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a novel by Tom Benford
This is another excerpt from THE LAST OF THE UNICORNS
Page 72
Eileen gave Bat’s corpse a gentle sponge bath while Mary shaved him and applied some Odell’s Hair Trainer to his salt-and-pepper hair before combing it. “Oh, please put some Old Spice aftershave on him, too, Mary,” Eileen said as she looked lovingly at her husband. Her eyes welled up with tears once again as she continued, “he really liked the scent.” The two women had alternated between bouts of weeping and speaking of their memories as they dressed him in a dark blue pinstripe suit, the better of the only two suits he owned. While it was an older style that was out of date, Bat Lynch still looked quite dapper in it. Eileen tied a Windsor knot in the new tie she had given her husband as a birthday gift and pulled it up. Then she folded his hands on his abdomen and stepped back. “A handsome man, indeed, he was,” Mary said, gazing at her brother. “Not was, Mary – a handsome man he is,” Eileen said. “Let’s have a cup of tea, Loll. I’ll turn the kettle back on,” as she led her sister-in-law out of the bedroom and back into the kitchen. Eileen sat at the table and Mary went to the stove. She noticed some dishes in the sink and, after turning on the burner to heat the water for tea, she started washing them. “Oh, Mary – don’t bother with the dishes. I’ll do them myself later. We turned in early last night so Bat could watch TV in the bedroom,” Eileen said. “He liked to watch Route 66 and he used to kid me that someday we’d get a Corvette and take off to wander the country like two vagabonds in search of adventures like Todd and Buzz, the two main guys on the show. Well, at least he had a good last meal – corned beef and cabbage with boiled red bliss potatoes and pumpkin pie for dessert – all his favorites.” “Yes, he loved to eat, but he never had fancy tastes,” Mary said as she washed the dishes. “Even as a boy he always preferred good solid food – and that was a good thing, too, because that’s all we ever got in our home when we were growing up. Nothing
fancy, but at least there was always plenty of it.” “Mary, do please tell me more about Bat when he was a young boy. What was he like back then?” Eileen inquired. “Well, let’s see now. All the girls in grade school liked him when we were kids, you know, Loll. He was a charmer, even back then, and all the girls hoped he’d fancy them, indeed,” Mary said as she filled the two tea cups. “And was he sweet on any of them, Mary?” “No, I can’t say that he was, to be honest, Loll, but he was a big flirt. Although Mary Daugherty was quite bold in her advances and I spied them kissing in the corner of our dad’s blacksmith shop one day. I used to tease Bat about it and he’d get all riled up. He’d tell me to mind my own affairs and once, when he was really mad at me he said, ‘it seems that all girls named Mary are silly wenches’. I knew that I had gotten his goat but good that time,” she said with a laugh. Eileen smiled and glanced toward the open door of the bedroom where she could see her husband lying in silent repose. “I wish I knew him then,” Eileen said. “What was he like back in the old country when he was a boy, Mary?” “How can I put this? Let’s say that he was a spirited lad – actually, a bit more spirited than most. But that’s because he had an active mind. He was always thinking of things – usually pranks or some other mischief, although sometimes he would come up with poems and rhymes, too. He got into enough mischief with his two friends, Harry and Gary, alright. The three of them were always up to something, and Bat was usually the instigator. Did he tell you about the time they shot the mayor’s horse?” “Oh, God, yes, Mary – I heard that story several times. He loved telling it, especially after he had a few drinks and he was with someone who hadn’t heard it before. And he’d laugh like the dickens when he said that he plugged the poor beast right between the eyes without even aiming,” Eileen replied, laughing herself as she recollected it.