Wednesday, September 03, 2014

An Unattended Death, Part Two

An Unattended Death, Part Two
By Stephen B. Bagley

I didn’t know Aaron Brody or his family so my involvement in his death should have ended there. They didn’t know me from Adam so it was a strange twist that I attended Aaron’s funeral.

Not that I really wanted to, but our sales manager, showing that compassion that made us call him Hitler behind his back, decided that the entire sales staff of the radio station should go. His reasoning: lots of our customers would be there so we should be in case any of them needed to discuss their advertising. No, I am not making that up.

Thus, I found myself in a car with three other salespeople. We enjoyed ourselves on the way to the funeral, comparing our sales manager to various animals. (He drove his BMW to the funeral.) The other three championed a skunk, but I happen to think skunks are fine animals, perhaps a little smelly, but they didn’t deserve to have our sales manager lumped with them.
Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral. Leon Brody was well known and well liked. I saw Simon Williams and several of my other clients. None of them, strangely enough, approached us to discuss advertising, a fact that Charlie, our morning DJ and afternoon salesperson, said he was going to make sure our manager knew.

Dozens of flower bouquets lined the front of the church. I counted at least a hundred different sprays. The florists in town were making money. I wondered if they gave a special discount on funerals ... And would it be too tacky to advertise it if they did? How could you word the radio spot so that it didn’t sound ghoulish and macabre? It’s an absolute joy to live inside my head sometimes.

“Wow,” Charlie breathed.

I looked and saw a young woman in an extremely short black dress walk by. Her hair was that bright blond that only comes from a bottle, and she was thin to the point of starvation. All in all, a hottie by the current accepted definition. (I, however, prefer women that don’t look like they would need anchors in a strong breeze.)

She sauntered down the aisle and sat in the pew reserved for family. After a few moments, one of the attendants hurried down the aisle to her, and there was a sharp whispered conversation. I couldn’t hear what was being said, other than a few words from the woman, and they weren’t words you’d want to repeat to your mama, depending on who your mama is, of course.

She got up, pushed past the attendant, and strode toward the door. She paused, then turned and looked at all of us already seated, and loudly said, “Take a picture. It’ll last longer.” With a contemptuous flip of her hair, she exited, leaving a lot of scandalized conversation behind her.

“Who was that?” Charlie asked, his eyes bright with excitement.

The lady in front of us turned and whispered, “His girlfriend.”

Charlie leaned forward, and he and the lady (using that term loosely) exchanged a few minutes of gossip. To hit the low points: the girlfriend’s name was Marlene Postwain, she was thought to have started Aaron on drugs, she had been arrested several times but let off because her uncle was a state senator, Aaron’s mother Margaret hated her, and all in all, she was basically naughty. Charlie and the woman had a good time. Nothing like gossip to liven a funeral.

A few minutes later, the family entered. Leon Brody looked terrible. He walked as if he would fall at any moment. Several friends hung close to him, but I never saw him let them help him. His haggard face would haunt me later. His wife Margaret was wearing a hat with a black veil, the only time I had ever seen that except on TV. About two dozen other people made up the rest of the family. I recognized a couple of them from events around town.

The funeral was fairly short. A prayer, a couple songs, the eulogy, another prayer, and it was over. Aaron didn’t leave people with much to say about him. As I stood in line to view the body, I wondered how he had managed to mess up his life so badly.

Aaron looked young and small in the coffin in a suit that seemed oversized. I turned and hurried out of the church.

Outside, the other radio station people and I stood around, waiting for the parking lot to thin out. Our car was blocked in. A lot of people were in the same situation so little knots of people talked and laughed. While the mood was somewhat somber, most seemed to treat it as an occasion to catch up with friends. Isn’t it strange that people can treat funerals like social events? Perhaps it is a comfort of some sort to renew our friendships, catch up on family news.

Charlie told our sales manager that we hadn’t sold any commercials. Our manager said, “I didn’t say we would. I said we had to be prepared to sell some.”

“We’re just like the Red Cross of the advertising industry,” Charlie deadpanned.

Our manager nodded as if that made perfect sense. His car was free so he left.

The family finally came out of the church. Margaret Brody stumbled on the steps, and Leon reached out to steady her. She jerked away from him and made her way to the car. He stood there for a moment in the harsh sunlight, looking at the crowd. For a weird moment, it seemed like our eyes met, and then I realized he was looking beyond me. I turned. A police car was parked across the street under a tree, Police Lieutenant Ron Sims leaning against the car. I looked back at Leon. He entered the family car. People formed the procession, turned on their headlights, and headed for the graveside service.

I knew Ron. He came to the station once a month to record public safety messages for the police department’s drug prevention program for kids. I had helped write a couple of spots for him and set him up in the recording studio. I started to go over to him, but he got into his car and left. He didn’t join the procession, instead turned and followed a little red car that had been parked on the other side of the parking lot. I stood there for a moment, shrugged, and went to our car.

That was that. Or it should have been. But not even two weeks later, I would be in the woods where Aaron was found, looking for clues like a real world version of Scooby-Doo and the gang, facing a gun.

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