Michael Honeycutt is an ardent student of the “Lamentable Wo-ah” yet he struggles to escape its lingering undertow on Southern identity. Only when he and his girlfriend embark on a long drive to bury the Honeycutt family matriarch will Michael face an important choice and his ultimate destiny be revealed.
This is one scene from my 2015 story, and the first to use prolepsis to render interior monologue and projection. The story’s six other distinct scenes include backstory, straight exposition, flashbacks, framing, and dialog passages intended to speed or slow the narrative––all told from third-person (limited) voice. I intend to rewrite at least two of the initial scenes that now seem clumsy in clearer light, and possibly add a new one at the suggestion of workshop evaluators. If you’d like to learn how it turns out, give me a shout-out in the Comments.
So, they’re driving along about five miles south of Ruffin. Mike knows how it will go down. He can see it as clear as day. They’ll arrive at his parents’ house in Louisville and his mother will make a big fuss over Evie, how pretty she is and why hasn’t Michael made an honest woman of you yet. His father will tell her to call him Big Mike and try to give her a bearhug in the driveway so he can feel her tits. Then, he’ll make a big show of hospitality. He’ll give her his “Red & Black Tour” of the regalia in his Bulldogs shrine and invite her to sit in his favorite lounge chair, explaining how they call the family room his “Man Cave,” as if that’s anywhere remotely original but says all she needs to know about the pecking order. Big Mike is very picky about letting people sit in his favorite lounge chair, but as far as Mike can tell, that just means that nobody in the family can sit in it. And, of course, the goddamn TV will be on the whole time.
If his older sister is there, she’ll ask as soon as they arrive if they plan to share a bedroom during their visit or “pretend” and that will make Big Mike shoot dangerous looks at him until his mom gets all flustered and says Reece Honeycutt, you know good and well that I’ve made up the guest room for this sweet girl and why must you always tease your brother like that.
When dinnertime comes, Big Mike will put on an elaborate show of saying grace while they all hold hands. Then he will make her taste his damned pickled okra and tell her about the colored man that brings him a bushel or two every season on account of how good his pickling recipe is. His mother will finish her second martini and start needling Evie about making her some pretty grand-babies. She will repeat this whenever the conversation lags until Mike will say Jesus, Mom, will you lay off the grand-babies stuff? and his father will say Hey! we don’t use the Lord’s name that way at this table! and his mother will say something like Well, it’s not as if your sister is going to bring me any anytime soon and Reece will draw herself up into a perfect Tri-Delt hissy-fit and storm out of the house, tires squealing. That’s when the old man will get pissed and say something disparaging about historians. Yep, it will be a grand time, alright.
The next day at the funeral, all the local women will stare at Evie and whisper what was she thinking wearing that, bless her heart! while his uncles and male cousins will elbow him whenever she isn’t looking and mime their exaggerated winks and waggle their obscene tongues, all in confirmation of her evident hotness. His sister will stand outside the church chain-smoking until everyone else has been seated, then make a dramatic, sobbing entrance, lingering at the casket until everyone has had time to admire her butt, then she’ll take her own seat, a pretty embroidered handkerchief drawn to her nose so she can surreptitiously gauge her impact on the room.
Then the pastor, an agitated, red-faced man with unfortunate hair, will eulogize Addie, going on at length about her faithfulness and her lifelong certainty—as she has personally assured him on so many occasions, he will say—that Jesus Himself is the very next name on her dance card in Eternity. He won’t mention how she’d fudged her genealogy until it suited her, or how she liked to drive visitors by the old Slave Market on US-1 so she could tell them how “her people” had always held that you got a better quality slave in Louisville than in Savannah, or how, at the time of her death, she was forty-five thousand dollars in arrears on her property taxes.
He will go on telling little anecdotes about Addie’s generosity and churchliness until they move him so much that the man can no longer contain himself, and a full-throated sermon of repentance and redemption will pour out of all the holes in his face and wash across the assembled mourners until the organist thinks they’ve had enough and cues a final hymn. That’s when some earnest young men from the local SCV chapter will heft old Addie onto their shoulders and slow-march her out the front door where they will convey the matriarch of the Jefferson County Honeycutts to the somber gentlemen of Stuckey Brothers Mortuary and everybody will shake Big Mike’s hand and say how sorry they are and can they bring by a covered dish for the family?