YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE
By Jason Muller
Harvey Keel slanted his brow and regarded the woman with growing curiosity; he was baffled by what she’d just said. In all his years as a funeral director, he’d dealt with an array of morbid tasks, though never before had he been faced with such a bizarre request. He cleared his throat and said, “I can’t possibly imagine the burden of your grief, Ms. Gauthier, but tell me: Why do you wish to bury your son in your backyard?”
The woman sighed and closed her eyes. When she opened them, they were glazed with anguish and frustration. “First off, Mr. Keel, don’t you be looking at me like I’m the one who’s crazy. You can just go ahead and wipe that look off your face. That said, I don’t have to explain myself to no one, you hear? Andy was my boy and I want him close to home. Now, is that reason enough?”
Harvey scratched behind his ear and began to shuffle the thin stack of paperwork—death certificates, invoices, memorial brochures—before him on the mahogany desk. He was a stocky man, fortyish, who lived an orderly life where rules and procedures were upheld. Dealing with this “backyard burial” was something he thought was not only creepy, but a deviation from the order to which he was accustomed.
“Now look, Ms. Gauthier…”
“And while were at it you can drop that sarcasm from your tone.”
“I’m sorry if I sound overly curious. Believe me; I would never take your grief lightly. Please forgive me. It’s just that, well, I’m not sure if backyard burial is even legal.”
“Well, why in God’s name wouldn’t it be legal?” She began waving her arms wildly. “It’s my land, ain’t it? I should be able to do whatever I please. After all, I have a responsibility as a single parent to take care of my Andy. Just remember, Mr. Keel, that if I have to hire me one of them lawyers to get justice, then, by God, I will.”
Harvey chuckled inwardly. The thought of this woman—he glanced furtively at the paperwork; Marjorie—the thought of Marjorie Gauthier hiring an attorney amused him. Other families had threatened to impose legal action if they felt that the funeral home had either treated them unfairly or was engaged in illegal or unethical business practices. But, unlike most other businesses, the funeral business acted in accordance not only with standard business regulations but with regulations dictated by the state’s cemetery board.
“Ms. Gauthier, we really want to help you…”
“But you’re saying you’re not gonna help me,” she interrupted, “is that it? Fine then, I guess you’ll be hearing from my lawyer.”
Harvey stared into the woman’s heavily lined face, surveyed her slack mouth and pointed chin. She had tight skin and a raspy voice, though looked as if she had been beautiful at one time.
“As I was about to say, Ms. Gauthier, we may be able to help you.”
Marjorie raised her chin and looked on doubtfully as she withdrew a box of generic cigarettes from her purse. “Go on, I’m listening.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid there’s no smoking in here.”
She paused and let the cigarette dangle from her mouth, the lighter in her hand ready to strike. She reluctantly—though wanting to follow the rules—returned it to the box without a word. Harvey went on:
“Like I said, I’m not entirely sure if it’s legal, but I can at least call the local coroner, see what he says. He serves on Louisiana’s Cemetery Board and should be able to cast some light on the issue. But for now I think it’s best if we go on ahead to our showroom so you can select a casket.
“I have a better idea,” she said. “How about you go ahead and call this coroner friend of yours while I go outside and smoke a cigarette.” She stood up and threw her cheap purse over her shoulder. “You don’t got any coffee around here, eh, Mr. Keel?”
“Down the hallway, in the lounge.” He stood up and smiled, “Here let me show you.”
“Won’t be necessary. I’ll find the way.” But before leaving the room, she paused at the door and spoke over her shoulder. “I’m sorry if I seem a bit worked up. I know your trying to do your job. It’s just that…well…” And with that she opened the office door and entered the hallway.
Harvey walked around his desk and went to the door; he watched as Marjorie hobbled along the marble floor and turned into the visitor’s lounge. What a freak, a genuine nutcase, he mumbled. He shut the door and returned to his desk, then picked up the receiver and punched the tab labeled Coroner on the speed dial.
After three rings, he said, “Dr. Jenkins…Harvey Keel, here. Listen, I have a question about that Gauthier fella you have over there, you know the one who was hit by that eighteen-wheeler out on Highway 14 yesterday.”
After slipping on his knapsack, Andy Gauthier steps out of his house and closes the screen door behind him. He steps forward on the porch, careful to avoid the loose and buckled boards, and surveys the morning. All around him is open country shrouded with mist and gray; the clover patches in the yard are glazed with morning frost. He likes days like today, for when it’s cloudy the sun doesn’t get in his eyes, and when it’s cold the wind tingles his freshly-shaven face. Looking up, his breath white against the barren sky, he smiles and sniffs the air; in comes the scent of smoke. Not bad smoke but good smoke, the kind that makes him hungry.
He steps off the porch, descends the rickety steps, and strolls up the gravel drive, toward the highway, anxious to begin his morning walk to work. But before stepping onto the shoulder of the road, he hears a voice calling his name. He turns to see his mama standing on the porch, motioning him back to the house.
He must have forgotten his lunch because she is holding out a brown paper bag. With his shoulders he feels the weight of the knapsack; it was lighter than usual. He then dashes back to the house, whose white paint is chipped and curled and faded with age. Dead ivy’s and other stiff vegetation creep up its weathered flanks, and the house itself leans like an old man against his cane. Andy is grateful to have such a nice house. But he is most grateful for his mama.
He darts clumsily up the porch steps.
Mama is wearing the pink slippers and pink robe he bought for her last mother’s day. She slips the paper bag into his knapsack and raises her chin to kiss his cheek. She smells like cigarettes—the bad kind of smoke.
“Now you be careful on your way to work, son,” she says. “Do you want mama to drive you instead?”
To this he winces and shakes his head.
“Are you sure, Andy? It’s pretty cold this morning and you can’t go getting sick, you.”
Again he shakes his head. He is a big boy and can take care of himself. Besides, he is wearing his faded blue superman shirt, as always. He likes the way this shirt feels—the thin clinging cotton—but more importantly he likes the way it makes him feel; the red “S” curving against his chest empowers him and elicits a sense of safety.
His mama looks up into his eyes and says, “I’m so proud of you, son. You’ve grown up to be an incredible man and I love you.”
He bends and kisses her. “Okay. Bye-bye, mama. Love you, too.” Then, with arms stretched forth, as if poised to fly, he hops down off the porch and scurries across the lawn. Dead grass crunches beneath his feet. He waves back to mama. She blows him a kiss.
At the fringe of the highway, Andy looks to his left and sees Ardoin’s Grocery—the place where he works—about a half mile up the road on the left. There he sees a line of white smoke trickling from the vent on the rusty roof and wonders what Mr. Don Ardoin is cooking up today. He steps out onto the gritty shoulder.
Along the highway, the sound of power lines buzz overhead. In the distance, the misty landscape is forested with ash-colored trees which rise and fall among the hills. A red hawk swoops down from the lines and snatches a mouse—or was it a small rabbit?—from the wheat fields lining the highway. He watches with absorbed interest.
Harvey hung up with the coroner and popped a white breath mint into his mouth. The coroner had said that Louisiana zoning regulations did in fact permit backyard burials if the land was owned in a rural area. Hell, most of Sheyville was a rural area, he thought, as he polished his spectacles with the hem of his coat. Nevertheless…
He stepped out of his office and into the hallway, crossed the hallway and entered the dimly lighted memorial showroom. Here he heard sobbing and noticed Marjorie standing in front of a cheap blue casket. He cleared his throat, tongued the mint, and walked up beside her.
“This is a decent model, Ms. Gauthier. It’s made out of pressboard and is covered with cloth—a cloth-covered casket, we call it.” He noticed tears streaming down her cheeks and reached for the box of tissue lying on a shelf nearby and offered her some. She looked at the box and waved him off with the travel-size pack of tissue in her hand.
“We also have other models that might interest you, Ms. Gauthier. Come, let me…”
“I want this one here,” she said with a quavering voice.
“Well…okay, but have you seen these over…”
“I seen all the ones you have in here and this one’s the only one I can afford.”
“Yes…of course, Ms. Gauthier, please forgive me. If it’s any consolation I do have some good news.”
Marjorie sniveled and turned toward Mr. Keel with attentive eyes, with a motherly glow that seemed not imprudent like her previous demeanor but somehow discreet and graceful. Harvey told her what the coroner had said. She reacted by weeping even harder, though joyously, and threw her arms around the mortician, who was beginning to wonder what other bizarre characteristics this woman possessed.
“Beautiful, Mr. Keel. This is wonderful news. But I still want this casket, this one right here,” she said softly, pointing at the inferior casket. And then she said something quite unusual. “Does this casket have a lock on it, Mr. Keel?”
The question struck him as strange and unique. He’d never before been asked such a question.
“It…does have a lock, right here, but I’m afraid it’s not as…sturdy, reliable…” He wasn’t quite sure what she meant. “If you’re asking me if the entire casket is durable then I would say no. That is, not as durable as, say, these over here…”
“Place my boy in this cloth-covered casket and let’s finish up whatever arrangements need tending to. I don’t need all this salesman pressure, not here, not today.”
They headed back to the office and arranged for the crew from Desoto Marble and Granite Co. to stop by her house later that day. The crew would then a dig a hole and set a concrete vault, in which would be placed the casket. Interment was scheduled for ten o’ clock the following morning. There would be no wake at the funeral home. There would be no limousines or fancy accommodations.
After Marjorie left the funeral home, Mr. Keel drove the hearse over to the coroner’s office and picked up the body, whereupon he returned to the morgue. Though his profession had greatly congealed his emotions to the hardened state of indifference, he felt for this woman. She would never see her son’s face again, for Death had been so merciless as to mangle it beyond recognition. She would hear his voice only in memory or in a chill breeze on lonely nights. She would die alone.
Nevertheless, as the mashed and mangled body lay naked upon the slab, Harvey tamped his ears with a set of earphones and turned on his MP3 player. He then he donned his white gown and prepared the cold, sharp instruments to commence the embalming process…a process to which he was all too familiar.
Andy thinks about the hawk he saw earlier…thinks about the poor animal the hawk killed. Imagine that. To him the world is a beautiful yet merciless place.
He walks on through the wind.
From his perspective, Ardoin’s Grocery is growing larger in the distance, so this means he’s getting closer. He knows he is nearing the dead raccoon that has been lying in the highway since yesterday. He can hear the flies droning around the masked bandit and pinches his nose to guard against the horrible stench. The raccoon’s gray and bloodied bands undulate, billow, and breathe with countless wriggling worms. He tries not to look at the gory heap, but looks anyway; a fly buzzes around the poor critter’s gaping mouth and lands on the largest of its pointed teeth. The sight makes him sad…sad like he was when his father died—though of his father he remembers very little. Andy wants to save the raccoon, and suddenly remembers the movie when superman flew around the world to reverse time and save his girlfriend who had died. He glances up at the gray sky, flexes his feeble muscles, and then slouches in disappointment, for he knows he cannot fly. With remorse he waves goodbye to the raccoon and walks on.
But before reaching his usual pace, Andy hears a vehicle behind him on the highway, approaching fast. He hears laughter issuing from the car—maybe a truck. He spins around and narrows his eyes to better see—ah, yes, a car, seemingly alive and racing toward him. Arms and heads are hanging out every window. The driver is pointing at Andy and is showing no signs of slowing.
She had been sitting on the steps in back of her house and now watched as the giant man with big, dirty hands approached her. She drew deeply on her cigarette, flicked it into the yard, and started toward the gravedigger, blowing a trail of smoke from the corner of her mouth like a haunted train.
The gravedigger had introduced himself as Francis Speights when he and his coworker—a brisk and decent looking lad— had arrived at her house earlier. They had dug a whole in the backyard, wheel barrowing the dark soil up into their flatbed trailer on a plywood ramp. Now, as he approached her, he removed his blue hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The man’s face was oddly shaped, as if mutated from years of genetic degeneracy. When he spoke, his voice was deep and dumb.
“We all finished up here, Ms. Gauthier. Me and the boy, we got everything all done for tomorrow, see.” He turned and pointed to vault, which lay open like a hollow, rectangular hole hungry for death. It was buried only deep enough to where its rim ran flush with the ground. Beside it lay the concrete lid. “We gonna leave the lid off so everything’ll be ready for the service tomorrow. After the service, we put the lid back on and seal the vault up with mortar.”
His coworker, meanwhile was covering the open vault with a sheet of plywood.
Marjorie looked at Francis and said, “What’s the ply board for, son?”
“Oh, that?” We put that on ‘til the service. It keeps out rain and what not. But it shouldn’t rain, though.” He looked up at the gray and glum sky. “Nah, shouldn’t rain.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Just as long as I can see the vault lid when everything’s said and done.” She shook a reprimanding finger at Francis. “I don’t want the entire thing buried underground. I want to be able to go out and sit with him, talk with him, sing his favorite songs to him…” And then her eyes closed and her lips began to quiver. “I’m sorry, she said, then turned and hurried across the lawn, up the wobbly steps.
Whether it was stupidity or ignorance or some strange mixture of the two, Francis said, “You have a nice day, Ms. Gauthier. Everything gonna be just like you want it. We see you tomorrow, maam.” He winced when she slammed the screen door against the jamb and entered the house.
Why is the car coming so fast? Why is it swerving on the road? Why is the driver pointing at him? Andy sees the passengers’ faces and believes they are the same boys who always come into his work and buy beer and other bad drinks. Nervous, he begins to back away from the highway, close to the ditch. He is afraid they will do something mean, like the kids used to do at school when he was younger. As the car steadily approaches, he notices their arms sticking out of the car windows, on both sides; they are holding what look like… bottles…
His eyes widen with understanding—heart thumping. He begins to run toward the safety of Ardoin’s grocery, still one hundred yards ahead—feet pumping. He looks to his left and wants to jump the murky ditch, but it’s too wide. Then, he hears the car roaring right behind him, slowing to match his pace. Over the sound of heavy metal music blaring from the car, he hears glass breaking. A bottle sails over his head and crashes to the ground. Another whistles past his ear and splashes in the ditch. The engine roars and his fear swells… and then disaster: He feels something crack against his head and now the laughter grows louder and the world spins and spins… He stumbles forward and skins his knees, his elbows, his hands on the gravel shoulder. He looks up through the rising dust to see the car dwindling up the road—the sound of gears accelerating.
Small pebbles and other debris—glistening red— are stuck to and embedded in the palms of his hands. His head aches where the bottle struck. Now he becomes angry with unbearable and unrestrained hatred. His mouth tightens and his fists clench. The hot resentment swelling inside him alleviates the pain and warms his blood, makes his thoughts become clearer and his eyesight more acute. But their laughter…oh, it was their mocking laughter that embitters him most. He is tired of the laughter and disrespect he has suffered his entire life—but no more.
With vim and vigor he scrambles to his feet, puts his fists on his hips, and inhales deeply, deeper, more, until the “S” on his shirt is spread wider than ever before. And then, in one continuous release, he spews an invisible current of breath toward the car, hoping to send it flying away to a far away place where cruel men suffer. But as the pressure in his chest lessens and the last bit of warm breath tickles his lips, he knows deep down that he is no superman. The car speeds farther up the road, past Ardoin’s, and disappears around a bend.
Marjorie had awakened early to fix herself up as best she could for the funeral later that morning. She had showered and put on her blue dress—her best dress. She had decorated herself with jewelry: gold bracelets, gold earrings, a beautiful sapphire pendant. She had even taken the time to beautify her face with makeup and dot her neck with perfume. But now, looking into the bathroom mirror, she thought she looked ridiculous; it had been years—maybe two years, five years; hell, perhaps twenty—since she’d striven for such elegance.
She flipped off the light, left the bathroom, and walked along the cold and dark hallway to Andy’s room. She opened the creaking door and leaned against the threshold and just stood there without releasing the doorknob. Through the dark interior of the bedroom, all she could see was the red LED display of the clock on the nightstand: 2:44 a.m.
At 3:56 a.m., still gripping the doorknob, she decided to close the door and go to the kitchen and make Andy—oh, poor Andy—his favorite breakfast: French toast, eggs, sausage, bacon, orange juice…
After going around to the back of the store, after scurrying up the steps and entering the storage room filled with sacks of feed and shelves of canned goods and shadowy corners, he slips into the bathroom, flips the light switch, shuts the door. In the mirror, he observes the top of his head and carefully begins to separate the gooey strands of browned and bloodied hair and notices the small gash; the bottle got him pretty good. He washes the wound with water and winces in slight pain. Washed up, he stares into the grimy mirror, bows his chest outward to evoke a sense of strength, and leaves the bathroom to throw on his smock and begin his shift.
No one else is in the store except Don Ardoin, the shop owner, who is behind the front counter, bagging groceries for an elderly woman with a crooked back. Don looks up at Andy and smiles, looks back at the woman and casts a “Thank ya maam” and walks nimbly from behind the counter.
“Mornin’, Mr. Andy,” says Don. “You’re late today. I need you to get a broom and tend to aisle four. Some kid accidentally knocked over a shelf of sugar earlier, and now some of them bags are split open on the floor. After that I need you to restock the green beans and the corn and the…,” he stops mid-sentence, noticing that something isn’t right with Andy. Under closer scrutiny, Mr. Ardoin observes Andy’s puffy eyes and then observes his head and sees the oozing cut. “Now just what in the Sam Hill happened to you, son?”
Afraid to answer, Andy lowers his head and frowns, but looks up with renewed vigor after glimpsing part of the “S” not covered by the smock. He then touches the back of his head and points toward the front door, indicating the highway. “Cruel men, on road,” he says, “threw bottle and hit Andy.” Strength. Courage. He doesn’t want to appear vulnerable. “They can’t hurt Andy, though. Andy tough like superman.”
Mr. Ardoin smiles, “That’s right, Andy. That’s right. You tell ‘em who’s boss.”
“Andy’s the boss, Andy’s the boss,” says Andy with victorious glee.
“That’s fine and dandy, Mr. Andy, but right now I’m the boss, and I say that we should tend to that gash on your head. After that, you need to go on back home. Besides, you know what your mother would do to me if she found out I had you workin’ with a nasty cut on your head, boy.”
“Mama says no one can hurt Andy because Andy belongs only to her.”
“You better believe it, sir,” says Mr. Ardoin. “Quite a strong-spirited woman, your mother is—quite protective of you, too. But I suppose that’s a good thing, having a mother who’ll look after you, and such.”
“Andy loves mama. Mama loves Andy. She says she never gonna leave Andy”—he pats himself proudly on the chest—“and Andy never gonna leave mama.”
Don Ardoin, touched by the purity of Andy’s words, says, “Absolutely, son. You two need to take care of each other. Be thankful you have such a loving mother.”
Just then the bell on the front door jingles and two men enter. Andy’s eyes suddenly light up with fear and recognition. One of the men is wearing a green John Deere hat, while the other man, hatless, is wearing a shirt with the caption PROUD TO BE boldly printed over an American flag. Both men are unkempt and unshaven and appear to be uneasy.
Andy cowers behind Mr. Ardoin, and with hushed urgency says:
“Those the men that hit Andy with bottle…the cruel men.” He cowers away even more, behind a display stocked with containers of oatmeal, wishing not to be seen.
Frowning, obviously upset, Mr. Ardoin recognizes the men and from the corner of his mouth quietly says to Andy, “You go on and hustle back to the storeroom while I tend to these two boys. Go on, now, boy.”
Andy ducks, nearly crawls, and shoulders his way through the swinging door and into the back room without being seen.
Now, out of view, he eases the door open—just a crack—and watches as Mr. Ardoin approaches the men.
“Can I help you fellas?” says Mr. Ardoin. But the two men say nothing and head directly toward the coolers, from which they each remove a case of beer. Along with the cases of beer, the cruel men grab packs of jerky, candy bars, pork rinds…
“You boys getting an early start with the drinkin’, I see,” says Mr. Ardoin.
Instead of answering, the men snicker and walk up to the counter and toss the items on top. Mr. Ardoin eases himself behind the counter and begins saying something to the cruel men that Andy can’t hear. Before long, their voices grow stronger, as if arguing. Andy wonders if Mr. Ardoin is afraid.
Now the man with the John Deere hat yells something and takes one of the cases and slams it to the ground so hard that the ancient floorboards transmit a tremor that travels throughout the store and rattles beneath Andy’s white sneakers. Then the other man takes the remaining case and slams it, too—the sound of breaking glass fills the store. Andy cannot repeat what the two men say next because mama says good boys don’t say bad words. Mr. Ardoin follows them out the front door and descends the front steps yelling and yammering with a raised fist.
With the store clear of the cruel men, Andy emerges from the storeroom, and walks warily up the aisles. At the front door, he peeks through the red Marlboro decal and scarcely sees the two men hop into the car. Two other men are sitting in the back seat. All of a sudden, the car backs up, spins its wheels, and speeds away, kicking up dirt and gravel, leaving a trail of suspended dust in the parking lot. Andy is relieved the cruel men are gone.
The bell jingles and Mr. Ardoin walks inside shaking his head. “I refuse to put up with them damn foolish boys, reeking of alcohol and a bad attitude. Nothin’ but pure trouble, they are.”
Without being asked, Andy rushes to the storeroom to get a broom, a mop, and a mop bucket. He eagerly carries and rolls, rolls and carries the items to the front counter, where Mr. Ardoin is picking up the dripping cases of beer.
Although the savory assortment of breakfast foods had lain untouched for several hours, the routine of preparing breakfast had given Marjorie a sense of normalcy. Now, at 9:30 in the morning, she took the plates of soggy French toast and cold sausages and other foods and scraped them into the trashcan. She then placed the syrupy plates in the sink and turned on the water. While hand-washing the plates, she stared out the window over the sink— stared out into the yard aswarm with the longing sound of her son’s voice. Her mind began to drift into a daydream laden with images of the only person whom she’d ever really cared about: nostalgic images of a young Andy loping joyously around the rusty swing set in the yard. In this dream she saw herself—twenty years younger— caressing his golden hair as he lay on the green summer grass, blowing soapy bubbles through his bubble wand.
Amid rising steam, Marjorie washed the same plate ad infinitum with smooth, circular, motions, her gaze lost in oblivion. Andy, she thought, I’m so sorry. But her sorrow possessed a much deeper and dreadfully darker effect. There was a perennial guilt harnessed to her soul; a guilt that had begun the day Andy was born; a guilt that she’d taken great measure to obscure from not only Andy but from everyone she’d ever known.
She felt guilty for having given birth to a child with Down’s syndrome. She tried to seek solace in the fact that she’d not taken one sip of liquor throughout the duration of her pregnancy. She had even stopped smoking the day she found out she was pregnant, and maintained her abstinence well after Andy had been born. Though she displayed unconditional love to her beautiful baby, her husband Darrell, a raging alcoholic, had always blamed her for producing such an inadequate child. He would say:
"Shoulda known a woman like you would have bad eggs. My mother always warned me about trash like you. That’s what you are, Marjorie, you know that? Good for nothin’ trash. You’re probably a tramping whore, too, you slut. I bet you been runnin’ around behind my back while I’m out workin’on the rigs, woman? You ain’t got nothing better to do while I’m out bustin’ my ass offshore for two weeks at a time, you rat whore? Well, just in case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you of what kinda lover I can be.”
He would hit her. He would rape her. He would abuse her both physically and mentally, all too frequently. He would accuse her of things for which she was obviously innocent.
Hell hath no fury…
Andy was only three years old when she’d received the phone call one bright Sunday morning. She expressed no sorrow when her husband’s employer, Guidry Gas Co., called with the news that Darrell had been crushed and killed by a falling section of lead pipe. She wondered if feeling relieved about his death was a mark of mental illness.
Because Darrell had been intoxicated at the time of the accident, the damages paid to her by the company were scarcely sufficient to ensure a financially secure future for her and Andy; although not having to continue living in an abusive relationship was, in its own, compensation enough.
Life went on, however, and the change was indeed welcoming and relieving, despite the financial challenges in the wake of her husband’s death. She had worked as a waitress at the diner in town. She’d even tried being a secretary, but the subservient nature of the job often evoked emotions from her abusive past and forced her to quit.
In terms of Andy, there were countless times when the principal of his school—from elementary through high school—would call and inform Marjorie about the latest beating he’d received from bullies. Now and then he’d come home with fresh bruises or torn clothing that she’d repeatedly mend.. By the time he was old enough to work, she hardly protested when he wanted to get a job. “The boy deserves a chance to have a life just like anybody else,” she had told herself. She was proud of him when he landed a job at Don Ardoin’s store three years ago.
Such had been life for mother and son; it had been a hard life. It was even harder now that Andy was dead and would never return. Quite frankly, she now had nothing to live for. Nothing.
Marjorie stood there at the sink dreaming, thinking, and dreaming some more, letting her mind wander into memories past. Awhile later the steam began to dissipate and the water ran cold against her hand. She looked down from the window at the still dirty dishes and turned quickly and glanced at the stove clock: 9:50, ten minutes before they arrive. Not wanting a dirty kitchen when her son arrived, she hurried and scrubbed the dishes clean.
Continued in Part II