FUNERAL CHAT By Melodie Corrigall

In response to Fred’s question, “What’ll I say at your funeral?” Chunker, who was slumped over a pint of the cheapest, jerked up and asked, “Am I dying?”

“After today’s fiasco, I want to plan ahead,” Fred said. “As your best friend, I’ll be a speaker at your gig.”

“Don’t call it a gig, that sounds too cheerful.”

“Whatever, I’ll be center stage.”

“Sure, Janet will be overcome with grief and my ex, Betsy, won’t come back from wherever to gloat.”

“So, I want to be ready.”

“It’s creepy to imagine my obit waiting in your underwear drawer.”

“No way. It’ll be in my desk with my bills.”

“Still, it’ll be set to go.”

“Why not, newspapers have famous celebs’ obits on the ready.”

“Famous I’m not. And anyhow what makes you think I’ll be first out?”

“Maybe not. I’m also leaving notes for my service. Danny Boy for a song.”

“No way, that’s too sad. We’ll need something upbeat.”

“My funeral, my choice. You do agree Bert’s funeral was a bust?”

“Yeah. He’s lucky he missed it. Who was the dude who spoke?”

“A guy who runs the curling rink. Bert’s wife got the place rent free if he could pitch the place.”

“So that’s why he plugged curling.”

“And didn’t mention Bert’s wives.”

“You mean other than Merle?”

“Yeah, Bert was proud to have had as many wives as Henry the eighth.”

“He didn’t give up easy.”

“So, to avoid a similar fiasco, what do I say about you?”

“What’s the rush? Do I look sick?” asked Chunker.

“You are a bit pale.”

“No wonder. There hasn’t been a stick of sun for months?”

“There are tanning places.”

“They give you cancer.”

“True but our health is reflected in our guises.”

“Our what?”

“Guise, how we look. I read that in Men’s Health at Dr. Willow’s.”

“You were at Dr. Willow’s? Is there something he isn’t telling me?”

“Like you should drop a few pounds?”

“I’m cutting back. I didn’t ask for more fries.”

“But you insisted we come to Eat Lots which keeps its promise of quantity rather than quality.”

“Don’t get off track. What besides Bert’s ceremony is behind your talk about funeral speeches?”

“Who can predict when someone suddenly gets a fatal disease like Bert did? Then when death is hanging outside the door, everyone puts on earmuffs and pretends the patient will last forever.”

“Well I’m in good health except for the few pounds, which Janet doesn’t mind.”

“What about accidents? I read yesterday that a cow fell through a roof unto a guy and killed him.”

“Coffee News is not a reliable source of information. Besides when was the last time you saw a cow on a roof?”

“It could be a horse.”

“We live in the center of town, how many horses do you see?”

“Did you know that if someone dropped a coin from the top of a skyscraper, and it hit you, you’d be a goner?”

“We have no skyscrapers, and if someone chucks a coin off city hall—proud at two stories—I’ll take my chances.”

“Or you could be murdered in cold blood.”

“The only one who threatens to murder me is Janet when I forget to take out the garbage.”

“Sure but now you’re in the money you’re a likely target.”

“I hardly call the $5,000 I won at Bingo, money. Anyhow no one except you and Janet know and she’s the only one who’d benefit. She couldn’t risk it. They always look to the spouse first.”

Mention of his wife reminded Chunker he’d promised to go straight home after the funeral to aerate the back yard although why Janet’s sudden interest in the garden was a mystery. It wasn’t as if they were selling the place.

Later that night noticing the tell tale ketchup mark on Bert’s shirt, Janet said. “You’ve been eating fries? You want me to be widowed? The insurance doesn’t kick in for another three months?”

Insurance? He’d forgotten about that. Janet and Fred had persuaded him to buy a policy pointing out that if Janet died (but why would she, she was healthy as a horse) he would be a rich man. But what if he died first?

“You know,” his wife said. “Poor old Bert lived such a careful life and then died fairly young. We should live while we can. Do something daring. Well, you should, you’re more athletic than I am. I’ll cheer you on.”

“Like dragon boating?” Chunker asked.

“No, you need water to do that, like bungee jumping. There’s an intro course at the community center that promises you can be in top form in a few months.”

Chunker slouched down on the couch, suddenly alert to the clues. He pictured Fred sauntering to the front of the church, and wading into his prepared speech. All the while planning how to sell the house with the well aerated lawn. Before the deed was signed, he and Janet would take off to someplace exotic to spend his life insurance money. But how would they do it? Get him skydiving and cut the parachute line? He’d fool them and not do anything risky.

Janet squeezed in beside him on the sofa and pinched him awake. “I’m sorry to be such a nag. Why shouldn’t you have a Huge Burger and fries? And as many beers as you like. Enjoy TV, forget exercise, it’s boring. You only live once.”

Gotcha, he thought, that is exactly what he would do. He’d live his once. From now on he’d only drink two or three beers a day even if Fred urged him to join him for a fourth. And he’d have no fries, well few fries. And he’d walk the block to the pub. He’d outlive Janet and Fred and end up living the high life on his own insurance earnings and he’d only come back to town to speak at their funerals.