demonstrators same unloaded their paint right on the two of them.
By the time they had gotten enough paint out of their eyes the group that had nailed them with paint was past and busy tearing up the church with their colleagues from the centre aisle. Without saying a word to each other they made a bee line for the side door they came in, hoping to hide their humiliation the best they could.
They got to the side walk. They could hear more protesters around the corner; they knew that they would come their way shortly. At this point they looked out into the street and saw Madeleine’s Dyane rolling down the street. The car crossed over and pulled up in front of them.
Madeleine lowered the window. “You need to go now!” she told Terry and Cathy. “They’re coming!” The two girls looked at their paint drenched clothes and Madeleine’s car in horror.
“Take your clothes off!” Madeleine ordered them. Terry started immediately but Cathy was stunned at the order. “You’ve done it before!” Madeleine reminded Cathy, at which point she complied. They both got down to bra and panties and made their way behind the car to get in on the right side. Their bare feet tread very lightly on the rough conquina pavement with its embedded, broken seashells. They got the doors open, threw themselves into the car (Terry in the front, Cathy in the back) and slammed the doors. With the protesters starting to come up the street, Madeleine put the car in gear and, with all the power she could muster, drove up Aumonier Street and away from the church.
“Thanks for coming to our rescue,” Terry said. “We hope we don’t ruin your car.”
“It will be fine,” Madeleine reassured her. “Papa will take care of it”
“But. . .how did you know to come and get us?” Cathy asked.
Madeleine thought for a second. “It was a sudden urge. I could not stop myself. Since we have no school, it was not a problem.”
Terry turned around. The two passengers looked at each other with a look that mixed wonder and terror.
“Where are we going?” Terry asked, finally snapping out of the daze.
“To your father’s warehouse, non?” Madeleine asked. “You should be safe there.” By then Madeleine turned left onto the Brahman Way. She made her way across Melaleuca Street and turning right a few blocks later, landed them at the warehouse.
Madeleine pulled up as close to the padlock on the gate so Terry could get out and unlock it while treading the shortest path in bare feet that she could. She pushed the gate open and got back in the car; Madeleine wormed her way through the small opening that resulted and pulled up in front of the office. The girls got out; they turned around to say “thank you,” but Madeleine had already re-engaged the clutch and wheeled around the lot to get back to the narrow exit.
“I can’t believe she did that,” Cathy said.
“I can’t either,” Terry said. “Let’s get inside and see what we can find to wear.”