Down at the Funeral Parlour

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“Hey Dan, do you have anything planned for this afternoon?”

He looked up from his mobile and thought a second before responding to his wife. “You know what Janey?” he said. “I heard there’s a good service down at the Funeral Parlour this afternoon. I haven’t been to a good one in a while.”

His wife paused her Facebook post and looked over, “Who is it? Anyone we know?”

“Let me take a look, love.” He pushed his glasses back up his nose and studied the obituaries. The point of his finger slowly going down the list. “Where is it now?” he whispered to himself.

“It’s not Joan Belshaw?” said Janey. “She looked terrible last time we saw her. She must be 80. Who is she hanging on for?”

“No”, he replied. His face a study in concentration. “We went to Joan’s funeral two weeks ago. What’s the matter, Janey, don’t you remember? Her husband talked about how she had aged gracefully ‘like the seasons’.”

“Bert’s always been good with words,” she said. “And, she looked so brown on that night, Dan. Wasn’t she the one who spent far too much time under a solarium.?”

“That’s right, Janey. Remember how angry she was when solariums started to close down and disappear?” He looked over at Janey and continued, “must have been in the ‘winter’ of her age.”

They looked at each other and, after a pause, laughed.

“Do you remember her colour, Dan?”

“Of course, I do Janey. She started off a subtle, golden brown, and turned into an old leather boot.”

“You know why that is, Dan?”

“Tell me, Janey. Again.”

“It’s because after the solariums closed, her husband used to stuff her into the oven to get brown.”

They both laughed. “That joke,” said Dan, “just never gets old.”

“I love that joke, Dan. Like all good jokes, there’s some truth to it.” She raises her head to Dan, “I remember her funeral now. Do you remember? They had the open casket?”

“Oh, yes, that’s right.”

“I have to tell you, Dan, I looked at her, under the bright church lights and she looked like she was in a solarium.”

“She should have been wearing her bikini, Janey.”

“Oh, Bert, don’t. I thought she finally looked comfortable, she looked at home.” Janey looked back at her screen, at the thousands of posts from people who were slowly disappearing into Funeral Parlors.

“I think Joan finally got some meaning back into her life in that casket. There was a reason to be there, which is a little different from life.”

“Sorry, Janey, what did you say? You have to speak up.”

“It was nothing, Dan.” She closed the lid of her laptop. The red diode powered down and died.

“It’s Angus” shouted Dan as if he had made an important discovery. His finger firmly stuck on the newspaper. “Angus. Do you remember him, Janey? Angus Metwood? He had that huge wart on his chin for years. It’s his service today at the Funeral Parlor.”

Janey didn’t answer. She looked away, out the window, at the blue sky, at a playful swallow sweeping across a lush, green lawn, at the teenager kicking a football in the park, at a plane flying overhead. Traveling somewhere, anywhere.

Originally published at citizen-joe.com on June 5, 2018.

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and remember where I should be.

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