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Christopher Ananias

Unmedicated Grief

Funeral by Jindrich Prucha

We sat in the church. I whispered, “Did you know her?”

“No.” said Ann. The sun filtered onto the gray casket.

“This is fun though, huh?”

“It’s okay, I guess.” She has a bored, sleepy look that alarmed me.

My shiny shoe did a little tap-tap. I observed the crying faces, an old guy was really wailing. Ann perked up at that. When the minister spoke about God. Ann folded her arms on her chest, and her eyes clouded over.

“Where do you want to go next?”

“There’s a six o’clock viewing at Oral’s Funeral Home, but it’s a long way.”

We drove the streets. The sun flicked along the distant mountain tops. I reached between her legs, and she slapped them shut, but smiled.

Ann loved funerals. She loved all kinds of spooky things, always bringing home a new story from her hospice job. We were dressed in our professional funeral clothes. She wore a black satin blouse, and skirt with no panties, and stark white stockings. I’m the straight man in a black suit. We looked like we might live forever, with our blinding white teeth and new skin. But the process of death works against every breath and white blood cell.

The sun took a header behind the mountains. I pulled the scarlet red Hyundai up behind a line of cars. The funeral home looked like all of them with its rambling lit up porch, and the huge Willow tree. I ran around to Ann’s door; my shiny shoes slapped the payment.

“Thank you, sir.” said Ann. Trolling funeral parlors brought out the gentleman in me. Ann clicked down the sidewalk, swishing in the skirt. She abruptly stopped and bent over acting like her shoe strap needed adjusted and mooned me. My crotch bumped into her ass. She turned and smiled. I looked around, but only saw Mrs. Strep easing the long nose of her black Chrysler behind our Sonata. We knew Mrs. Strep well, she was in our circle. Circle of what, was hard to say?

I held the door for Ann, and I waited for Mrs. Strep. Mrs. Strep wore the classic black shawl, and dark dress. She was a regular old broom rider. I nodded at her. She whispered, “There’s a five o’clock viewing at Porter’s Funeral Home tomorrow night.”

We sat in the back row. A woman came in and right away started hitching and moaning. Ann bumped me and whispered. We did a lot of whispering. “She’s been sedated.”

“Hum, I’m not so sure.” I said, my finger rising like I was deducing some mystery. “See how alert she is rubbing his hand. Oh, listen.”

The woman leaned over the casket and sang, “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.” The young man seemed to be in perfect condition. He was only in a light sleep, just drifting across the River Styx.

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.”

Ann snickered a little too loud and said, “She’s high.”

Mrs. Strep, turned around on her creaky neck and said like an old busybody, “No dear, that’s unmedicated grief. Isn’t it glorious?” She sighed and turned back around and closely watched the woman.

Ann’s red lips turned down, and she looked a little ugly, glaring at Mrs. Strep’s gray bun.

Mr. Oral with his hands clasped together, smiled pleasantly off to the side, but gave us a sharp look. He knew all about our kind. We’re also part of the Bingo crowd. Once in a while someone had a heart attack.

“Isn’t that his mother? I read about this. He was only 18. Fentanyl, right?” I said.

“Od’d on H.,” said Ann.

Mrs. Strep said, “I think it was Fentanyl dipped cigarettes. There all doing that now. What the heck is Fentanyl made of?” She was like that kid in class always turned around at their desk.

“It’s a synthetic Opioid, deadly as plutonium.” I said.

The door burst open or tried too. It got jammed halfway stopping the intruder. The door was thick glass. “Open you son of a bitch!” A large man stumbled up the aisle, his hair stuck up like bed-head, sporting three day whiskers, wearing a wrinkled golf shirt hanging over tan Dockers. I could smell whiskey and sweat.

Ann whispered with a throaty excited tone. “He’s drunk.” Her bright blue eye’s were lit up.

“Oh, my—oh my… A drunk.” purred Mrs. Strep.

We got quiet and watched the show.

“My boy-my boy!” He wailed and dropped to his knees. Like some kind of actor from a Shakespeare tragedy. His large hands grabbed the casket rocking it. Mr. Oral moved fast like the Secret Service, breaking the cardinal rule for a funeral director. Mortuary 101: An undertaker shall not run. The dead require small soft steps.

Oral helped him to his feet, and the casket rocked back on its catafalque.

Mrs. Strep whispered, “Oh my, Ohhh… I’m going to cum.”

“Gross,” said Ann, giggling, her hand seeking the stone in my lap.

The mother rose from her chair, and screamed, “You drunk! You no good drunk. This is your fault!” She pounded his chest like every grief-stricken mother, since the beginning of time. The mortician stepped back into the shadows. Ann held her mouth, giggling, and I pulled her out the door. Before the big drunk turned on us.

Mrs. Strep said. “See you at Porter’s.”

At home I took a long cold shower. Ann has become more obsessive about that. I lay on the bed naked with my arms crossed, shivering, hands touching my shoulders in the dead man’s pose. I stare up at the ceiling fan, that glides to a stop. Ann requires absolute silence. I am Ann’s now. Soft fingers push down my eyelids. I am not to move, or it will break the spell. Cold coins touch my eyelids. She lifts her skirt and sings, “Hush little baby don’t say a word.”

About the writer:
Christopher Ananias enjoys wildlife photography. He likes to walk along the railroad tracks, dodging trains. His work has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Grim and Gilded, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and others.

Image: Funeral by Jindrich Prucha (1886-1914). Oil on cardboard. No size specified. 1911-12. Public domain.

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