The Woman Who Died


by M.J. Cleghorn

Pork chops on Thursday.

“She was the woman who always brought pork chops on Thursday”.

Some woman.

Red hair. Nice camel coat.

A woman of a certain age. Classy. The Upper Eastside type.

Her grandfather was a tough guy with a gang on the the wrong side of the street…

His name unmentionable in polite society…

But, Of course, I remember her…Who could ever forget?

She came by every week for twenty years. What’s not to remember?

Just like family. I knew everything about her children.

I wonder how they are taking this.

How sad.

I can hardly believe she’s really gone.

Here one minute, pouf! Dust the next!

Just a snap of the finger…

When your number’s up; your number’s up.

Yup that’s what they say…

We’re all sorry.

Say Sam, is the beef tongue good today?

Lamb chops? Don’t make me cry.

The woman who died.

Such a good cook! We were always swapping recipes.


Wrap up two fresh chickens for me won’t you, Charlie?

Sure thing.



Ticket please.

4 tokens. Eastside. Third stop.

Thanks for saving me a seat.

Did you hear about the woman who died?

Oh yeah. Her twin brother was our parish priest.

Now like I was sayin’…I used to date her step-sister she told me that

The woman who died

had two boys and two girls.

Let’s see; what were their names? It’s been eons.

The daughters…

Oh yeah, now it’s all coming back to me.

Gladys and Tammy, that’s right. Tammy and Gladys.

And the boys– the boys were Tommy and George.

Right. Tommy and George.

I know because my Aunt Marge used to babysit them after school sometimes.

All toe-heads.

They formed a singing group.

Sang in the Macy’s parade every Thanksgiving as long as anyone can remember.

The youngest one married my cousin from New Hampshire.

They settled in Pennsylvania.

Three kids. Triplets. Imagine.

Her husband made a good living as an architect.

A small firm.

A good woman. May she rest in peace.


Ready to order?


Coffee; black- two sugars and a club sandwich please.

How’s the pie today?


We hired a new baker. Her brother sells us crateful’s of fruit wholesale.

Farm fresh right off the truck.



How about that about the woman who died?

May she rest in peace.

Oh yes her!

You know we were best of friends.

Like sisters really.

Poor thing she never married and was all alone in the world.

I was practically all she had.

Every Memorial Day I would take the 49th street bus with her to the

Old cemetery you know the one I’m talking about;

We would spend the day tidying up her parent’s graves.

That’s where she’ll be buried. With family.

Such a petite woman. Mysterious too.

Her people were gypsies.

I remember how

She would read tea leaves in cups and tell people’s fortunes.

She even read my palm once. Said I’d marry a sailor.

Close enough. Didn’t you marry a cabbie at the navy ship yards?

See I’m tellin’ ya. Spooky. Huh?

The last time I saw her she was

All decked out in silks and rhinestones.

What a hoot she was at parties!


Henry, who was that on the phone?

It was the Lodge; say, did you know the woman who died?

Of course silly, we all did.

Why, Henry, we’ve been neighbors and bridge partners forever.

Why I even shared the same hairdresser, Monsieur Von Pierre,

With her, for the last well, I’ve lost count of the years…

 Monsieur Von Pierre I’m sure would know…

Her people hailed from Virginia; I believe.

Old money.

I seem to recall she was raised on a tobacco plantation.

Servants, Grand Balls, and all that.

So gracious!

Old world beauty and charm, and so many suitors.

They say she married and buried

Seven wealthy husbands!

So it came as no surprise when I heard that

Her family fortune had once been lost in the war.

Or was it to gambling debts?

Needless to say…

The woman who died and I were close confidants.


Hey, what’s that mutt doing on our porch?

Now don’t be mean Eleanor; it belonged to the woman who died.

Oh; her.

The woman who died.

You heard of course that

 Her husband went to prison for murder. Double murder.

Yes that was it. The poor dear;

Think of the shame. Looks like she worked herself into an early grave.


Head janitor at Janey’s elementary school.


I remember the teachers punishing children for their terrible taunts towards her.

They would shout to her face that she was so fat, she should run away and join the circus.

 Little beasts.

We really must send flowers.


Honey, I’m home.

Oh Johnny!

I can’t find the paper.

What’s this?

It’s a letter from my sister.

Have you been crying?

 It’s such a shame… really …

The woman who died…

What woman?

We went to school together.

You remember;


Why she was almost my sister-in-law.

The big blond my older brother took to the senior prom;

May, nineteen-hundred and


And to think

 I just saw her the other day at the flower show…master gardener that she was.

Her salmon stripped tiger lilies took best of show ….!


 She will be sorely missed.

I must call Martha. Meatloaf’s in the oven…

Hello- Martha. This is Grace

Have you heard?


The woman who died…

Of course; we all knew her…

 Oh no, dear me;


The woman who died;

 The one who nearly married Hazel’s uncle.


 Her only uncle. The archaeologist. Barnaby.

That’s right…

The woman who died…

 They met in Trinidad… she was born there. Her father was a British aristocrat, bastard child of the royal family; turned pirate. Her mother’s people were from the French West Indies. Yes; Creole some say.

 As it so happened she was resting her voice after a glorious season at the Met.

What a sensation she created as Madam Butterfly…


Category: Poetry