The story begins with a funeral. Big Bill Ludowski , owner of the town's largest enterprise, Big Bill's Sausage, has died and is about to have a grand sendoff. Below is a scene from the funeral.
Reverend Coney Hitchcock had climbed out of the hearse, taken off his shoes and socks, and climbed into the fountain.
Finster’s has a fountain. It was built by a semi-famous sculptor from Boston. Wally’s grandfather, George, had it commissioned. It is a massive thing, three marble basins with water flowing tier to tier. On either side of the bottom two basins sit splashing marble cherubs. In the center of the top fountain a cherub raises a golden scepter from whence the water spouts. Finster’s fountain is the largest statuary in Kassenburg. The giant chicken atop the Cluck and Chuck on the arterial ranks a distant and undistinguished second.
Coney Hitchcock had taken off his shoes and socks and was wading among the angels. Sweet Sue said, “Ah hell,” from the doorway, turned to Wally, grabbed the paper bag and told her son he’d better get the reverend out of there.
“Me?” Wally relinquished the bag.
“You’re the funeral director,” Sweet Sue said.
Funeral director or no, Wally was in no condition to confront the good reverend. It was a good thing, considering the circumstance, Gran took matters into her own hands. She wobbled down the stairs
to the fountain. I wobbled out after her.
Coney looked up from his wade. “Why Lila Rose. Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” He stood with his hands folded in reverend-like fashion and smiled in a manner befitting a marble cherub.
“Reverend,” I ventured. Quietly, because I’ve heard people who live on imaginary love boats get perturbed by loud voices.
“Lila,” said the reverend, also quietly, “I’ve got terrible news.”
Gran stepped to the edge of the fountain at the reverend’s beckoning and the reverend waded over to her and bent close. “I’m afraid I’ve died,” he whispered. “And, I hate to be the bearer of worse news, but I’m afraid you’ve died too.” Reverend Coney blinked under his thick spectacles. He put a hand to Gran’s shoulder. “You’ve got an angel with you.”
“Angel?” Gran craned her neck. “Where?”
“Shush! Right behind you.”
Gran did a full turn. I almost followed suit. It was said the reverend heard voices and who’s to say where hallucinations come from?
“You mean Mandy?” Gran asked.
“You know her name?” The reverend sounded impressed by Lila’s familiarity. “Why Lila, how long you been dead for?”
“That’s no angel. That’s my own Mandy. You baptized her. Don’t you remember?”
The reverend shook his head as thought trying to jar thoughts loose. “Mandy? Veronica and Howie’s little girl? Little Mandy Minhouser?” The reverend climbed out of the fountain and honed in for closer inspection. His breath smelled of wintergreen mint, which was a good thing considering. “Why I’ll be. Mandy Minhouser.” He patted me on the head. “I’ll bet you get mistaken for an angel all the time.”
Have I mentioned the reverend was quite charming?