Early Saturday morning, Frank began his day at Fanny’s Corner Café to grab breakfast – the same place Mr. Simmons had taken him years before. The place Frank heard the cockamamie story of Simmons being his biological father. Frank bit his lip. Uneasiness settled over him as he found a booth in the opposite corner of the one he once shared with Mr. Simmons.
I came to put things behind me; to conquer my past. That’s what Anne wants me to do. That’s what I need to do. He picked up the local newspaper, ordered ham and eggs, and tried his best to concentrate on the real reason he came back to Tekamah.
He leafed through the pages of the Tekamah Herald to gather some sense of belonging to this town. Not many names seemed familiar in the headlines nor in the articles. He recognized an ad for Borge’s Clothier. That must be Gomer’s dad. Wonder if he knew all the shenanigans Gomer pulled when they were in school…and blamed most of it on me? Frank chuckled under his breath. Gomer always seemed to get away with his antics. Every prank was crazier than the next. If he had time, he would stop by to see if Gomer were still around.
He flipped through the pages toward the sports page in the back of the paper and almost breezed past the obituary column. The name jumped from the paper.
STANLEY MACKLIN WHEELER, AGE 75, TEKAMAH, PASSED AFTER A BRIEF ILLNESS. HE WAS PRECEDED IN DEATH BY HIS WIFE, IRMA MAE CONNORS WHEELER AND TWO SONS, IRA MACKLIN, AND JAMES STANLEY. NO OTHER KNOWN SURVIVORS OR RELATIVES. A MEMORIAL SERVICE WILL BE HELD AT FAITH CHURCH, 235 13TH STREET, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1:00 P.M.
Frank’s heart felt crushed with a heaviness he couldn’t explain, close to what he felt when his mother died.
Good ol’ Mac. Mac had been like a father to him for almost five years until he tried to sell me off for cheap labor. Frank shook his head to clear his thoughts. No. It was Irma Wheeler he hadn’t trusted. Mac’s missus never did like him. He wouldn’t have put it past her to sell him off to a stranger for a few bucks. He felt a bitter distaste in his throat.
Guess I will never know. I would have never met my Anne had I not hopped the train to Wisconsin. It all worked out for the best and God had a plan – or, has a plan, he corrected himself. There is always a plan, even if I cannot see it. That’s what Anne would say, and I hope I have learned that lesson. Can’t always trust others or even my own judgment, but I can trust God who knows my tomorrows and what is best for me. ‘Just believe.’ That’s what Mikie always said, and so did Anne.
Frank smiled. He missed Anne’s innocent smile and her enthusiasm. She had not written for some time, and he wondered how she was doing in college. He missed her words of encouragement. He gave credit to Anne, for it was she who urged him to come back to Tekamah, ‘to straighten things out and give closure,’ she had told him. It took courage to make the trip, but now he was here. He would have to write and tell her. He felt guilty; he hadn’t written for a long time. Told himself he had been too busy. Maybe a visit was in store in the future. Wonder if she still likes me? His heart thumped a little harder at the thought of a sweet reunion.
Mac deserved respects paid to him and Frank decided to attend the funeral. Besides, a few more days in town would give him a better perspective. He would visit some business places and see if anyone knew what happened to his siblings.
He decided better clothes were needed if he were to attend a funeral than the jeans and t-shirts he brought. The men’s clothing store would be his first stop. After that, he would stop by the church. He had hopes the same preacher who helped his sisters was still there. Perhaps he could get an address or some leads. He decided the police station would be another necessary stop. They may have some useful information, too.
Frank picked out a crisp, long-sleeved white shirt and a pair of dark trousers. His job on the mint farm and the grocer had done him well, plus Rev. Harley also compensated him for his services at the church. All in all, he had saved enough for this trip and a few extras. Besides, the funeral gave him a good excuse for some new clothes. A conservative gray and black striped tie completed the look. He tried on the trousers but was dismayed to find they were two inches too long. He could find nothing else he liked in his size.
“Do you do tailoring here?” he asked the clerk. “These pants need to be taken up.”
“We send all our tailoring out, sir. It would take about a week to get them back. Is that all right?”
“No, I’m afraid not. I need these for a funeral in four days. Is there anyone local?”
The clerk thought a few minutes, tapping her pencil to her chin, looking somewhere under her eyelids. She seemed to be going through a mental checklist in her head, as she tilted it from side to side, pursing her lips. Then her eyes popped open as a big smile broke across her lips.
“I know just the one. She’s an excellent seamstress, and she is quick,” she paused, “but she lives several miles away.”
“As long as it’s within an hour, it’s fine with me,” Frank agreed.
She nodded, wrote the name and phone number on a scrap of paper, and handed it to Frank.
He thanked her and tucked the note in his pocket without reading it. He would get the trousers to this seamstress right after lunch. That would give her a few days to get it done.
Next stop: the church – where Mikie was killed.