‘The Loop Trail’ by Mary Rechner


From New England Review:

The first night of Mark’s wake Joanna drove her mother’s car to Flinch and Bruns. All the Catholics in Lynbrook had their wakes there, even if they were no longer practicing. Joanna’s mother was wearing a black skirt and beige top with a black wool coat. Around her neck she had wound a red silk scarf. Joanna wore a nubby pink shawl. It had looked perfectly great in Los Angeles, homemade in the best casually sweet way. Here on Long Island it looked idiotic. She should have borrowed her mother’s old black coat.

Joanna parked the car, and she and her mother approached the funeral parlor, where a bunch of guys were standing on the low flat steps. Joanna thought she recognized some of the faces from Facebook: Mark’s old friends, Therese’s old friends, her own old friends. For a moment the wake took on the vibe of her tenth high school reunion, the only reunion she had attended, twelve years ago now. She had gone with Therese, who had not been married to Mark at that point, and their other girlfriends, all of them still single, and had remained in a corner the entire time, drinking red wine, smoking cigarettes, and flirting with a clump of boys who had teased her daily in junior high. She broke away from this knot only when Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” came on, and she and Therese ran out to the dance floor, Therese yelling, “I don’t care anymore!” They were both drunk.

Joanna’s mother shouldered her way through the guys on the steps without waiting for them to move. “Hi,” said Joanna, following her mother, gaze flitting over noses and mouths, eyes and chins. No one particular name was popping up. Dave, Steve, Mike, Tony, Adam, Vinnie. No one born circa 1968 had been named Everett or Chandler or Austin or Ellis or Beckett, at least not on Long Island. Her brother, Jude, had been called Judy until eleventh grade, when his muscles finally caught up with his height.

Joanna wondered how long she would have to spend inside at the wake before she could join the men on the steps. One of the guys out here was sure to have a flask. The fact that she saw no carefully made-up female classmates could only mean one thing: the girls were in a huddle around Therese.

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