April Free Fiction: Daisy Do

April Free Fiction: Daisy Do


    Eddie Major wiped a stray tear from his sun-leathered cheek and straightened his posture, the shoulder pads inside his Sunday-best navy-blue suit falling into their proper places, and rightly so after years of use. Like a hug from an old friend. He tried to straighten his posture—but not too much. He coaxed another stray tear or two through the ductwork.

      Folks were watching, after all. From all corners of the funeral parlor—standing in the corners by the audacious bouquets of carnations and tiger lilies, sitting in the far rows of fading burgundy chairs. From the snack table. From the vestibule where they huddled in twos and threes, pretending to admire the autumn swirl of colors from the oaks lining the sidewalk outside.

      Folks expected him to lose his collective good sense and fall to his knees right in front of the casket onto the paisley carpet. But he wasn’t going to do that. For one, he was rather fond of the outcome of his double knee replacement and wouldn’t risk the impact. For two, he truly could only muster a stray tear every now and then, and maintaining the downcast affect was taking what little emotional energy he had left.

      All this touchy-feely pretense only because folks were watching.

      Whispers around the tiny three-room funeral parlor were that Eddie would lose it when he got home to his empty house. Without Marla to direct him in all things daily living, what would he do? The Majors’ daughters were grown, hitched, and gone—sure to flee to their own homes three states away as soon as Marla’s grave descended, and the condolence bouquets of lilies and daisies lay scattered on top of the fresh dirt heap in Arlett Cemetery.

      Yes. In just a few short hours, so went the whispers, when husband and wife of forty years, two months and five days were separated by eight feet of earth, Eddie Major would officially be Arlett’s newest widower, destined to don bib overalls and take his breakfasts of greasy eggs and brick-hard toast with the other widowed geezers at Gina’s Diner. Feast on microwaved meatloaf for his dinners. Wear a butt-shaped hole in the fabric of his hunter green recliner in between those meals as he drinks three-day old coffee and soaks up reruns of war shows on the History Channel.

      Or so the whispers said.

      The folks thought Eddie couldn’t hear their muffled gossip. At sixty-three, and though he had double knee replacement and a hernia repair, to his knowledge, those procedures did not affect his hearing.

      If anything had ever damaged his auditory function, it would’ve been Marla’s nagging.

      Which is precisely why, Eddie thought, that his girls fled three states away. Marla could nag and opinionate even the strongest of souls to do her will… and the girls, as attentive as they could be from a distance, had more than enough of their mother.

      He understood. After long days in the classroom, would find himself sitting outside in the sun or wind or snow for hours upon hours to avoid Marla’s nagging inside the house. He’d mow the grass when it didn’t need to be mowed. Pull weeds—both real and imaginary. Their driveway was the most impeccable drive on their road. Not a stone out of place. Anything for a little peace and quiet.

      The talk of the town, actually.

      And the town never stops talking…

      Earlier, when the reception line had slowed and Eddie dared to step away from the head of the casket to grab a handful of grapes from the snack table, he’d overheard a few of those whispers between the town vet and some of the overly chatty members of Marla’s quilting bee brigade.

      He specifically made out “daisies” and “gonna be so mad.”

      “Mad about what, Luke?” That question came out a little too forceful, so Eddie popped several grapes into his mouth and pretended to dab his eyes with a napkin. Perhaps the dabbing will redden them up or prompt more free-flowing tears.

      He was a man overcome with grief, after all, folks had to expect he’d be all over the place with his tone and demeanor.

      “Oh, Eddie. I didn’t see you there.” Luke, the middle-aged veterinarian that Marla couldn’t speak highly enough of, shifted his weight and stammered on. “How’s the cat? Doing okay? Everything okay at home? I know how much Marla just adored that precious baby. If you need anything, anything at all. Sometimes pets grieve too. And how close they were… If Dais—”

      “Cat’s fine, Luke. Getting fatter by the day.” Over Eddie’s dead body was he going to spend another dime outside of litter and basic food for that feline. Neither daughter wanted to pack the feline up and house it elsewhere. Not that he could blame them. That cat had a disposition that only Marla could match. Aloof. Cold. Ungrateful…

      He certainly would be cutting back on the creature’s portion of tuna that belongs on Eddie’s rye bread and not scraped directly into the fish-shaped food bowl on the floor.

      When things settle after the funeral, he’ll call Luke and see if he could rehome Marla’s “precious baby.” The cat was fixed and vetted thoroughly. His checkbook proved it. Luke could’ve sent his two kids and three nephews to a few weeks of college given what Marla paid for that stray to be “healthed up” as she put it.

      Since a stranger wouldn’t make the connection between Marla’s moods and the cat’s demeanor, it should be easy to find it another. Eddie did, after all, have diners to visit and greasy eggs to down on a daily basis. No time for a pet with his struggling widower life.

      An arm encircled his shoulders and gently tugged him back to the front of the room. Back to her.

      “You okay, there, Eddie?” Hank from Hank & Sons Construction had been hanging close to the front of the room all morning. The man who called himself Eddie’s friend likely felt obligated to be so attentive. Especially since Marla had upgraded a simple window repair job after a tree branch cracked a single pane to an entire house full of super-dee-duper energy efficient windows, including a breakfast nook bump-out with floor-to-ceiling glass.

      “Easier to clean and lets in more natural light, Eddie. The curtains were blowing when the old windows were shut! These curtains don’t blow any longer.” She fluffed the white lacy fabric, tucking the hems so they hung perfectly at their living room window. “You’ll thank me when I’m gone.”

      Well, she’s gone, and neither his wallet – nor his mouth – ever thanked Marla for going behind his back and singlehandedly paying for Hank’s daughter’s first semester of community college with that sneaky move.

      Eddie cleared his throat. “Fine as can be, Hank. Thanks for being here.”  

      “No problem, buddy. You call me anytime, now. Anytime.” He gave another long, firm squeeze to Eddie’s shoulders and walked back to whisper something to Vicki along the lines of “not so great.”

      See. Nothing much wrong with his hearing.

      Vicki was the travel agent/notary public/bank teller extraordinaire who “upgraded” their simple cabin on their twentieth wedding anniversary cruise to the deluxe suite with the balcony. She tilted her head and sent Eddie a pitiful sympathy nod.

      He’d scrimped and saved for a simple vacation cruise that year. And with his English teacher salary, it took a lot of scrimping and saving. Marla, ever so set on having the best of the best, just didn’t leave it be. When they boarded the ship, Eddie told the bellman he must’ve escorted the couple to the wrong room. “Oh, no, Mr. Major, this is your room. Only the best for our elite passengers.”

      Marla had nudged him hard in the ribs. Eddie had stared in shock at the plush accommodations. She’d flipped that braid over her shoulder and smirked proudly. “We only have one twentieth wedding anniversary. You’ll thank me when I’m gone.” He still remembers shoving his fists into his pockets to keep from shoving her right off the balcony into the bay.

      And there she lay. Still gone. Still in that casket. And Eddie no closer to thanking her for such an expenditure.

      And that casket.

      That casket. Her latest and final upgrade.

      Mr. Stone of Arlett Funeral Home was not one bit pushy with the older couple as they had prearranged their funeral plans a decade ago. The Majors hadn’t wanted their two girls to have to bear the financial burden or the decision-making under the grief of the loss of a parent. The couple was being frugal and responsible. Mr. Stone gave them space to look at the caskets and vaults and laid out all the service and burial options.

      Mr. Stone was not one bit pushy.

      But when Eddie remembered back, Marla had flipped that braid from one shoulder to the other and smiled and smiled…Mr. Stone wasn’t pushy because he knew — he knew, as did the whole town — when the time came, Marla would upgrade.

      Marla must’ve known the end was near for her. Mr. Stone must’ve known, too, because a phone call and a couple of grand later, Marla had upgraded her final resting place. Gone was the frugal and simple.

      Ushered in was this, this… Rolls-Royce of caskets. And the bank statement didn’t reflect the upcharge until Marla had already passed and it was too late and too complicated to change anything. “Only the best for your wife, Mr. Major,” Mr. Stone had offered in the most comforting of tones.

      He turned toward the casket as the minister touched his elbow. “It’s time, Eddie.”

      Time for one last glimpse of her form. The final goodbye. Eddie gazed on his wife’s ashen face, her whiter-by-the-year braid arranged over her shoulder. It was his Marla, but at the same time, it wasn’t. The mortician did her best, but dead is dead. If Eddie stared long enough, he could almost see that classic smirk form at the left corner of her mouth. With his keen hearing, he could swear he heard her say, “You’ll thank me, Eddie. Soon. You’ll thank me.”

      He inhaled and shuddered a bit.                                                                                 

      Eddie rested his hand on the edge of the casket. All eyes were on him. So he carefully, slowly moved his leathered hand to cover her folded ones. Coldness greeted him. He wasn’t surprised. Coldness radiated from Marla even before she was laid out in her upgraded casket adorned with yellow embroidered daisies.


      His shoulders slumped. The crowd would believe it an appropriate reaction to a last caress.

But the decoration on the casket insert, the view Marla would forever have behind her closed lids, was daisies.

      Not a single daisy.


      Many, many daisies.

      Even in her death, she’s still sticking it to him.

      A rush of heat rose from Eddie’s gut and turned his face red. His hands began to shake, and he could feel a bead of sweat form on his upper lip.

      So right there.

      Right there in the funeral parlor in his Sunday-best suit and with his strong new kneecaps. Right there in front of Luke, Mr. Stone, Hank and his sons and well-educated daughter. Right there in front of the travel agent and the quilting bee ladies and the minister.

      Right there.

      He leaned down close to Marla’s ear.

      And shouted loud enough for Marla to hear him from beyond the veil:

      “Her name is Daisy, you nag of a wife!”

      And then everything went black.


      A rush of cool air wafted over Eddie’s frame. Someone had removed his Sunday best jacket and laid it across his midsection. He shirt sleeve was rolled up. Squeezing and pinching brought him around a bit further. He blinked a few times to clear the blur. The hum of an engine told him the bright lights were from the interior of an ambulance and not the ceiling of an Arlett Memorial ER room.

      To his right a young woman fiddled with an IV and blood pressure cuff. To his left, the ever faithful Mr. Stone patted his shoulder and told him everything would be okay. That folks were waiting patiently, and prayers were being prayed, and well wishes were being wished, and leftovers were being packed up from the snack table to be taken to his home later—so he could have sustenance to get through the day. And that he should really mind his fluid intake under times of great grief and loss. “One can get dehydrated so easily. And just drop. Drop like a fly on a hot August day, even in the cool of fall.”

      The last few moments with Marla’s corpse came back to him. The anger. The rage. Frustration.

      But Eddie certainly felt no grief. 

      The EMT asked him about his medications. He rattled off the few over the counter things he took. And the name of his blood pressure medicine. A pill he likely wouldn’t need to swallow anymore now that Marla’s nagging has stopped. But he kept this plan to himself lest the EMT and Mr. Stone scold him on how to live his life.

      He’d had quite enough of that with Marla.

      He closed his eyes and let his two commrades go about their duties, the one for his body, the other for his emotions. He recalled the embroidery all around his wife. The upgrade that he’d not approved of.

      “You’ll thank me when I’m gone…”

      A machine beeped over his head. “Mr. Major, your pressure’s rising. Try to remain still and think of calm, things.”

      Yeah, right. Calm. Not while visions of dainty white flowers and bold yellow centers filled his mind.

      The logical part of Eddie’s brain, the reasonable part that saw him through a successful career as an English teacher, knew the fight over Daisy single and Daisies plural was not rational. But it was a tiff that was always there. He remembered back to that very first conversation when the cat was just a kitten, less than a year old.

      “Daisies is plural. I should know. I was an English teacher for—”

      “For your whole life. I know. I like the name. I like the flowers. That’s her name. You won on the gender. I win on the name.”

      “I didn’t win on the gender, Marla. The cat’s got no balls. He’s not a he. He’s a she. I paid for a spay. Not a neuter. I should know, I—"

      “You’ve kept the checkbook balanced to the penny since the day we were married.” She flipped her long gray braid over her shoulder, smirking. And under her breath, though loud enough for his still-good ears to hear, “And I’ve done all the rest.”

      Marla was banging around at the sink, fussing with dishes that didn’t need fussing with just to make a point. It wasn’t Eddie’s fault the stray she picked out at the shelter was improperly sexed. He’d given in to her nagging to get a pet. A cat at that. And since they’d raised the two girls, Marla wanted to adopt a boy cat. How can you go wrong when the twenty-something volunteer at the shelter tags the orange baby feline as male? Marla got ticked off that the cat wasn’t a he after all.

      Giblets the Magnificent turned out to have no giblets at all.

      “Well, you didn’t have a problem with Giblets when we thought he was a boy. And Giblets is plural.”

      “Giblets makes sense. Daisies doesn’t even make sense. I’m not calling her Daisies. I’m calling her Daisy.”

      “Daisies.” The braid flipped to the other shoulder.

      “Daisy will do.”


      Eddie fiddled with the sleeve of his suit coat. He lifted it up to the light. The lint roll job from this morning missed a couple of stray orange hairs. That cat should’ve been Giblets. It’s an eighty-twenty chance an orange cat should’ve been a boy. Giblets would’ve solved a lot of fussing…

      On and on it went, for years. Plural. Singular. Different iterations of the same fight. Throw in Marla’s propensity for upgrades and spending Eddie’s carefully saved retirement funds, and sometimes the fights over the cat’s name served as surrogate arguments for other, more heated issues.

      Through it all, Daisy remained aloof, not caring in the least what her name might be. Sunning herself in a window. Licking herself on the kitchen counter. Batting lazily at one of the plush catnip toys or fancy feather teasers Marla dropped hundreds of dollars on a year. The living room floor looked as if they owned a shelter full of strays instead of just the one spoiled rotten one.

      Spoiled beyond belief.

      Eating a good portion of Eddie’s tuna from that stupid fish-shaped bowl…

      “You’re going to confuse her if I call her Daisies and you call her Daisy.”

      “She can’t be confused. The S is hardly noticeable, Marla.”

      “Well, I know it’s there. It’s plural. Giblets to Daisies.”

      “This is one cat. One cat. One Daisy.”

      “She’ll get all of your tuna tomorrow!”

      “As a matter of fact, I’m calling her Daisy Do. I like the alliteration. I am an English teacher after all…”

      “Don’t you dare—”

      “Tsk, tsk, come here, Daisy Do!”

      The argument was such a fussy mess that at all future vet visits, the staff and Dr. Luke referred to the cat as Marla’s Precious Baby lest the couple get started in the waiting room and set everyone – humans and animals—on edge.

      Mr. Stone helped the EMT set Eddie upright in the ambulance, eventually maneuvering him to the edge of the bumper into the fresh air. The EMT removed the IV, but left the blood pressure cuff. “Mr. Major, it’s totally understandable if you want to delay the burial. We could place Marla—”

      Eddie heard dollar signs. Another upgrade in the bill for “storing” his dead wife for another day or two.

      “No, no. I’ll be fine. I just want this over with!” he snapped, then remembered himself and softened. “Sorry. I really want to put my wife to rest and go home.”


      The EMT insisted he wait another fifteen minutes to ensure he wasn’t at risk of stroke. The friends and neighbors had moved outside, hugging jackets and coats around their bodies to shield against the breeze that had picked up. Browns and reds and yellows swirled through the air and scuttled across the pavement of the parking lot. Eddie watched them huddle in small groups. Still gossiping. Likely replaying his outburst at the casket. His backside hurt. He supposed when he blacked out he landed backward—good thing. He’d not wanted to go down on those good knees.

      From his perch on the edge of the ambulance, while the EMT fiddled with the cuff and helped him on with his suit jacket, he watched as Hank and Luke and Hank’s sons carry his wife’s Rolls Royce down the side ramp of the funeral parlor and slide it into the back of the hearse.

      He managed a thank you to the EMT. Mr. Stone helped him the rest of the way to his feet.

      Time to get this over with. Daisy Do would need her tuna soon, anyway.


      Though the events at the graveside had transpired without fanfare or further outbursts, Hank insisted he drive Eddie home, given the heavy weight of sorrow Eddie bore. He’d arranged for Mr. Stone to come behind them in Eddie’s sedan – upgraded, of course, to the upper trim level.

      As always, the driveway was impeccable. Only yesterday Eddie had blown the fallen leaves down to the curb. Only a few dared to dot the asphalt. “You sure you’ll be okay here alone? I can stick around.”

      “No thanks, Hank. I’m good now. All hydrated up and everything.” Eddie patted his arm where the Coban wrap the EMT had applied over the IV site was strangling the circulation down to his fingers. He slid out of Hank’s truck. Mr. Stone parked the sedan, a little crooked, but Eddie would fix that later.

      “Don’t forget this!” Mr. Stone handed Eddie the container of leftovers from the snack table. Eddie planned on a nice, fat tuna on rye, but he said thanks anyway and made his goodbyes without inviting the men in.

       The Major’s home of over three decades stood strong. Eddie spent meticulous hours and days on its exterior while Marla spent major dough on the inside. He stood in his drive for a few seconds, examining the structure. For the first time in over three decades, he felt he could finally breathe. Bathe in the blessed, blessed silence. No nagging. No begging. No fits and fusses and fights.

      No more singular or plural.

      Inside, Eddie slipped out of his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeve and removed the adhesive wrap. He rubbed the crook of his arm where the IV had replenished him enough to get through the day’s ordeal. He was glad to be away from the pitiful stares and fretful whispers of what his fate might be now that he’s on his own. Curse his wickedly good hearing.

      He poured himself a glass of water from the sink and allowed his gaze to zone out the window. No one interrupting.

      No one suggesting the next project or expenditure.

      But a few sips in, he heard something. Then it was gone. Thought he heard something again. High pitched squeaks.

      Probably Daisy fussing about, trying to get his attention because it was well past her tuna time.

      He grabbed her fish dish from the floor and popped open a can of tuna. He doled out just a tiny bit—Marla would roll over in her upgraded casket—and put it back on the floor. “Daisy Do. Tsk, tsk. Here kitty…”

      The noise again, a little louder but no closer. That cat never misses an opportunity to visit the fish dish…

      He rounded the corner into the living room. The squeaking intensified. Multiple squeaks. And a lower, longer meow.

      The high-pitched squeaks were coming from Daisy Do’s Corner Cottage (a top-of-the-line cat retreat hotel Marla found online and made Eddie assemble post haste the day it arrived). The cardboard construction took up most of one wall, and was nearly as tall as Eddie. Big enough for a colony of cats, very much overkill for one Daisy. Single.

      He peeked inside one of the windows. Then another, then another, allowing his ears to lead him to the source.

      He got down on both new knees, sinking into the plush, top-of-the-line carpet Marla insisted on installing last year. “You’ll thank me one day. No more cold, hard wood for our old bones.”

      There. On the first floor, huddled back in the darkest corner of the cottage, Daisy Do looked up at him and released a long, low howl. And at her side, a ball of wet, squirming squeakers.   

    “Daisy Do, what did you do?”  

      That black-out sensation from earlier threatened the corners of his vision. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, willing blood pressure and stroke-level panic to subside to a dull roar.                                                                                                      

      “Daisy! What did Marla do?” The cat laid her head down as the bundle of babies found their way to food. Eddie got off his knees and sat cross-legged in front of the cottage, peering into the structure.

      The fight in the kitchen that night came back to him. “You’ve kept the checkbook balanced to the penny since the day we were married.” The flip of the braid. The smirk. Her signature combo move when she’d one-upped him on a decision.

      He should’ve known when the animal didn’t come home from the clinic the day after surgery. She likely only boarded the cat for the same amount of money that the spay would’ve cost. And the performance. His Marla should’ve been on Broadway! The way she ooed and gooed over Daisy when she returned from her “surgical ordeal.”

      “Oh, Daisies, look how fast your belly hair grew back!”

      “Oh, Daisies, how well you’re recovering from your boo boos!”

      “Oh, Daisies, here’s some extra tuna. The protein will help mommy’s precious baby heal up so quick and strong!”

      And she’d flip that braid and smirk at the cat. Then smirk at Eddie.

      Eddie never paid much attention to Daisy back then, content to let Marla dote and take the attention away from him for even the slightest amount of time. He’d never noticed the lack of a surgical scar—didn’t even think to look or pet the cat’s stomach.

      He fished his phone out of his pocket and tapped on the flashlight. Careful not to blind Daisy, he carefully examined the momma and babies without touching. He didn’t see any signs of distress. All the babies were breathing and eating. Daisy’s breathing was more regular than Eddie’s.

      Daisy had… daisies. Eddie counted four—no five—five little bitty orange balls.

      Five. Plural.

      Eddie flipped off the light. He couldn’t think back of a time when Daisy got out of the house—or even if there was a time when Marla took her out of the house. But it happened. The timing had to be around the time Marla’s diagnosis came in.

      Eddie struggled to stand—but not because of his knees, mind you. He was tired from the day.

Tired from the people. Wanting peace and quiet from the whole ordeal. Tuna on rye and the evening news in his well-worn recliner. Like a hug from an old friend.

      And now this. He supposed Daisy was hungry after her ordeal today. He called Luke and left a message—it was after hours, after all. Or the man was avoiding his calls because he knew this was coming and was in on it with Marla. The whole town was in on Marla’s obsession with upgrades.

      In the kitchen, Eddie retrieved the fish dish and topped it off with the entire can of tuna. He’d make do with grapes and cheese from the funeral’s snack table and put a plate of hodge podge leftovers together for himself.

      He brought the fish dish to the cozy cottage and, in true waiter style, offered it to her on bended knee. Daisy rose slowly, leaving a pile of squirming bitty ones nosing into the air, wondering where their personal heating pad went to.

      She started lapping up the tuna, purring at the same time. Always looking back at the babies.

      Eddie retired to his recliner to munch on the leftovers and wait for Luke to call back. A photo of Marla and Eddie on that cruise sat on the side table next to his chair. She’d paid extra for that, of course. The crystal blue waters behind them. Marla’s braid hadn’t turned gray yet. Her smile—not a smirk, a smile—lit the photo up. It had been a nice trip.

      He put his plate down. Suddenly not hungry.

      He stared past the lacy curtains out to the driveway where he’d escaped so many times. A gust of wind blew more leaves across the blacktop. The curtains, though, remained completely still, the room perfectly insulated from any outside drafts thanks to the quality windows. The evening sun glinted off the sedan in the drive, the chrome trim gleaming in the rays. It’s a quality vehicle. Sure to last Eddie quite a long time.  

      Tears in his eyes, he stood and went to the cottage where Daisy had finished her tuna and was attending to her babies. He knelt once again on the plush carpet, the upgraded pad underneath cushioning his new kneecaps.

      And then it hit him. How truly grateful he was for all she did, and now she’s gone. His dear, wild, defiant Marla is gone, forever surrounded by embroidered little daisies.

      Tears fell freely. No need to hide them. He sat back cross-legged and let them come. Daisy Do emerged from the cottage, a baby dangling from her mouth. She dropped the kid into Eddie’s lap. Made four more trips, bringing each of her children to him, her tail held high, her head even higher. Showing off.

      Smirking, even, just a little.

      If the cat had a braid, she’d have flipped it over her shoulder.

      “Well, Daisy Do, I guess it’s me and you and your brood from here on.” He patted the cottage wall. “There’s room for all, thanks to Marla.” Daisy curled beside him, peeking every now and then into his lap at her five little upgrades.

      Thanks to Marla.



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