The Eulogy (Chapter 15)

The wooden stairs leading down into the cool air of the basement, where Eli's father now was, let out an uneasy creeking sound, as the weight from the motion of his movement, shifted and changed. A strong musty odor, left behind from the basement's constant flooding, filled the still air with a displeasing smell. Numerous waterlines from the constant flooding  plagued the farmhouse's stone foundation. 

Eli  called out to his father,  who was now busy, rifling among the forgotten items from their families past. "Hey, Dad. Where are you?" He again called out. "Back here! A deep tenor voice replied. " Near the coal shute."   The front cellar's only working light  dangled from it's thin, electrical wire.   As it flickered on and off, small sparks of electrical charges could be seen from inside of it's aging light bulb.  At the bottom of the staircase stood Dad's rusted steel bench . Eli grabbed his father's flashlight, then made his way towards the sound of his father voice. 

"Watch your head, Eli!" his father sounded out a warning. "What's that you said Dad?" As Eli ran his forehead right into the cross-beam that hung low across the entrance to the back room, where his father was. Eli let out long-winded sigh, as he slowly recovered from the unexpected blow to his head.  

"You alright? his father concerned voice asked. "Didn't you hear me? I said, "Watch you head." Eli's father turned his  flashlight's beam towards his son. "I really should paint that dam thing white.  Come over here. Let me take a look." he gestured for his son to come closer.  "Nah, it's nothin.  I just need a minute." Eli replied.  "I thought you were suppose to do that last week, Eli?"  his father asked. "Me? No. I'm pretty sure you said you were going to. Remember? Mom made stuffed cabbage last week. That's how the cellar came up.  The smell from the cabbage reminded you of the cellar?"  "Oh, Right. The cabbage. I guess I owe you an apology for that goose egg in the middle of your forehead." he jested.   "Apology accepted. Now, What are you looking for down here?" Eli asked. "Those shoes. What do you kids call them today...Loafers?" " Loafers." he scoffs. "Makes you sound like your wearing bread on your feet!" he mumbled.   "What size shoe are you, Dad?" Eli asked. "Why?..Do you have an extra pair somewhere?" he returned. "Well, as a matter of fact. I do! So, What size are you?" he continued. "12 1/2. What color are they son?" he questioned.  "There black. And, there upstairs. In my room. Come on. Take a look." Eli tried to convince his father to abandon the idea of wearing his worn out shoes, and step into a pair from the 21st century.  "Why didn't you tell me this before I came down here?" he grumbled. "Dad? What's wrong?" Eli's tone changed when his father's demeanor did. "Ahh, Hell.  I hate funerals, Eli. I really do. And, knowing that the last thing that man remembers about me, in the Hereafter, is that I put him into a sleeperhold. That's not sittin' too well with me, right now!" he dropped his head downward, after his confession of regret. "I had to do it, Son! There was no other way! He kept swinging at me; I dodged the first few of em', but that only made him furious.  He reached down and picked up the crow-bar. That's when I knew, I had to do something, drastic.  So, I did.  And, the worse part of it all was; his only daughter saw the whole thing!

She must think so badly of me, Son." Eli's father kept his head down, as he told his version of the story. "Go on ahead, Eli. I'll be right there. Go on! I'll be okay." Waving his son along. He glanced up towards Eli. Forgetting for a moment about the deep pain within him,  and released a quick laugh. "How's that bump on your head?" he asked. "I'll live." Eli tried to lighten the mood with some quick humor. "Hey, Eli. Is that why Robert's daughter came by to see you? Did she wanna talk about last night? Clear things up?" he asked.

  That question his father had just asked was open to interpetation;  It meant one thing to Eli and quite another to his father. Eli cautiously responded back. "Well, You could say that." Eli turned, then walked away. "Now, Wait just a minute, Eli. What exactly did the girl say happened here?" his father followed behind him. "Nothing!  Nothing about you, anyway." he offered. "Oh, I see. She's sweet on you. Isn't she?  Makes sense. She's alone now and wanted to be with the one person she felt close too." he placed his strong hand upon his son's shoulder. "How'd you know?" Eli played coy with his father, leading him to believe, that he was right about for her visit to the James's farmhouse. . "Let's get out here. It's making my stomach turn. When I come back for Christmas break; we really need to pour concrete down here, Dad. And, seal up the foundation, too!"  "Your right. Your right! Christmas, you say?" he looked at his son, smiling. "Yeah, Christmas. When I come home for break." And, just like that, the conversation had ended.

  Harold followed behind his son, as the two of them asending along the aging staircase, into the kitchen. "Mother? What color is that suit your stitching together for me?" Harold yelled out to his wife.   The heavy Singer sewing machine slowly began winding down, then stopped. "What did you say, Harold? I couldn't hear you over this machine's motor?" she began shouting back to him, then quickly lowered her voice, as he entered the room.

"Dear Lord, Harold. I can smell that dam cellar on your clothes. When are you going to do something about that? she scolded him. "Me and the boy were just talking about that. Christmas, Ma! When he comes home for the Holidays. We'll tackle that for you. Okay?" he playfully joked with his wife. Then he slide his arms around her waist and placed a soft kiss upon her cheek. "Mmmm, You smell nice woman. What are you wearing?" he said, amorously. "Ben Gay. My shoulders are killing me." she replied back with her usual witty charm. "Ben Gay. Hmm, I like it!" Dad said, knodding his head in approval.

"The answer to your question is: Black. The suit is black. It's a funeral, Harold." she answered, in a manner that was less than cordial.   "I know it is." he responded back, wondering why she was in such a foul mood. This woman was made of steel. A real farm girl. She was always able to take the good with the bad, in such a way, that no one could tell what was really going on behind those deep blue eyes. But, this was different. She was different.

"Why don't you take a break from that machine, Ma? I'll brew up some coffee. Meet me in the kitchen. Okay?" he offered, gently. "Why don't you give me and your mother a minute. I'll be up later to have a look at those shoes. Whata say?" he looked over at Eli, who was leaning up against the entrance's wooden frame. "Sure, Pop. Take all the time you need." he said, placing his hand upon his father's shoulder.  Eli leaned in and gave his mother a soft kiss upon her other cheek. "Come on Ma. Go with Dad. Have some coffee with him." he added. 

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