West Fairbright Memorial Cemetery
Please read each question carefully before answering. Show your work for full credit; it is advisable to use a pencil. You have my remaining time to complete the quiz. Use it wisely.
1. If Paul Benson was born in 1923, and Rosemary Holloway was born in 1940, what is the last year in which she can become Mrs. Paul Benson as a beautiful teenage bride?
2. If Paul Jr. was born on Jan. 1, 1960 and Rosemary married Paul Sr. on May 14, 1959, what are the odds he was conceived on their honeymoon? Please account for the spring evenings parked by the lake and the Saturday Paul Sr. took Rosemary for a hike in the mountains to see the wildflowers. Recall that it rained so hard they couldn’t drive home, so he rented them a cozy log cabin with a cast iron fireplace.
3. Paul was 10 years into his teaching career when he wed Rosemary. Assuming he worked 20 more years, until he could collect full pension, how many times did Rosemary crease waxed paper around an egg salad sandwich and tuck it into a brown paper sack for his lunch? Remember, you should not include school holidays, weekends, or sick days in this count, nor should you include the children’s lunches.
3b (extra credit) Determine the ratio of lunches packed to times he thanked her. Was it enough?
4. Fairbright High School hires a new math teacher in 1975, four years before Paul’s retirement. Paul mentors her. How many times does he invite this new teacher to their home for dinner before Rosemary asks her over for coffee after school?
4b (again, for extra credit) How many glances do Rosemary and the teacher exchange? How many worries do they share? How many times do they cry laughing until it becomes clear that the air between them crackles hot for reasons neither can quite explain?
5. If Paul dies just two years into his retirement, how young of a widow is Rosemary? Represent her lifespan as a pie chart. How large is the slice of Rosemary and Paul’s life together?
6. After Paul’s death, describe the frequency with which the younger teacher visits Rosemary, to comfort the grieving widow.
7. How many weeks span the time between Paul’s death and the evening when Rosemary, sobbing on the couch, fits her cheek tight against the teacher’s neck? How many weeks span the time between Paul’s death and when she tilts her head up and they begin to kiss, as if they can never stop?
7b Later that evening, how many fingers can the teacher easily slide into Rosemary, as they press the couch’s brocade pattern into their bare skin? Are they surprised by each addition, by the sum?
8. If the teacher comes to dinner every night, how many years will it be until Rosemary’s youngest daughter, Estelle, will call her Sarah instead of Ms. Jackson?
9. Once Estelle is grown, graduated from college and living on her own, Rosemary sells the house. She and the teacher find a small apartment of their own. How few bedrooms, how few beds must this apartment contain in order for people to acknowledge that Rosemary and the teacher are not just very close friends.
10. Return to the pie chart from question 5. If Paul and Rosemary were married for 22 years, how many years must Rosemary and the teacher spend together before their relationship is represented by a wedge twice as large as his?
10b (must answer to receive full credit) If her time with the teacher represents more than half of Rosemary’s life, what does that mean? What does it mean if their time together represents almost 60 percent of the teacher’s life?
11. When Rosemary dies, her children bury her under the same headstone as Paul Sr. If I visit twice a month to weed and place new flowers, am I overstepping?
11b Should I give Estelle the blanket her mother crocheted for me?
11c If I refuse to, will she insist her children no longer call me Auntie Sarah?
11d If she does, and the children comply, how would Rosemary have wanted me to handle that?
11e Would Rosemary’s instincts in this matter be correct?
12. Assume that when I die, I will also be buried in Fairbright Memorial Cemetery, where the average distance between gravestones is three feet and the distance between rows is eight feet. If I buy a plot five spaces to the left and four rows down from Mr. and Mrs. Paul Benson’s graves, how close to Rosemary will I rest? Will it be too close? Or will it be too far?
Leslie Wilber writes short fiction and little comics. She’s a MFA student at West Virginia University, where she’s also an editor at the Cheat River Review. Her fiction has been previously published in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Defunct and is forthcoming in Little Engines. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieWilber.
image: MM Kaufman