So this is how it all ends, Myra Dunbar thought. My whole life laid bare for the entire world to see.
Well, not quite the entire world; just her family, friends, and a good portion of Welbly, Louisiana, the town she had lived in her entire life.
It was a good turnout, and it pleased her that so many cared enough to come see her off. But it was embarrassing too. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t turn a bright red to hear their worst transgressions read aloud.
She was glad that John had already passed. He wasn’t sitting here now on the pew in front of her and the current speaker, their daughter Lily, while Lily recounted the time Myra had gotten high and let the five-year-old cook her own dinner, resulting in a nasty burn.
But Myra got through that and a few other mortifying tales without squirming too much in her seat. And Lily moved on to more mundane memories that characterized what an exemplary mother Myra had been.
She was doubly glad John was gone when the last speaker, Marshal Whitacre, the town recorder, took the podium. As was custom, he recited her list of sins first, starting with the time in third grade she had called Milly Simpson a soulless ginger, making the redhead cry, to her third affair that had ended shortly after John’s passing. Myra had learned at John’s funeral that he’d had four flings, sort of evened them out, she supposed, but was still glad he had gone on not knowing.
Then Marshal moved on to her list of deeds.
Head held high and shoulders squared, Myra’s lips curved in a small, modest smile as he recounted her acts of kindness, and exalted her public service, respect for authority, party loyalty, and small carbon footprint.
Ending with her work history, Marshall said, “As most of you know, Myra Dunbar devoted most of her adult life to the upkeep of our library, overseeing the uploading of countless books and their distribution over the internet. And just as importantly, she tracked down and deleted books banned by the Party, even going so far as to erase all mention of them on rogue servers. Furthermore, she was a front-runner in the Party’s initiative to ferret out and destroy false narratives, from history to science that pervades the internet, poisoning our children’s minds.”
Beaming, he turned to Myra. “And so on this day, March 25, 2031, we owe her our thanks for a life well lived, and a job well done.”
The mourners clapped. Myra demurely lowered her eyes, as was expected when one was praised.
When the applause died down, Marshall continued. “Today Myra Tyson Dunbar turns seventy-five, and as is custom, she passes from us. But she will live forever in our hearts.”
Applause again broke out.
Marshal took Myra’s hand. “Come,” he said.
She stood and looked up into the smiling, middle-aged face of her son-in-law.
“Are you ready?” he whispered, tucking her arm through his.
“Yes…yes, I am,” Myra said, though now that the time was here she wasn’t so sure. But she knew she had to put on a brave front, if not for her own pride, then for that of her family. It didn’t sit well on one’s permanent record if a family member behaved badly, even at their passing.
All stood as Myra walked with Marshal down the center aisle toward the back of the room where two soldiers waited on either side of the double doors.
Among the applause and smiling goodbyes, Myra heard a woman whisper, “Can you believe that young people used to have to fight the wars? Imagine squandering productive life that way. Barbaric…”
Then white-haired, stoop-shouldered, Myra Dunbar passed through the double doors and into the Army.
©️2019 KT Workman