“I don't like Mondays.” Jonnie Rebel plopped down on the couch. Her over-sized handbag landed on the cushion
next to her like a tired toddler.
“The Motels,” Rowena smiled at her daughter through greenish-blue cigar smoke. Jonnie Rebel looked at her
mother sitting on the wicker couch opposite her, glass of scotch in one hand, a cigar in the other, neatly held between two
manicured fingernails painted orange. The fans overhead turned slowly, noiselessly. It was a lovely summer evening to be sitting
on the veranda.
“What are you talking about?” Jonnie looked at Rowena with both eyebrows drawn together and one side of
her mouth already drawn up in a grin.
“The Motels, a nineteen eighties band. They did the song “I Don't Like Mondays.” Rowena puffed on
her cigar and blew a large smoke ring at Johnnie. “So tell me Rebel, why don't you like Mondays?”
“Why do you insist on calling me that when you know I’m trying to use my first name these days?”
and then in a lower voice, “Jonnie's bad enough, but at least it doesn't carry the connotation that I'm some kind of
outlaw. Not directly, anyway.” She leaned forward and took the scotch out of Rowena's hand.
“Hey!” her mom complained, “Get your own!
Jonnie shrugged one shoulder and grinned. She rattled the ice cubes in the glass, teasing her mother, with her head
cocked and a smile on her face. She took a sip.
“I don’t know how you can stand that stuff,” Jonnie handed the glass back, wrinkling her nose.
“It’s an acquired taste,” Rowena said as she took the glass. “And it goes divinely with cigars.”
She tipped her head back, and with her arm slung back lazily over the couch, took a puff from her cigar and blew the smoke
out as if it were a gift she was giving the heavens.
“Gawd, you look like Tallulah Bankhead.”
“Why, thank you dahling,” Rowena grinned and blew
another green puff at her daughter, “and if you dislike scotch so much, how come you’re always stealing my glass?”
“To keep you from drinking it.” Rebel said, eyes level with her mother’s.
“HA!” Was Rowena’s only reply.
The phone rang inside the house, so Rebel got up to go answer it, sweeping her imaginary hooped skirt as she passed
her mother reclining on the sofa.
Rowena shook her head at her belle of a daughter. Rebel even referred to her boyfriends as “beaux” or “gentlemen
callers.” She had hoped by giving her a name that wasn’t Ellie-Sue or Mary-Kate would automatically
carve her out of her pre-ordained mould. She stuck to the two first name southern tradition, there was the fault.
“Good grief,” Rowena said out loud.
Her daughter Rebel always considered how she might appear to others, as she had been raised to do, even though her
mother was more like Tallulah Bankhead.
“The hell with what people thought,” was Rowena’s mantra. She still had her debut at sixteen, and
had married well. But once her husband died, the old coot, she was free to be herself.
She remembered when she first sat on her veranda after her husband had died,
and smoked those cigars until a thin layer of cirrus cloud formed over her head. Neighbors strolling by would wave
out of courtesy, Rowena raising her glass in reply. Pretty soon women would push their prams a bit faster as they neared her
house. The first time one of Rebel’s ‘beaux’ had come to pick her up, and offered Rowena a bouquet of flowers,
as was the tradition, Rowena sniffed them lightly, thanked the boy and lay the flowers down on a table in the foyer. As she
walked away she could hear Rebel telling the boy in an apologetic tone that her mother would’ve much preferred a good
cigar or a single malt scotch. Rowena could nearly feel the boy’s shock and his instinct to run. It was moments like
those that she was glad she chose to be her own woman. God, what a sight that boy’s face must’ve been!
Rowena laughed heart and soul loud. She put her hand to her chest as if it might explode, and stomped her foot on the
floor and snorted.
Rebel came outside, phone in hand with the other hand covering it. “Mother, would you please, this is important.”
Rebel shook the phone at her mother as if it were a butt paddle, a reminder of what she’d get if she didn’t mind.
Rowena’s laughter trickled down to a giggle and she just raised her glass at her daughter. Rebel turned sharply
and went back into the house. Rowena could hear her as she walked away, “Oh, I’m just so sorry to hear that, however
are you managing?” in her best Carolina drawl, acting every bit the educated southern lady. Just like her Mama taught
her. Only Rowena squirmed like a Catholic schoolgirl wanting to go to regular school, while Rebel embraced it with all its
seeming dignity. And hypocrisy. Rowena downed the rest of her scotch and snubbed out her cigar. By her own rule, she was only
allowed to smoke cigars outside.
Rebel emerged some time later. “Well, doesn’t that beat all.” She sat down on the couch next to her
mother. “Remember Roberta Jean from the Tri-Delts? My sorority sister?”
“The eccentric one who used to wear a red floppy hat to every football game?”
“That’s the one. Well,” Rebel used her best conspiracy tone, “it seems that she’s had
a death in the family. Someone named Harold. Now, mind you we haven’t talked much in the last eight years, so I can’t
imagine why she had to call me about it, much less ask me to do the eulogy.
you imagine!” Rebel shook her head.
“Why? Doesn’t the poor child have anyone closer to do such a thing?”
“Apparently not, apparently she’s asked around but no one wants to do it.” Then, in a whisper so
no one could hear, even though they were completely alone, “I get the feeling that no one liked Harold. That’s
why she can’t get anyone to do the Eulogy. Can you just imagine? Oh, my, I forgot to ask about his age, and his hobbies
and habits. Well. I’ll just have to call her back in the morning,” then, after a long thoughtful look off into
the distance, “Can you imagine?”
Rowena poured herself another scotch. “Yes, dear, I can imagine. When your father died I was surprised so many
showed up. Hell, I didn’t even have a eulogy written! Dick the size of a Georgia peanut, and him trying to please half
the women in this town. Put your jaw back where it belongs dear, I knew all about it. Didn’t bother me a bit, I knew
once they had him they’d leave him be, besides, one good thing about growing up a southern lady is that your husband
is expected to have a mistress or two. So he tried, bless his li’l ol’ heart, he tried. One lady even had the
grit to leave a bottle of male enhancement cream at his coffin,” Rowena laughed and took a sip of her scotch, “I tell you, I sure hope it works wherever he’s goin. He could use a little fun in his afterlife.”
Rowena nearly choked in her laughter.
“Well? Remember your coming out? Why we had invited all the big uppity-do’s in town, even some all the
way from Charleston! Your poor daddy was just beside himself with all the gentry coming. And you, you were so excited to have
a coming out. A real debutante you were. It’s what you always wanted, to be a southern social butterfly, isn’t
“I remember, Mama. I remember I felt like a princess that night. And I remember you got mighty friendly with
the serving boy after so many rounds of the champagne.” Rebel gave her mom an unapproving nudge.
Rowena’s eyes seemed to look far away, and she smiled at the memory. “That’s none of your business.
Point is, your daddy tried so hard to impress all the Names; the Earnshaw’s from Charleston with that big law firm,
and the Rosses from the Outer Banks who own all that property. Oh, he was in his element that night. Tried to bed the Earnshaw’s
youngest daughter too! Lord, I swear I never laughed so hard it my life!”
“Seems to me, Mama, you ended up singing The Way We Were while standing on the piano with one of your shoulders
“But a mighty fine rendition it was!”
“Honestly, Mama, I truly don’t know how I am able to show my face around here anymore.”
“Well, Sugar, you just remember that you have a good ol’ southern upbringing, and the pedigree to prove
it. Your great grandmother may have been the grand madam of the town whorehouse back during double-ya-double-ya-one, but she
was a respected whore. She may have sold sex, but she knew how to sell it with good southern manners. She always kept a handkerchief
to wipe their chins, if you know what I mean.”
Rebel shook her head and took her mama’s scotch from her again and downed it.
Rowena raised an eyebrow, then refilled her glass. “Well, it’s true.”
She considered another cigar for a moment, then asked, “So tell me, you going to this funeral for, what’s
“Harold. You gonna do the eulogy? When did you say the last time you saw this Tri-Delta?”
Rowena shook her head, “Well, if I were you, I’d be like the old lady who fell out of the wagon.”
Rebel’s face was full of question.
“If it doesn’t have anything to do with you, stay out of it,” Rowena explained.
“Well, I can’t exactly turn down a Tri-Delta in need, now can I?’
Rowena put her hand to her heart, and grinning said, “Why, my, no my deah!” And laughed.
“So I just write the basic stuff that could apply to anyone; how he was sweet as could be, bless his heart, God
love him, helpful to his neighbors, a good church going man, a good family man, always taking time for the kids. Oh God, does
she have kids? I forgot to ask.”
Rebel dashed back into the house.
“Well, this is too much drama for me,” Rowena said to the night air. I’m going to bed. She picked
up her glass of scotch and took it with her, went inside the door and headed up the stairs.
Rowena came down stairs rubbing her eyes, her long wavy hair all up in tangles, pink terry cloth robe askew. She looked
at the coffee cup in her daughter’s hand enviously, and walked directly toward the pot. “I don’t see how
you can be up and all snippety dressed like that before noon, I just don’t see how.”
“It’s called good manners Mama, you remember those?”
“Manners are for when men are around. That’s why they’re called Man-ners.”
Rebel couldn’t help a smile. She looked at her disheveled mother and was again amazed at how beautiful the woman
was; her face framed in a wash of black curls, her cheeks with just enough bloom, even in the morning after too much scotch.
“You could do with a man around now and again, Mama. Ever considered getting remarried?”
Rowena nearly choked on her coffee. “Married? Are you smoking something I don’t know about that you’re
not sharing? Mama always taught you to share, now didn’t I?”
Rebel looked at Rowena, eyebrows drawn together. Ignoring her comment she said, “I have a funeral to plan for,
remember? A eulogy to write. I managed to get out of poor heartbroken Roberta that Harold was her little boy,” Rebel
put her hand to her heart, “God bless her.
The funeral’s on Saturday which means I have to leave this very afternoon. Roberta lives all the way up in Boone
County, although God only knows why she’d want to live up there with all those hillbillies. No wonder she couldn’t
find anyone to do the eulogy, those people probably don’t even speak correctly, much less have manners needed on such
an occasion. I have a long drive ahead of me.”
“Oh, yes, no wonder,” Rowena said over her coffee cup in mock agreement. “At least get your hair
and nails done before you go.”
“Mother! I just told you the funeral’s on Saturday!”
“Saturday? That leaves you plenty of time. What’s today, only Wednesday?”
“Good Lord, mother, you never know what day it is. It’s Friday, and Boone County is a five hour drive from
here. I don’t know yet what time the funeral is, but if I get a move on, I can be at Roberta’s house in time for
the wake this evening.”
“I do so know what day it is, my little plastic pill container with the days on it tell me. I just haven’t
taken my blood pressure medicine yet, that’s all.”
Rebel took the pill container off the counter and handed it to her. “Friday, mother.”
“How nice.” Rowena replied.
The drive to Boone was long, but Rebel enjoyed the feathery Mimosas in bloom, and the lacey white dogwood, here and
there a Magnolia. Rebel opted to leave the top up on her convertible, so her hair wouldn’t be mussed when she arrived,
but she left the window half open to take in the fragrances of spring in the mountains of Carolina. The directions to Roberta’s
house lay on the seat next to her, so she managed to get to her house without incident. The horse shoe driveway had several
cars parked in it, so Rebel chose to park on the street, to her annoyance. She had high heels on.
The door flew open and Roberta stood for a moment. Rebel could almost see her mental rolodex flipping. Then a look
of recognition came over her and her arms flew out; the next thing Rebel knew she was all awash in White Shoulders perfume
“Oh my dear! I can’t believe you made it all this way so soon. You are such an angel. An angel I tell you!”
Roberta gushed. “Come in here you, here’s some of our old Tri-Delt sisters,” then in a conspiratorial tone, “you have got to see what Bonnie Jean Rehkopf is wearing, she hasn’t changed
a bit. Not one bit!”
Rebel was dragged into a very large parlor, men and women standing around in crisp clothes, voices all one low hum,
nibbling on finger sandwiches, drinks in hand. As she was introduced from one group to the next, everyone made some mention
of poor Harold, but never a even a hint for Rebel as to what kind of child Harold was.
Tones dropped when mentioning him, as was requisite, then conversation returned to normal. Rebel just didn’t
get the feeling that everyone was the least bit devastated at the loss of a child. She wondered again why in the world was
she asked to do the Eulogy? The feeling was more of a country club gathering than that of a pre-funeral wake. Finally, she
cornered a sorority sister that she remembered fairly well.
“So, tell me, Susan, is Roberta all right? I mean with Harold’s passing and all?” She tried to glean
“Well, I tell you, at first she was just a mess, a mess, bless her lovin heart. But you know Roberta,”
Rebel looked down into her drink, not wanting to let Susan see that no, she didn’t, “she bounced right back. He’ll
be missed though, that’s for sure. But you know how these things are, she can always find another.”
Rebel’s eyebrows shot up. Another? She was taken aback by what seemed to be a lack of propriety. What, just go
down to the baby store and get another son? What was wrong with these people, Rebel wondered. Things sure have changed, she
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Roberta clapped her hands, “The funeral will be tomorrow at one o’clock
sharp, over to Broward’s Funeral Home. Graveside service will follow, so I hope to see y’all there. Now, I must
take your leave to have some time alone with my poor Harold,” she dabbed a handkerchief to her nose, “y’all
know how I loved him so. He will be sorely missed.” And with that she broke into a dramatic sob and ran from the room.
“Well, this ought to be a doozy,” Rebel said to herself as she grabbed a drink off a passing tray.
The funeral home was adorned with white and yellow flowers, apparently Harold’s favorite. Rebel had chosen an
appropriately black dress, simple lines, nothing fancy. Apparently she was the only one. Everyone else was bedecked in an
colorful array, blues and yellows and greens and floral patterns. Did she not get the “it’s a Mardi Gras funeral
memo?” she wondered. Things were getting strange, and Rebel didn’t like it. She was starting to get the feeling
that something was going on that she wasn’t privy to. She walked over to Roberta to go over the eulogy.
Roberta saw her and grabbed her arm. “Oh, darling, oh I should have told you. Bless your heart, how could you
have known? I guess no one told you that Harold was expressly against anything black. He was such a colorful boy.”
“Yeah, I guess no one told me,” Rebel said while Roberta continued gushing about the colorful toys and
how Harold just loved anything shiny.
The crowd parted and she saw the casket, partly open, the size of a child’s. Suddenly her throat tightened and
she felt a wash of grief come over her for her old friend’s loss. No wonder Roberta was acting so strange. She had lost
a child. How could any mother get over that?
“…and his favorite toy was a yellow duck with a bright red suit,” she was saying, “oh how he
loved that duck!” A dab at the eyes with the kerchief. “But what am I thinking! You never even had the opportunity
to meet him, did you dear,” another dab, “you simply must go say your hellos and farewells then before the funeral
begins. You are such a love to offer to give the eulogy. And without even having met him! Nobody else had the emotional stability,
in a case like this, to eulogize poor Harold. But you were always so sentimental and eloquent. Such a love!” Another
dab and she was off, accepting more condolences.
Rebel stood her place, not quite wanting to see the poor body of a friend’s dead child. The little casket was
so small, all golden and piled with flowers. Rebel could just barely see the beak of the toy duck Roberta had spoken about
sticking out of the casket. They must be burying him with it. Rebel sucked in her breath, smoothed her dress, and stepped
forward toward the casket. The sun came through a stained glass window, throwing a blue-gold ray of filtered sun over the
tiny box. Rowena couldn’t help a tear. She stepped forward, looked down, and was stopped cold. Her head swam. Was this
some kind of joke? She looked furiously around the room, to the side, behind her, at all the people who were apparently grieving
Patting Roberta on the back.
Offering shoulders, offering help through this terrible time.
Rebel looked down again.
There he was, sure as shit. In a little yellow and white suit, clutching the damned duck. A monkey. A chimpanzee. Harold
was a fucking chimpanzee. Rebel suddenly felt like a madwoman and burst out laughing. The low hum of voices stopped. She knew
everyone was looking at her, but she didn’t care. Suddenly she wanted one of her mother’s scotches and a cigar.
She turned, spotted the podium, and walked to it, all the while getting out a piece of paper from her purse. When she got
to the podium she lay the paper flat and smoothed it out to gain time for composure.
She adjusted the microphone. She tapped on it. The light thump-thump resounded through the church.
“Um,” Rebel began, “As most of you know, I didn’t know, uh, Harold at all, so I don’t
have much of a tale, um, I mean story, to tell. For instance, I don’t even know if you called him Harry for short.”
Rebel stifled a strong need to laugh, instead she snorted like her mother. “But he must’ve been a real chimp,
I mean champ.” She couldn’t help a stifled chortle. Several people in the audience snickered into their hands.
A couple laughed out loud briefly, then were silent.
Rebel went on, “I hear his favorite toy was his stuffed yellow duck.” Rebel attempted composure, smoothed
her dress again, but the inanity of the situation kicked in, and she couldn’t help herself. She heard herself say, “That’s
okay, my favorite toy was a stuffed monkey!” Several guffaws came from the audience, several snickers, and one out loud
belly laugh. Rebel continued, laughing, composure no longer an issue, “I would have brought a condolence gift, but bananas
are out of season!” She picked one of the tissues out of the box that had been placed upon the podium and dabbed at
her eyes, tears from laughter where she knew there should be tears of grief. But she couldn’t help herself, she continued,
“Seriously though, I’m a bit worried about the amount of alcohol being consumed,‘cause I know how y’all
can start slinging the shit! But what a wonderful gesture to remember…” Rebel could barely catch her breath, she
swiped a tear away from her eye, her diaphragm hurt. “…to remember a monkey by!”
The audience lost all composure, Roberta looked like a caged canary trying to get free, flapping her yellow clad arms
around this way and that, trying in vain to regain control of her absurd funeral for her beloved Harold, the chimp.
Rebel, laughing hysterically, ran from the room and to her car. She had to get home as fast as she could. These people
had gone mad, she decided.
Rowena leaned forward with another guffaw, spilling a bit of scotch on her lap. She held a hand to her chest as if
to hold the absurdity in. “A chimpanzee?” Another roaring snort followed by peals of laughter, “darling,
you really must be joking. What I wouldn’t give to have seen your face!”
“Thanks for your support mother,” Rebel glared. “It was really the most embarrassing moment of my
life,” Rebel tried to look hurt, scathed by the whole affair, then her eyes lit up, “but also the most fun. I
didn’t know I could talk like that, just going hog wild! I swear I’ll never talk to that Roberta Jean Bradley
ever again. The nerve!” Rebel grabbed her mother’s glass from her and took a gulp.
“Why don’t you ever just get your own?” Rowena snatched it back.
“Because I can’t stand the stuff,” Rebel pouted.
“You sure drink enough for someone who can’t stand it,” Rowena mumbled as she put the glass to her
mouth. “Hand me one of those cigars, would you? Then tell me all about the monkey funeral again. What a hoot!”
Rebel opened her mother’s engraved humidor and took out a cigar, rolled it between her fingers the way her mother
had taught her to do, smelled it for it’s freshness, then handed her the cigar and lighter. She got up, poured herself
a proper bourbon with a splash of branch water, sat down beside her mother and began to chuckle. “It really is kind
of funny, isn’t it?”
“Kind of? Darlin, this is the kind of story you spend your whole life waiting to hear. Harold! What do you suppose
they called him for short,” she nudged her daughter at the pun, “Harry?” They both let out wails of laughter,
ice tinkling in their glasses.
Cynthia Wilson holds an MFA in Creative Writing
from Goddard College. Her work has appeared in The Legendary, ReadShortFiction.com, The Pitkin Review, Hyperbole Magazine,
The Taj Mahal Review, The Aquila Review, Heavy Glow Fine Flash Fiction, Swamp Writing, and 42 Magazine, as well
as several small house anthologies. She is a member of Women in Literary Arts, Society for Women in Philosophy, The National
Writer’s Association, Sweet Gum Writer’s Circle, and Facebook Writers and Poets Registry. She is currently working
on her novel after spending a month in Ireland doing research.