Four deaths

A year ago, at a small reception following a  funeral in south-central Tennessee, I took out my phone and recorded a sweet older couple getting us up to date. I transcribed some of it this morning, and in doing so I changed the names. My transcript borrows a helpful convention from Annie Baker’s book The Vermont Plays: a slash ( / ) indicates where the next speech begins. Baker has gotten me interested again in what people actually say, something that first interested me as a lawyer studying deposition transcripts.

She: They don’t let ‘em meet, uh, they don’t even let ‘em know their names for a while, I mean they have, they have questions to answer and back and forth, you know and, they don’t even let ‘em know the telephone number for awhile. They protect ‘em pretty good. And, uh. So that was the first day they met after they dated over the Internet, and I don’t know when Claudette died, I don’t know what, it seemed like I thought it was in the spring of the year –

He: But this ol’ / black boy –

She: or some . . . in the fall of the year –

He: he was sharp in / that Bible –

She: or something . . .

He: He knew where everything was he could answer questions, you know, we go to all these Bible classes with Harry and them to singles group, and he’d uh, he pop them just as quick as they [snapping his fingers] he’d pop them [snapping his fingers] answers out you know and make good comments and . . . but he didn’t, he couldn’t . . . he . . . he . . . he didn’t want a, I didn’t reckon he wanted a good job. He had been a security guard in a . . . a big school somewhere, and Harry tried to get him on at Georgia Tech for security guard, and . . . and he coulda got him on. In fact they just about got him hired, he didn’t show up that day, but he didn’t show up that day, and, uh . . . but he liked to work at fast food places so he could get his food . . .

She: And he was diabetic.

He: And he carried it home, see he / could carry it home –

She: He couldn’t eat all that stuff.

He: . . . so he could eat the rest of the day, probably carried his / brother –

She: Uh-huh.

He: . . . some home, too. [Pause.] You see in the paper where that thirty-seven-year-old girl died, thirty-seven-year-old girl died, uh . . .

She: She was a real pretty girl, Heidi. . .

He: She was a Fortner, married / a Fortner –

She: Heidi Fortner.

He: She was a Bateman or . . . / something like that –

She: She was a Bakeman.

He: A Bakeman, but / she was –

She: A year older . . .

He: . . . a juvenile diabetic, Type 1, and her daddy was a pharmacist, and uh, I don’t know, you’d think maybe he woulda really tried to kep her medicated right, and everything, but she, she . . . they say she that’s what killed her. And she, she was married, lived out here in the . . . Southgate subdivision in on of those big houses, and she / was beautiful –

She: She must’ve had a heart attack.

He: Well, uh, you know, that, but this . . . when you see those thirty and forty and fifty-year-old people dying, you know, and you seventy-five, it kind of sceeres you.