(Please note that this story and subsequent stories for the next number of weeks were composed and scheduled before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. So my apologies if aspects offend certain sensibilities. Thanks)
Neralie was adamant; when she died she was not to be buried but cremated. Sure, waking up in a coffin in the middle of a cremation would be a horrifying experience, but to wake up in the coffin and be in a hole six feet down and covered in dirt… oh the panic! The fear! The claustrophobia! Cremation did it quickly and once and for all; if you hadn’t died but had simply entered into some temporal comatose state, then cremation was the way to.
Not to be buried was simply one of the many stipulations Neralie made about the post-demise behaviour of her relatives and friends. Everyone was welcome to bring flowers, but nothing purchased. Only cut flowers from the garden. And they had to be either deep red or pure white or a mixture of both. Red would stand for the suffering she had experienced throughout her life; white would stand for light and relief and the promise of an eternal future freed from all her suffering. Oh! All the suffering! “You’ve no idea how I’ve suffered” was one of Neralie’s catch phrases.
Then there was the music to be played at her funeral. None of this namby-pamby pop stuff – she demanded the Kyrie from Mozart’s Requiem. And if some people found it too long, then bully for them. They should show some respect.
The six pallbearers should dress as befits a funeral. None of this open-neck shirt stuff; no coloured garments; black with a bit of white – perhaps a white shirt. Well ironed.
Neralie’s list of demands went on and on. It was gigantic – like she didn’t have anything better to do in the last five years of her life. And sing! Sing the chosen hymn full throttle. None of this singing into ones beard like a wimp.
And then she died.
No one came to the funeral of the lonely imperious decrepit martinet. They stayed away in droves.
The plan was to dress eccentrically. That’s what the invitation said. It read, well in advance of the event, that on the last day of the coming month, Shane’s funeral would be held after he had been put down humanely by Elaine and the rest of the family. Dress eccentrically.
Well! What a conundrum it caused! What a hubbub! Shane, who hadn’t been at all ill but was generally tired of life, was to be put down. There was nothing unusual in that. Elaine had done it twice before to previous husbands. In fact the joke went around that being married to Elaine was the main cause why her (now third) husband had requested a humane demise. But that was not what the hubbub was about. That was not the conundrum.
The bother that sent all into a tizzy was what to wear. What comprises eccentric? Is it colour? Is it design? Is it a combination of both? Shona and her two inseparable “friends” were in a quandary. In the end, on the morning of the funeral, they dressed conservatively in cut, but with fabric that Nigel had found on the cheap at the second hand store. It was partly floral, and excessively loud. If they turned up to the funeral with a brightly coloured cocktail and a handful of sticky spaghetti it would possibly steal the show.
And steal the show they did! Elaine said afterwards that it was well worth putting Shane down just to wring out of her three best friends such a display of bizarre vibrancy. She particular liked the spaghetti touch and Jock promised that when it happened again he would bring some meatballs!
What a worthy lesson for us all! How much nicer is it to have a happy funeral, rather than mooch around like it’s the end of the world? All agreed. It was such fun! They couldn’t wait to do it again!
What an extraordinary day it had been! First, Nola’s husband had checked the lottery ticket numbers and Nola and her husband, Cresswell, had won thirty-three million three hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars. While they were dancing around the living room, whooping and hollering, Cresswell suffered a heart attack and died.
That took the edge off the excitement. Nola had to organize and go through the funeral. After twenty-two years of marriage, she was sad. Of course she was sad. But it was also a relief. Their relationship had been strained over the last few years, and Nola had frequently dreamed of freedom. Now with the sudden death of her husband and the winning of the lottery, that freedom could become a reality. Of course his death was a shock. It was devastating. It always is. But at least she had security for the future. She genuinely sobbed as the undertaker carted Cresswell’s body from the house to the funeral parlour.
At last the funeral was over. Things began to settle. Nola, who hadn’t wanted to appear too excited at winning thirty-three million, knew that the time had come to claim the money! But where was the ticket? Oh! It was in Cresswell’s back pocket when she had him cremated.
Amelia and her late husband, George, may have shared the same address but over the last ten years or so they had shared little else. Even their circles of friends were different. Amelia turned up to her husband’s funeral wearing a bright floral frock. Apparently George had requested that people wear something bright to his funeral. As she moved up to sit alone in the front pew she noticed she was practically the only one who had bothered to wear something bright. It showed you how people cared. Even her friends hadn’t bothered to turn up.
Amelia sat throughout the service barely listening. The panegyrics and prayers droned on and on. All she could think was how little a mark she had made in her life: a futile marriage, no children, friends who had deserted her when needed. Those who saw her dab her eyes thought it was grief, but it was remorse. It was remorse for having lived such a trite life. From now on things would be different.
Amelia followed the casket out of the church as if she was in a trance. It was dreamlike, surreal, bizarre – whatever word you wish to use. As she descended the church steps she overheard a little boy say:
“Mummy, who was the funny lady up the front in the dress with flowers on?”
“She a bit strange,” said the mother. “She thinks she was Hector’s wife, but Hector’s wife died last year.”
It was then that Amelia realized she had gone to the wrong church.
When Constantia murdered her husband she had no idea how expensive the funeral would be. Mondale’s departure was meant to be liberating for her. She would be free of the shackles of “the man of restriction” (as she liked to call him when she had had a wine or two). Now she was lumbered with an unnecessary expense because of the extravagant cost of the funeral. Not to give him a lavish funeral might well caste suspicion on the method of his demise. After all, they were rather rich.
It had been a well-planned murder. Constantia hadn’t personally murdered her husband; she had paid a hitman to do it for her. The hitman was a helicopter pilot. That too had cost the earth. However, Constantia, and her friend Barbara, had made a major contribution to the murderous methodology. Mondale had been decapitated by a helicopter rotary blade, slap bang on the back lawn. The most difficult part of the murder was trying not to sound excited when calling the emergency centre. Having starred in a high school musical many years earlier was certainly reaping dividends when it came to acting.
All that the hitman had done was to grab Mondale from behind as he was boarding his helicopter and hoist him high enough for his head to be chopped off. It was a bit messy, but was a simple idea simply executed. Why the hitman charged so much for doing practically nothing was beyond Constantia’s comprehension. Constantia referred to the incident as “a lucky strike”. She had watched and seen how simple the operation was.
And now the hurdle was to cope with the wretched expense of the funeral. Life was so unfair. Barbara, Constantia’s friend who knew everything, was willing to post online a Give-a-little-to-the-poor-widow-whose-husband-was-decapitated Fund. Constantia got thousands of dollars.
The next thing Barbara was demanding ten percent. It was such a relief when Barbara was accidentally decapitated by a rotating helicopter blade, slap bang on the back lawn.
The cold, hard reality was that Amelia had nothing to wear. Now was hardly the appropriate time to go shopping for clothes. It was her own fault. She had been given a good six months to think ahead, during her husband’s final illness, and now that George had passed on she still had nothing fitting to wear to his funeral.
It’s not exactly true that she had been remiss in looking ahead. She had purchased a beautiful outfit. Black. The matching hat had black lace to hide her reddened mourning eyes. The dress looked fabulous once the jade and diamond brooch had been brought out of its bank vault to see the light of day; a green and dazzling piece of jewellery that was unspeakably beautiful against the black fabric.
Unfortunately Amelia had worn that ensemble to Fiona’s husband’s funeral three weeks earlier. Amelia wouldn’t be seen dead in the same outfit twice. It was most inconsiderate of Fiona’s husband to drop off just a few weeks prior to her George.
There was only one thing for it; in the closet, Amelia had a stunning floral frock. It verged on the outrageous; it was brash, garish, loud. She had bought it to upstage everyone at her daughter’s wedding but the wedding had most fortunately been cancelled. A despicable man; and not at all good-looking.
Yes! The floral dress was the answer. Amelia hastily penned a note for the newspaper’s funeral announcement: For his funeral George requested that we wear something bright.
For those of you who knew her, the late Cynthia Jobin’s second book of poetry – “Song of Paper” – published by Bennison Books will be available from Amazon in a couple of days. It contains mainly those poems not in her first book “A Certain Age”.
No one knew that Viktor Plemyannikov was a Russian spy; no one, that is, except for Marjorie McAloon who was a great friend of Viktor Plemyannikov – who was unmarried and without family. In fact she herself was a spy for the British Government.
No one knew that Alphonse Lémieux was a French spy; no one, that is, except for Tessa Blanchard who was a great friend of Alphonse Lémieux – who was unmarried and without family. In fact she herself was a spy for the United States.
Coincidentally, Marjorie and Tessa were great friends, but neither knew the other was a spy.
Anyway, it seemed that Viktor and Alphonse died, apparently on round about the same day. Marjorie went to Viktor’s funeral of course, and Tessa went to Alphonse’s funeral.
Marjorie and Tessa said to each other, “What are you doing here?” It didn’t really matter anyway, because the vicar referred to him as Harry Smith and said he was a great family man.
After her husband’s death, Constantia hit the bottle. Even during the funeral in church, she was so drunk she had to be supported by her brother and brother-in-law. She kept calling out “WHA! WHA! WHAA!” which people took to be an utterance of grief, but as Constantia’s brother pointed out, it was an exclamation of exhilaration at having come into the possession of gigantic opulence.
A week or so after the funeral, Constantia decided to sober up and get on with life. Insobriety had been her way of covering up for lack of grief.
Constantia celebrated her new found fortune by buying a hat.
It’s been an utter tragedy. The whole village is in shock. Harry Dennison has been gored to death by his bulls. If anyone knew how to handle bulls it was Harry Dennison.
Harry had bred and handled bulls for a good fifty years. He’d started out with just the one cow and bull, and now it could just about be said that every bull in the county was from Harry’s stock. I suppose you could say that being gored to death by bulls is a fitting enough finale to such a (excuse the pun) bull studded life.
But the shock of it all. It’s going to affect the whole area. It’ll be a huge funeral. And getting gored by out of control bulls must be the goriest thing you can imagine. Those horns will rip open a man’s chest and stomach before you can blink. And the foot stamping on the head. And the tossing. And a bull doesn’t give up; one whiff of blood, for a mad bull in a mood, and you might as well kiss your arse goodbye.
Gored to death. I’m sorry to keep repeating it, but I’m profoundly shocked. Shocked.
What’s that? Oh! Oh dear. Harry Dennison wasn’t gored to death by bulls at all. All he said was that after fifty years he’s bored to death by bulls.