What happened once everyone was settled in the living room with Shotgun's body in the story A Long Way From Chicago?In Chapter 1 ("Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night Above Ground")

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Traditionally, People "sat up with a corpse through the final night before burial".  Grandma is a formidable figure, however, and since Shotgun's body is on display in her living room, most of the people "willing to brave Grandma (just) came and went".  In addition, "Shotgun hadn't been axactly fresh when they discovered his body", and even though every window in the room had been "flung open", there was "a peculiar smell" that could not be eradicated.  The only ones who end up settling in the living room for the night with Grandma and the children are the reporter and Mrs. Effie Wilcox.

When the small group is gathered, Grandma brings three bottles of beer out for the reporter.  The "mourners" sit for the most part in silence, and Mary Alice falls asleep on the carpet.  Suddenly, the gauze hanging over the open coffin twitches, then

"in one place it wrinkle(s) into a wad as if sombody had snagged it...as if a feeble hand had reached up from the coffin depths in one last desperate attempt to live before the dirt was shoveled in".

Mrs. Wilcox screams, and Grandma runs to get her shotgun, both barrels of which she empties into the coffin, bellowing at Shotgun, "You've had your time, boy...you don't get no more!"  The reporter leaps through the window, and Mrs. Wilcox runs out the door and into the night.

When everyone is gone, Grandma nonchalantly sends the children to bed.  Only she and Joey had noticed the real cause for the commotion - "her big old snaggletoothed tomcat", which had been sitting in the coffin on Shotgun's chest, and which had "streak(ed) out of the coffin and over the windowsill when she let fire" (Chapter 1).

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A Long Way from Chicago

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