Those Whom We Love

Nancy Taylor Day

Kitty sat on the curb beside Nola who was crying, "I want to go home."

"We're not finished," Kitty said.

"I am. Take me home." Blue, pink, and black streaked down her face, in her hands she clutched fairy wings.

"It doesn't matter about the wings," Kitty said. That consolation felt like a lie to Kitty. She'd have beaten the kid to mush if he'd jerked off her wings and she would have done so for Nola except Kitty had missed seeing the thug.

"I look stupid," Nola said, her face slick and wet.

"You look sad," Kitty said.

"He called me a stupid fairy. I was a fairy princess."

"You were. The prettiest one around, too."

"Gramma's going to whip me for wrecking the wings," Nola said, gasping for breath as she cried.

"No she won't. Mama won't either. You couldn't help it, Nola. You're the innocent one, you know." That didn't feel like a lie.

"Let's go," Steve the bandit said. He put a piece of candy into Nola's bag and one into Kitty's.

"How'd you get extra?" Kitty asked.

"I said I had to rob for the poor," Steve said.

"You're smart," Nola said. Standing up, handing her bent wings to Kitty.

They circled the neighborhood, Steve collecting for the three of them, and slipped in the back door at Gramma's. Nola, her face buried in Gramma's bosom, was a sight so pathetic, Kitty almost stayed, almost missed meeting up with Eddie so she could comfort her sister. She'd like to find the guy who did that.


"Hey, no costume?" Eddie asked.

"Nah. You look freaky," Kitty said to a guy with long hair, a full skirt and sleeveless turtle neck sweater stuffed with oranges she discovered when she poked the round boobs. He wore flip-flops on his feet showing off his red toenails and anklet.

"No one guessed me. How'd you?" Eddie asked. His eyelashes looked a mile long and his cheeks smooth and peachy.

"You still walk like yourself," Kitty said. "Hang on here a minute, okay. I'll be right back."


They made a lovely couple, Gramma said, Kitty in Daddy's dress shoes, short sleeved shirt and tie, and a baseball cap that covered her hair. Mama darkened Kitty's eyebrows and made circles under her eyes.

"Don't be too late and watch the highway," Mama said, pressing at her forehead.

"Take a flashlight," Gramma said.

Kitty giggled, then said in a deep voice, "Quit worrying; I've got things under control."

Gramma smiled.

Kitty waved; Eddie blew them a kiss.

"I've already been everywhere," Eddie said, shaking his brown bag.

"Me, too." Kitty rattled her bag. "Almost. Some dumb kid ruined Nola's costume. I'd like to find him and teach him a thing or two."

"Can't you ever be peaceful?"

"Well, yeah. But he deserves a good scare or something."

The breeze came from the Gulf, moist, laden with scents that get unplesant in the heat: seaweed, diesel fuel, fish, salt, always salt.

"He'll get a final judgement just like the rest of us," Eddie said.

"Mr. Preacher's son would bring up that."

"You'd do good to remember that yourself."


As if stepping in would soak their shoes, Kitty and Eddie walked the perimeter of lights pooling out from house islands where kids still collected treats. Eddie took hold of Kitty's hand. When they came to the highway they ran, flapping their arms, and giggling.

"Race!" Kitty yelled.

"Not in these shoes," Eddie said.

"Mr. Flip-Flop."

"Miz Wing Tip." He said, laughing all the way to the cemetery.

The breeze brought chill bumps on Kitty's arms and she reached up, feeling them on Eddie's, too. They held onto each other and walked into the almost dark grounds.

"Does it scare you, this place?" Eddie asked.

"Nah. I like it here. I have friends here," Kitty said.

She pulled Eddie by the hand toward a marker, one of Gramma's domino-playing friends. "She's one," Kitty said. Kitty reached into her paper sack and took out a chocolate bar, laying it on top of the headstone. "Happy Halloween, Mrs. Turner."

Eddie took out a piece and gave it to Mr. Turner.

They left treats for strangers: soldiers from the two world wars, infants, whole families dead and buried before Kitty's parents were born. Circling around finally to Grampa's grave.

"He wasn't so old," Eddie said.

"No." Inside, Kitty felt the gooey marshmallow stuff that her stomach tuned into every time she visited Grampa. She took out tiny bags of candy corn and opened them, sprinkling the entire grave with the little triangles.

"You want to know what happened?"

"Yeah." Eddie hunkered down beside the grave, making the candy corn into a design, zig zag edges, a giant sun in the center.

Kitty telling. "'We're going out for king mackerel,' he said. He and the preacher, the one before your daddy.

'I want to go!'

'This isn't for little girls this time. I promise we'll go to the jetty, how about next week?'

'Go with me today instead.'

'I promised I'd go with my friends.'

'But I'm your friend. I'm your best friend. I'm a good fisher, too.'

'You are, indeed. But promises are important to keep. I promise I'll fish with you next week.'

'Can I bait my own hooks?'

'You can do anything,' Grampa said.

'Except go with you.'

'This is Brother Webber's trip. He's done the inviting. I can't include you along, as much as I'd like to.'"

"How old were you?" Eddie asked. The rays on the candy sun curved around, one a giant flare.

"Almost six. I never said five back then. Always almost six. Grampa and I were buddies." Her breasts ached, growing pains like she'd felt in her leg bones. Underneath her breasts, her heart rested on the mound of marshmallow cream.

"So, he went fishing."

"Eight men from the church. You know these squalls? Well they guessed a squall hit them because we had a storm that day and the boat just never came back. Grampa's not really here. We had a funeral with an empty coffin."

"That's stupid."

Kitty swatted Eddie's shoulder, brushing her hand against the fake hair wig.

"Well, those things cost a bunch," he said.

"Gramma bought a wooden one, I think. She put his Sunday suit in there and his good shoes, extra socks. All laid out as if he were inside it. A photo of the family together. His spare glasses."

"That's not so stupid. A lot of cultures bury their dead with objects they'll need in the after life. I never pegged Mrs. Beauchamp as a very intellectual woman."

"You peg people wrong all the time," Kitty said. Standing beside the wooden coffin, reaching in, putting a good-bye card she'd printed, with two stick figures holding fishing poles. The deepest box she'd ever looked inside. Murky water in the bottom, the card floating on the surface; Grampa lying underneath with the fishes. Deep to China. Dark water. Tears.

Eddie set the last candy corn tile in the design.

"That's so beautiful," Kitty said, eyes used to the dark as well as tears. "Say some words, like you were a preacher."

"I can't do that."

"Do it."

"Stand up." He bowed his head.

Kitty looked up toward the night sky, silver reflected off the low clouds.

"We pay tribute to Brother Beauchamp."

"Say more," Kitty said.

"You say something."

"Grampa was a gentleman, the best fisher. Grampa would be lying here if you'd let him, but since you didn't he's--"

"May he rest in peace in the arms of the sea," Eddie said.

Kitty's face wet with tears reflected light. "I just wish they'd found him."

"Was anyone recovered?"

"I think so. I don't know who. Maybe all the coffins were empty." Wadding up her candy bag, Kitty dabbed it against her eyes, dark circles bleeding down her cheeks.

Eddie took hold of her hand and they walked out of the cemetery. A group of kids passed them.

"Happy Halloween," Eddie said.

"Psst, that's the guy," Kitty said, pulling away her hand from Eddie's.

"Let him go," Eddie said. "He's not worth fighting."

Kitty stood in between Eddie and the group walking away from her. Eddie's skirt rippled in the breeze, his right breast sagging, bits of wig sticking to his lipstick. The guys walking away seemed very small to Kitty, then. Small and infantile.

"Yeah, he's not," Kitty said, comforting herself instead with the memory of the candy-corn sun. How peaceful their service had been. "Let's do this every year, okay? I mean, something for Grampa."

"That sounds okay," Eddie said.


"As long as I'm here," he said.

Kitty looped her arm through Eddie's, their clammy skin sticking together. She'd be sure Eddie would be here forever.


Someone from the local paper took a picture of Grampa's grave the next day, and UPI picked it up. Thousands of people saw what Kitty and Eddie had done. The groundskeeper was the only one who cared. A patrolman showed up at Gramma's house seeking information, he said. He was particularly concerned about desecration of graves.

"Decoration? You're worried about decoration," Gramma said.

"Desecration," the patrolman said. "Food draws rats. And we know what kind of destruction rats cause."

"Then set traps," Gramma said, never questioning Kitty or never pressing her for 'whys.'

Later Gramma bought Kitty a box of chocolate covered cherries which she presented to her along with a whiskery kiss.

"What are these for?"

"For the principal of your good deed," Gramma said.

Kitty's questioned knitted her brows.

"You remembered your grandfather. He'd have chuckled."

Kitty and Gramma sat on the edge of Kitty's bed and ate candy.

"I wish they'd found him," Kitty said.

"We all wish that, young-un. I can't tell you how we all wish that."

"Sometimes I worry about Daddy, too," Kitty said.

Daddy drove long haul, sometimes to the west coast, sometimes to the east. Most weeks he was away.

"Me, too. But we can't tie our loved ones to the bed and suspect they'll love us for very long," Gramma said, tweeking Kitty's cheek.

Kitty felt a strange sense of loss and comfort, knowing the pinch on her cheek was the tightest Gramma would ever tie her.

Last updated: 1999-02-14