#24

after Harlan’s body was  picked up.
The boys took Alma home. Both wanting her to come home with them.  She refused.  She wanted to be home.  Alone.  They both offered to stay with her. She had to lie and tell them their Aunt Betty was coming to stay with her.  She will have to call Betty and make sure she knows to cover for her.
It was nearly half an hour before Alma could get the boys to leave.  She was holding tight her mouth, so close to loosing her composure. The boys wanting to wait for Betty.  Fifteen minutes after arriving home, she called Betty from her bedroom, on the pretense to see what was keeping her.
“Hello”
“Betty, this is Alma, . . . he’s gone.”
Stopping short, Alma held her breath until the urge to cry passed.   Betty was silent, having been woken up from sleep. It was a call she had expected. They had talked about the call, and what Alma would do after Harlan died.  Betty waited to take her cue from Alma, but nothing came.
“Alma, what do you want me to do?”
“Can you come over in the morning, before the boys get here. I told them you were coming over to stay with me.”
“Fine, I take it they are still there, let me talk to them, and you know if you want me,  I will be there in five minutes.”
“Thank you, and I do.  I just . . . I need to be alone.”
“That’s is fine. I understand.  I will be there by coffee time.”
“Thank you.”
Alma went to the living room, the boys talking in whispers, she handed the phone to the eldest.
“Miss Betty?  . . .   Yes, ok, well, we can wait til you get here.”
A long pause.
“Oh, ok.  Well, yes, I can see that . . .   Ok. If you are sure . . .  Yes, call us if you need us. . . . Ok, ‘bye Miss Betty.”
“Well, Mom, we’ll go, she is on her way.  I didn’t know she had a cell phone, she said she stopped to get some something to eat, but we’ll get out of here.”
On the way out to their cars, the younger boy asked the other.
“What was that all about?”
“Miss Betty said she was in her pjs and had to run back and get a bottle of bourbon.  She said Mom might need a shot of something to settle her nerves, and for us to get out and let her be. That Mom was a woman first, Daddy’s wife second and our Momma third.  We are grown men with wives to tend to our grieving.  Mom needs to not have to be our mom right now.  We could either wait for her to arrive and kick us out, or we could get gone so she didn’t have to upset Mom any more than she already was.”
“Damn.  She’s a pistol.”
“you know she’s probably right. Mom’s been strong for everybody.”
“But she has us.  We can be strong for her.”
“True, but Miss Betty said something else.”
“What was that.”
“We may grow up to be men, but our mom will always be that.  Our mom.”

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