Chapter 1 Summary
Major Pettigrew, a man in his late sixties, has been widowed for several years. Early one morning, he received a phone call where he learned that his brother, Bertie, died unexpectedly. When the doorbell rang, he went to the door without remembering that he had put on his deceased wife’s housecoat. The caller at the door was Mrs. Ali, a Pakistani widow who ran the village shop and was looking for the payment for his paper delivery. In the middle of their discussion, Major Pettigrew blurted out that his brother had died, and then suddenly began to pass out. Mrs. Ali propped the Major up and took him into his house to sit down. The Major reflected on the racial tensions that had greeted the Alis when they first moved to the village and opened up their business. Many of the local youths would vandalize the outside of the store or call them racial slurs like “Paki.” In time, the tension had subsided, and certain members of the village went out of their way to demonstrate their tolerance. When Mrs. Ali brought tea, the Major carelessly mentioned that Bertie had died of a heart attack, forgetting that Mr. Ali had died of the same thing. When the Major tried to explain his housecoat, Mrs. Ali mentioned that she too sometimes put on some of her husband’s clothes that still smelled like him.
After she left, the Major made some phone calls. The first was to his son, Roger, who had a high-power job at an equity firm. Roger had already heard the news from Bertie’s emotional daughter, Jemima, and seemed unsure if he would be able to make it to the funeral. The Major later talked to Marjorie, Bertie’s widow, a crass woman he had never liked. He was struck that she had scheduled the funeral around her own beauty appointments. The Major also wanted to talk to her about a very valuable vintage rifle belonging to Bertie (which had been in the family for generations), but Marjorie avoided the topic and hinted at passing along some of Bertie’s...
(The entire section is 539 words.)