The funeral was for an elderly but feisty old sort, who had literally hundreds of friends in the local recovery community. She was a real firecracker, in assisted living, but full of stories about the days when she worked for [COLOR=#800080]Meyer Lansky. [/COLOR]
And she was a gossip. Jesus H. Christ on a toothpick could that woman gossip. Any tiny scrap of information she had was yours for the asking; and yet, she could wheedle a confidence out of the most recalcitrant hermit. Even knowing what she was going to do with it, you’d find yourself with a sudden case of verbal diarrhea, spitting out every thought you’d had since the last time you spoke with her. And you’d call again, even after she did it, because five minutes on the phone would leave you feeling more “hooked in” to the larger group of friends than hours on the phone with each of them could have accomplished. You could definitely see how she’d been useful in Lansky’s work.
So now here we all are, packed into a crowded auditorium (rented by the funeral home at the last moment when they realized just how many folks were going to show up.) And one by one, as we do, folks just wandered to the front to talk about the wisdom she had shared with them and how she saved their lives.
In one corner of the room, front left, is a group that is clearly different. Flannel suits that look like they came from London, elderly men - frail, walking on canes and frames - who you still wouldn’t want to meet alone in a dark alley, with ladies who look like they are still having their legs waxed at 90. The aura over there is part boxing club, part Saville Row, part Ricky Ricardo’s Havana.
And some little nitwit decides she’s gonna get back at the deceased by complaining about how she gossiped. She gets up, in front of all these hundreds of people, 40-50 of whom have already stood at that microphone to say how the deceased changed or even saved their lives, and this little nincompoop thinks it’s a good time to whine about a confidence broken.
She’s about four sentences in, a little 20-something and clearly the victim type, when a few guys from the front left corner stand up and gather as if they are about to “help” her off the stage. Most of the audience is utterly oblivious, and some are quietly giving a sideways nod - cheering poor little girl on. I moved as swiftly as propriety allowed. I put my arm around her shoulders, and a tissue in her face, as if she’d been overcome and I was consoling her. I walked her up the side aisle on the right, and glanced apologetically and questioningly at the standing men.
Such a conversation as those looks conveyed.
Me: I’m getting her out of here, will you let that be enough?
Guys: Looking at each other, is she serious? Just leave it at that?
Guys: back at me, "You expect us to accept this? US?!? "
Me: Gesturing with my chin towards the coffin “It’s what she would want you to do”
Guys: to each other, slowly shrugging “I hate this, but she’s right. And there’s a lot of them.”
Me: now almost to the back of the room “Just let us go OK?”
Guy in sunglasses, sitting in the front row, who never rose, and I didn’t know was part of it until that moment: to all of us, a hand wave “It’s over.”
I whisked her past several large black cars with really big black-suited drivers waiting beside the rear doors, and when she said she didn’t have a car there, I was forced to leave myself and take her home.
The really funniest thing about it all is, that little girl never had the slightest idea. She hates me to this day, and still whines to anyone who will listen about how I had no right to make her leave that memorial service. And sometimes, just for a second or two, I let myself wish I had let her stay.