The wheezing in his breath was like a massive 16-part angelic choir; soft, and coming and going from the room in a regular pattern, near and far, near and far. “They’re coming to get him,” said Mabel. “Death can’t be far off.”
And she was right. He was to last for only another three days. The celestial choir had continued all that time, ending with a long groan followed by a sort of gurgle, and then silence. Suddenly after the silence there was a final groan and that was it. “It was the death rattle,” said Mabel. “I heard it coming on. I got one hell of a fright. But what a consolation to be accompanied by angels!”
When Professor Edwin Lumsden’s mother died, he left it to his only sibling, his sister Berwyn, to make all the funeral arrangements. After all, Professor Edwin Lumsden was a busy man. He had to lecture in poetry at the university twice a week, and each lecture took hours of preparation. Only last week he had lectured on the meaning of the bits of Greek in Ezra Pound’s poetry. This week he was lecturing on several of e. e. cummings’ 2,900 poems. His mother would have understood why he couldn’t afford the time to help organise her funeral, and besides, his sister was exceedingly competent.
And there it was – in the morning paper – for all to see. The obituary:
I know you find it hard to part With me, O darling of my heart, But only trust in Jesu’s name And you shall see your mother again. – Inserted by her loving son, Professor Edwin Lumsden
How could he face his academic colleagues after that? He was down to lecture about the impact of Duns Scotus’s philosophy on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and then this bit of rhyming balderdash made its appearance.
Professor Edwin Lumsden couldn’t face it. He was ashamed. He was embarrassed. He missed the funeral and called in sick at the university for three weeks.
He was shocked and mystified to read his death announcement in the morning paper. There it was in clear black letters: JOHN MILFORD BARNABAS RODGERS. Died suddenly while on vacation in the Philippines. Loved husband of Nola. Loving father and father-in-law of Roberta and Cranford, Arnold and Cecily, and Nigel and Petra. Much loved grandfather of seven wonderful grandkids.
Most definitely shocked and mystified. Dumbfounded perhaps. Except his wife wasn’t called Nola, and his children weren’t Roberta, Arnold and Nigel. Nor had he any grandchildren. Nor had he ever been to the Philippines. And to top it off, his name on his appointment card to see the psychiatrist next week wasn’t JOHN MILFORD BARNABAS RODGERS.
I don’t want no flowers. I don’t want no cards. No funeral, just a cremation and no one’s to come. Nothing. I’d like everyone to know that I hated them as much as they hated me. Burn all my stuff. No free handouts for my greedy relatives.
P.S. Guess what Diamonique? The family are having one hell of a party.
There was one thing that Fabian wasn’t particularly fond of – in fact he hated it – and that was loose elastic in his pants. He would have to hold his pants up with one hand and do everything else with the other.
And then he died.
His silly wife, Caroline Myrtle, had him buried wearing those pants with the damn loose elastic.
There he is now! That one over there, playing beatific golf with one free arm, and holding his pants up with the free hand. Forever.