ered how much Shirley had enjoyed an occasional daiquiri in summer
(sometimes two), how deeply committed she had been to the Central
Park Conservancy. Also that she’d had a thing for ostriches: ostrich cof-
fee mugs, ostrich keychains. The Barnard classmate joked that Shirley
had claimed to have married Kappelschnitzer because he kept his head
in the sand when necessary. He forced a smile. The speaker had just
brought down the house with an anecdote about a chemistry exam of
yesteryear when Kappelschnitzer realized that he might be called upon
to say something. And sure enough, there was his name in the program:
What choice did he have but to climb the dais? Suddenly, the Barnard
classmate embraced him, and then he stood alone above the desolate,
hungry faces of the mourners. Of his friends and colleagues. But how
could he eulogize a woman he’d never met? He sensed anxiety in his
fingertips, flashes of heat behind his ears. It was like being on an episode
of This Is Your Life, only it wasn’t his life. “Dear friends,” he said. “Dear,
dear friends . . .” And he forced his soul toward its darkest moments of
suffering—to a best chum who’d drowned on a family vacation in sixth
grade, to his aphasic father in the nursing facility, struggling to spell
simple words with children’s blocks. He conjured up the changing of the
guard at Arlington, his grand-aunt and -uncles who had perished in the
camps. When the tears finally flowed, he was genuinely trembling, not
acting, and nobody dared expect him to speak. The rabbi escorted him
back to his pew.
“Oh, Arnold,” said Marilyn.
Then Shirley’s purported nephew, a shaggy man-child who belonged
to the kid sister, entertained the mourners with his rendition of an Austin Roberts tune about a daydreamer who falls in love with an ostrich.
All the neighbors complaining you see, he sang. But she loves me. . . .
A reception followed; probably on Kappelschnitzer’s own dime.
Marilyn Loeb escorted him around the social hall like a duenna. It was
nearly noon when she accompanied him to retrieve his jacket and cap,
following him through a side door onto the windswept sidewalk. “All
this talk of flowers,” she said—although Kappelschnitzer did not recall
any mention of flowers—“reminds me of how much Shirley loved the
flower show at Macy’s.”
He remembered visiting Macy’s once to buy a toaster. Or possibly
“Do you want to go? This weekend?”