The Funeral Home

Back in a hot August day in 1963 I agreed to help out my mamma, Johnnie Claire White Whitlow install draperies at Mulhearn Funeral Home in Winnsboro, Louisiana. Over the past several years mamma had progressed form delivering Sears and Roebuck Catalogs door to door in Arkansas and Louisiana, to sales in the interior decorating department, and finally owning her own interior design business.

Mulhearn awarded her a contract to install new draperies, carpet, and furniture in their new funeral home in Winnsboro. Mamma, Daddy, and my little brother Ricky were installing the carpet in some of the rooms. I was working alone nervously up on a 12 foot ladder installing curtain rods with a cordless ratchet screwdriver. I was nervous because I was just 15 years old and working alone in a large dimly lit room full of wooden caskets.

Suddenly I heard a noise that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I heard the very slow creaking of a wooden door opening, very slowly- C—R—E—EE—K. Slowly I twisted my head around and saw the wooden door of the casket lifting up very slowly. Then a black man sat up in the casket. I knew I had seen a ghost. I forgot that I was standing 10 feet up on a ladder and started screaming and running. When my feet hit the floor I was still running until I reached the safety of mamma’s truck. Later the guy stopped laughing long enough to apologize and say that he worked there and was taking his afternoon siesta after he finished lunch.

After we finished the job we visited Nelma Perkins at her husband Willy B’s office at the vocational school. Nelma was my mamma’s childhood friend in the saw mill town of Clarks, Louisiana. Nelma asked mamma to stop by Macs Jitney Jungle to get some Community Coffee and stop by her house to make a pot of coffee.

Mamma put a coffee drip pot on the stove and we sat down to watch the evening news on TV. About halfway through the news, I smelled something burning. We rushed into the kitchen and saw the coffee pot and the top of the stove was on fire. The rubber on the handle was melted. All in a day’s work. And that is the way it was.

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