The Funeral -or- a Short, SHORT Story About Death

167, 168, 169, 200, 201… Why do ceiling tiles have all those tiny little holes? I imagine back in the day it was so the asbestos above them could breathe. Dead, I look up from my coffin staring at a brown water stain on a warped ceiling tile. So warped, in fact, that I expect it will fall on me at any moment. Be a shame to mess up my face after the mortician worked so hard to get me just right.

So, this is how it all ends; laying in a bargain basement casket, made from God-only-knows what kinda wood, on display to all my friends and family in the Ulysses S. Grant room of the American Legion in Bloomington, Indiana. Is it pine? Mahogany? Cherry? I’d raise my hand to give the side a knock but I’m dead. Oh man, I’d give my left nut to see the look on everyone’s faces if only I could do that. But here I am, as still as a statue, lying in a box at attention on a thin liner of taffeta. Of all the things that should be going through my head right now, all I can think of is that in ten years we haven’t cleaned the inside of our stove.

Guests are lining up to pay their last respects and say their final good-byes. It’s Uncle Mike’s turn. He leans over me like he’s checking the oil in his Camaro. Jesus! It looks like a huge spider has made a home inside his nose. If I’d lived another Christmas I would have gifted him a nose trimmer. Gross!! Move on already!

Now it’s Catherine’s turn. She’s my first cousin; my mother’s sister’s kid. What she lacks in brains she makes up for in looks. Coulda been a magazine model but she missed the boat on that one. Instead, by day she waits on tables at the IHOP and by night runs the floor buffer over the food court at the mall. She hated it whenever we referred to her as the sexy janitor. Her husband left her seven years ago with four kids, two cats, a three legged German Shepard named Dotty and a mortgage.

Here comes Raymond Butler, my nemesis. I’m pretty sure he had something to do with my death and the broccoli that killed me. He and I have a twisted history that dates back to preschool when I found him in the playground by the spring rider showing his genitals to two twin girls from Brasov, Romania who immigrated here with their parents after their father had an affair with the administrative assistant of the city’s Mayor… who was also having an affair with his assistant. Raymond isn’t saying anything, he just leans over me with a stupid look on his face. Wait a minute… The right side of his mouth is curling slightly upward. He’s grinning!! Stupid sonuvabitch is grinning!!! I put all my strength into throat punching him only to remember that I’m dead so I opt for the “dick hair” send off. “Dick hair” is what I say to people I hate when they’re walking away rather than the respectful “take care!”.

Ah, and here’s Jacob, my beautiful thirteen year-old son. He looks so mature in the suit we bought him at an end-of-the-summer sale at Sears last year. I’m surprised it still fits him, he’s grown so much since then. He looks so sad, staring downward as if wearing the weight of my death on his bony shoulders. He’s looking down at his hands. Wait. What’s that in his hands? Jesus!! He’s got his phone in his hands! He’s leaning over the casket of his father and he’s looking at his goddamned phone!! I’m so happy to have had such a positive impact on him! I’d be unable to contain my anger if it weren’t for the fact that Melonie Gates is now leaning over my coffin wearing a tight, black, super low-cut dress. In high school we’d call her “Melonie Melons”. She sat across from me in Mrs. Dubois’s French class. I probably spent way too much time staring at Melonie’s boobs and not enough time learning to conjugate verbs. Il voit — he see, tu vois — you see, je vois — I see… Je vois Melonie’s boobs!! She’d innocently wear t-shirts that were two sizes too small for her. To my credit, I’d convince her that it was impossible for a human being to touch their elbows together behind their back. God bless her for trying… repeatedly!!

Next in line is my wife Karen’s great aunt Madeline. Or “Skeletor” as I like to call her. Her breathe smells like sardine farts. She’s the poster child for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. She sounds like Darth Vader when she breathes and looks like him when you take off all the armour. Just as evil too. When my wife was a kid she’d tell her the ice cream truck that roamed the neighbourhood on hot summer days would only play music when it ran out of ice cream. The woman is like 153 years-old and the bitch has outlived me. Thanks, Life, for another kick in the nuts. And speaking of nuts, I have an itch in my groin. I know it’s impossible due to my current situation but it’s a phantom itch; the memory of an itch in my groin and it’s driving me crazy!! Maybe Raymond Butler could come back and punch me in the balls to make it go away.

Here’s comes my pal, Mac Crawford. “Mac”. Such a man’s name!! He was best man at my wedding. He’s the only guy I know that can recite verbatim, and while intoxicated, every line from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. The original cartoon version, not that piece of shit Jim Carrey movie. God, that was awful. One hundred fifty minutes of an over-acting green guy! Mac looks rough. It’s evident that he’s been shedding some tears. Poor guy. He leans closer mumbling something he doesn’t want others to hear. Probably talking about all those Colts games we hit up in Indianapolis. Oh no. No, no, no no!! O Christ! I suddenly find myself wishing the mortician had sewn my ears shut! Jesus Mac!! Not a good time to come out of the closet! Next, NEXT!!!!!

Who’s this now? I don’t know this person. I’m going through all the faces I know in my head but I’ll be damned if I can’t place this one. Looks kinda familiar though. Borderline emaciated but gentlemanly in a weird sort of way. About sixty-five, seventy years old, long, gaunt face with a square, lunch-box jaw and very deep-set eyes. Kind of oddly handsome but could easily pass for a Hallowe’en lawn ornament. Or the Grim Reaper? Ha!! Maybe he is the Grim Reaper! You’re five days too late! Maybe he’s come back to check on his handy work. Dammit, who is this guy?!! Karen suddenly appears at his side, puts her arm around him, consoles him. It’s not her father. Not my father. I haven’t seen my father since I was five. Why is this stranger crying? And why is he mumbling, “my son, my son” as Karen guides him away? Weird!

I wonder what they’re serving for food. We didn’t have a lot of money so I’d wager Karen and her sisters whipped up a few trays of egg salad and cucumber finger sandwiches. Funny. I could go for a sandwich right now. Who knew that death could make you so hungry? And how many… OH SHIT!! Someone just closed the lid! Blackness! The service is over and I feel myself being lifted, reminding me of the time I crowd surfed at a Van Halen concert at Market Square Arena. Except my head is now parallel with my shoulder as the casket lists to the upper right. Not sure whose not-so-well-thought-out plan it was to have my four foot eight nephew Jordan as one of the pallbearers. At least put him at my feet! It’s true what they say. There really is no dignity in death!

On our way to the cemetery I’m hit by a wave of anxiety. I’m no theologian. I’m not sure who or what God is exactly but there’s no going back now. I guess the question of what lies in the Great Beyond will be answered shortly. In a way, I’m kinda lucky. I don’t have to worry about getting up at 4am to go to a job I hate. I won’t have to sit in two hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic everyday. I won’t have to deal with the cable company anymore and I can’t catch any sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe death suits me.

I hear the gates to the cemetery grinding open on their rusty hinges. And is that the sound of “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes in the distance? It’s not. The cemetery is located next to Claudia Schiffer Catholic Elementary Schoolwhich has an adjacent pond full of brain-damaged trumpeter swans the animal shelter refuses to put down.

I’m slid from the back of the hearse, which in all likelihood is Mac Crawford’s pick up truck, and carried, tilted forward (goddamn you, Jordan!!), to my gravesite. It’s quiet now save the light thumping of shovel-fulls of dirt being tossed on my coffin. I’d finally let the fart go that I’d been holding in throughout the whole service but I’m dead and ergo have no farts.

The stillness consumes me. The darkness embraces me. I am finally at rest. The pages of my life flip through to the epilogue. My final thoughts dwell on the fact that although I no longer exist in the flesh, I will live on, immortal, in the minds and hearts of those who knew me. Death is beautiful.

And then it hits me…

I forgot to clear my fucking browser history!!!