Roderick and David ran a smallish undertakers business. They barely made enough to live on. As Roderick joked, “The new doctor in town is not good for business.”
Then the coronavirus arrived. People were dying all over the place. Business was booming.
“At last we will be able to live it up a little,” said David lyrically. “A better quality wine! Cheeses! The finest cuts of meat! Homemade carrot cake all over the place!” Roderick and David were excellent cooks.
There was a general consensus in the whole street: Finlay, who lived with his wife at Number 45, was a crackpot. Since he’d found religion things had gone from bad to worse. It culminated when he brought home a coffin, set it up on his front lawn, and would lie in it with a sign that read: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. He would then start preaching – every day – from door to door, and it was driving the neighbours bonkers.
To be particularly fastidious, it wasn’t really a street; it was a cul-de-sac, a short street with a round-about at one end. Everyone knew everyone else. It was a close-knit community and Findlay’s “conversion” was catastrophic – sort of like a woodpecker turning up to a lumberjacks’ convention.
And suddenly the whole cul-de-sac went crazy. Everyone began to play their music at top volume, booming it out from house to house. Mrs Bronson not only played Saint-Saëns’ The carnival of the animals full tilt, but she coupled it with playing on the piano Mozart’s Piano Sonata in G Major.
Andy Summers played Frank Sinatra’s I did it my way over and over. And few really minded when young Tommy Gloucester’s sophisticated sound gear broadcast the Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables fortissimo (which Ms Nancy Smith of Number 28 considered “very yesterday”).
There wasn’t a house on the cul-de-sac that wasn’t broadcasting. And all because Finlay’s wife was busy with a hammer. Everyone somehow had to drown out the banging emanating from Finlay’s front lawn.
Bronwyn and Myra belongs to the New Mothers Support Group. One of the things the Group facilitated was for young mothers to go for interesting walks together, chat away, share mutual baby problems, and push their babies in the perambulators.
Bronwyn and Myra lived in quite a small town, so it was logical that most days they joined for a stroll. Mainly they would window shop. Sometimes they would go to see things inside a shop but the bulkiness of the perambulators precluded many cramped shopping spaces. They had walked up and down the town’s shopping centre a hundred times. There was only one shop window they had never paused before: the Undertaker’s.
It’s hard to believe that anyone would put coffins in their shop window, said Bronwyn to Myra.
Go on! Be a devil! said Myra. Which one would you like?
How they laughed and um-ed and ah-ed! Bronwyn chose an expensive oak casket with elaborate handles. Nothing like going out in style, said Bronwyn.
Myra liked the pure white one. I can see a bunch of deep red roses sitting on top of that white coffin, she said. And within forty-eight hours…
That’ll be the bell, said the teacher. Put your laptops away, and I’ll see you all in creative-writing class tomorrow.
Roberto was so fat when he died that a special coffin had to be made.
“We don’t stock gigantic coffins for grossly fat people,” said the undertaker to the grieving widow. “You’ll have to get one specially made.”
The poor grieving widow had nowhere to turn. She said she couldn’t afford to have a coffin specially made, let alone a very large one. She went to see if she could get some government benefit to help out.
“We don’t pay for gigantic coffins for grossly fat dead people,” said the Government agency. “If he’d gone on a diet and exercised a bit of self-control before he kicked the bucket we might have looked at it with a bit of sympathy.”
The grieving widow went to see the pastor of the local church.
“Why would we want to help out?” asked the pastor. “Your late husband was a grossly overweight, fat pig. You can’t have your cake and eat it, although looking at the size of your dead husband I’d say he’d eaten as much cake as he could stuff in his mouth. Haw! Haw! Haw!”
By now the grieving widow was desperate and the body (still sprawled on the sofa in her sitting room) was starting to disintegrate.
“Why haven’t you got rid of the body of that disintegrating, grossly overweight, slobby fat pig?” asked the children of the dead husband’s first marriage.
“I can’t fit his corpse through the door and the undertaker won’t help out until the money for the coffin is paid up first,” said the grieving widow.
People heard of the grieving widow’s plight. Thousands of dollars were donated. The grieving widow used the donated money to go on a world cruise in an ocean liner. You can imagine the stink that caused.
I was driving along quite comfy, thank you, with the radio playing a bit of head banging stuff, and following this hearse that must’ve been heading for a cemetery or a crematorium or a funeral parlour or somewhere. And suddenly the back door of the hearse flew up in the air and out fell a coffin.
Well I stopped immediately before I hit the coffin, which I did just a bit, and the lid cracked, and a bit of the side, and out popped a leg and a foot in a pair of brown trousers with a well-worn cosy slipper with a tartan pattern.
I tooted my horn furiously but the hearse kept going, like it was being driven by a robot or something and like the undertaker didn’t care. He was probably texting his girlfriend or something anyway and didn’t seem to notice the difference.
All happened so suddenly, in the flash of an eye, and the next thing the truck following me went wham straight into the back of my car. My car shot forward flat out and knocked the coffin in the air a bit and it fell down and sort of shattered completely open in the middle of the road.
A couple of bystanders were already watching, and one looked horrified and the other was laughing. And the back of my car seemed to be a bit of a wreck. I hope the hearse was insured because I don’t have the money to fork out for a new car, or even to get the old one fixed.
All this was going through my head, and the next thing there was a police officer asking what had happened, and by now I didn’t have a clue. So I sort of repeated everything I’ve just told you now, and the police officer thought I was talking nonsense because I was shocked, and told me to wait over by the side of the road until he’d finished asking everyone else questions.
So that’s what I’m doing now; waiting for the cop to finish. The coffin’s still sitting on the road. Everyone is too busy telling the policeman what went on to worry about the body. It’s dead anyway. But I wish he’d hurry because I’ve got to sort out this mess about my wrecked car.
Here comes the hearse now. Maybe that’ll hurry things along a bit. And I hope no one believes the undertaker when he spins some cock-and-bull yarn about me starting the ball rolling when I hit the back of the hearse at full speed.