WIND IN NORTHERN INDIANA generally sprouted from the West or Northwest, but this frigid February day nor' eastern winds blasted through the wrought iron fence of Mother of Mercy cemetery.
Dante Dunham drove his old Ford F150 truck through the rickety gate, which was swinging wildly in the air stream. The gate slammed uncontrollably into the truck's bed, but the damage was mild compared to that on the already gnarled vehicle.
Dante followed the narrow path up to the gravesite. If Cleveland Barker hadn't called him he would never have known that his father, the famous Johnson Meredith, was dead. The old man had only once spoken to Dante and that was to tell him that he wouldn't help him go to college ten years ago; now at eighty seven, he was dead. Dante's relationship with his father was a story few wanted to hear.
Dante's mother, Theresa Dunham, had passed away fifteen years earlier than his father. She'd died before she could see Dante graduate from both high school and college but would have been proud to know that he'd accomplished both feats without the help of Johnson Meredith.
Why the different name? Mr. Meredith refused to recognize Theresa and his only child and, to him, they were just a couple of moochers that he didn't have the time of day for. Consequently Theresa and Dante were left on their own to survive like all individuals falling into the category of the impoverished. It didn't matter that Meredith, the Mayor of the city of Lincoln's Port and the CEO of a local transmission factory, was a multi-millionaire. After all, Johnson was a man of God and would never have committed such a heinous act as abandoning his child and the mother of his child. But good attorneys versus no attorney could perform legal miracles every time.
Cleveland was ahead of him on the small path, waving for Dante to stop. The big funeral director walked over to the truck and peeked in at Dante, motioning him to roll down the window.
Dante had to crank hard to get the frozen window down, "Hey, Cleveland, I thought my old man was a popular mayor and big shot around these parts?"
"Shit, I couldn't think of anyone who even remembers the asshole. I managed to talk one of the County Commissioners to come out here and say something, but, hell, he fell in the snow and hurt his hip. Crap, I couldn't even get a man of the cloth out here."
"What a shame. Where you burying him?"
Cleveland was a big man standing above the six-foot watermark and weighing way more than he should. The buttons on his overcoat were stressed with the girth of him. "Bury? Are you kiddin'? This guy gets his own mausoleum above ground. That's big time shit around here. Dante noticed the hearse was empty. "Have you already stuck him in the mausoleum?"
"Man, don't make us sound like a bunch of Neanderthals. Of course we haven't stuck him in there. I told you we'd wait. His coffin is right inside the antechamber." He motioned with his opened hand. "Come on let's go take a peek."
Dante followed like the dutiful son. Once inside the large antechamber Dante cautiously slid over to the coffin, the lid of which had been left open for his review. He didn't even recognize the corpse. Hell his own father could have passed him on the street and Dante would not have recognized him.
"What d'ya think?"
"I guess I haven't got anything to say. You did a bang up job, Cleveland. Hell, he looks like he could run the forty in four seconds."
"You smart ass."
"Guilty," the barely five-eight, skinny white boy said to Cleveland, who towered over him like an oak tree over a flowering crab apple.
Cleveland wore his black skin proudly and didn't take any shit from anyone that didn't care for his skin pigmentation.
"Cleveland, why the hell did you ask me to come out here to see this man I didn't even fucking know?"
"Your duty little one." Cleveland stared at him with steel in his eyes. "Besides, I think the old geezer left you some money. That won't bother you will it?"
"Some kinda accident?"
"No, he actually mentioned your name."
"I'm afraid to ask."
Dante's mouth dropped open at first and then he laughed, "You fucker." What a joke."
"No joke son."