I started this bit of fiction yesterday, and as I mentioned in yesterday's entry, please give me feedback about where you'd like this story to head. Thank you to the groovy folks who have given me such great suggestions - when I was writing tonight, there was more fodder than I knew what to do with (sorry for the preposition...). I'm enjoying getting to know these characters, and I hope you are as well!
If Maisie was reading the map right, they had almost four hours to drive until she and Stella would find themselves in Burlington. They'd left Casper just a shade before 2 pm, so if Maisie trusted her sense of direction, they'd be right on time for the post-funeral dinner in honor of the passing of Mrs. Clark Thompson.
"What do you think her first name was?" Maisie was trying to make conversation with Stella, trying to find a distraction from the heat, the quiet, the desolate northern Wyoming landscape.
It quickly turned into a game. Stella could be harsh, but she had a generous slice of good humor.
"How old was she?" Stella figured a date of birth and a dose of heart disease might make her pick a name like Gladys or Pearl.
Maisie tipped her head up to read the fine print of the obituary through her bifocals. "Doesn't say. But from what the newspaper says, the family sounds positively bereft."
"Sadness is not a clue, Maisie." Stella's hands held tight to 10 and 2. "I'd say Genevieve. Or maybe Chris."
Of course Mrs. Clark Thompson had a first name of her own, Maisie thought as she went through a catalogue of women's names in her head. Carla. Melanie. Leanne.
Too young, she thought. But probably very proper, what with the Mrs. Clark Thompson.
Maisie was distracted by the complete lack of distraction that was northern Wyoming, so she stopped thinking about Mrs. Clark Thompson's first name, and she started paying attention to the vast terrain of nothing that flanked their Dart as it made its way through US 20 onto the 789.
They passed Thermopolis.
Stella thought it was an odd name for a Wyoming town, but she didn't say it out loud. That would just get Maisie started on some Grecian tangent. And Stella thought they needed a few more minutes of quiet before they found themselves in Burlington.
"We're so close - we really need a first name." Maisie was worried.
"We'll be fine. I'll find the bathroom, you find the buffet," Stella was feeling the sting of sitting too long. If it were a movie, she thought, northern Wyoming would be one of those black and white instructional films from the '50s. Duck and cover.
They passed the rectangular green and white sign that announced their entry into Burlington, and without saying a word, a look passed between Stella and Maisie that instantly registered wild disappointment.
Under her breath, Stella said, "Population 210?"
Maisie was adjusting her glasses, trying to figure out which left was the left they needed to take to get to the church.
"Middle of nowhere." Maisie said it even softer, as if she were somehow to blame.
It wasn't hard to find the church. The profusion of cars flanking every sidewalk was a dead giveaway.
They unwound themselves from the Dart. After hours of driving, both women adjusted themselves in their own particular way. Maisie applied a fresh coat of lipstick.
She'd worked up an appetite.
They toddled close to the sanctuary, both ready to do their best to honor the memory of Mrs. Clark Thompson.
That's when they heard the first gunshot.