looked closer to forty-five than sixty. Svelte. Doe-eyed. Thick chestnut
hair down to her shoulders. Yet even before she hugged him, as though
they’d been intimate friends for decades, or close relations, even before
she skimmed across the room as gracefully as a sloop in a regatta, as
fleet on her toes as Ginger Rogers, even before she said, “Oh, Arnold,” in
a tone that conveyed a lifetime of stockpiled sympathy, he knew instinctively that it was Marilyn.
“Oh, Arnold,” she said again. “You poor old thing.”
Arnold did not feel particularly old or poor, but somehow the words
felt necessary when she said them—a balm for an unfelt wound.
“It took an eternity to change my tickets. You know how Lufthansa
can be.” She clasped him by the elbow and led him into the sanctuary.
“Anyway, I’m here. How was the interment?”
Good question. Fortunately, Marilyn Loeb was not prone to lengthy
“I have an uncle buried at Mount Ararat. It’s lovely—or as lovely as a
cemetery can be, I suppose. Especially now with the peonies in bloom.
And we know how much Shirley adored her peonies.” Marilyn sighed.
“Henry and I had arrangements there. But I need not remind you how
that worked out! Can you believe he wanted to divide the plots in the
settlement? Thank God my lawyer made him buy me out. Divide the
plots! Who’s ever heard of anything so preposterous? And pessimistic, I
might add. The narcissistic bastard didn’t imagine I’d meet anyone else.”
Kappelschnitzer glanced at Marilyn’s fingers. No wedding band.
For all he knew, he was already having an affair with this unfamiliar
woman, much as Fritz Wainwright had had with Shirley, only nobody
had bothered to tell him. They advanced up the aisle. He nodded at
familiar faces, shook hands with Wainwright, with his former veterinarian’s widow. Good heavens, the old-timers had crawled out of the
woodwork. Marilyn waved to his cousin’s daughters, as though these
girls were her own kin. He appreciated her confidence, her certitude.
It reminded him a bit of who he was himself—at least, under ordinary
circumstances. But before he had much time to reflect upon these attributes, Rabbi Finklehorn greeted the mourners from the bimah, and then
a woman he didn’t know from Eve but who purported to be Shirley’s
baby sister from Brookline ascended the podium and launched into a
tribute. Marilyn Loeb followed with a brief reading from Edna St. Vincent Millay. Next to speak was his late wife’s pottery teacher from the
Y, followed by a classmate from Barnard. For the first time, he discov-