I was alone at a funeral, preparing a grave-side tea and biscuit service. There was a light rain falling and a westerly breeze. I had no way of knowing they were coming. I had my back to them, didn’t see them dragging themselves towards me from the car park. They were silent and lumbering. Obese extras from a John Carpenter film they surrounded me with their pendulous arms, thighs bulging like rolled up futons. What could they possibly want?
“Cup o’ tea please love.”
Earlier that day, Belinda had put the question to me.
“You alright to go and serve grave-side refreshments for a mid morning function?”
“Right…it’s a bit unusual but some of the punters go in for it.”
“Yeah alright then…”
So there I was…
Think “The Munsters” without any of the quirky charm. Think, fifty-odd people from the same stagnant genetic pond. I’m not being cruel, just telling it like it was. Some people should not breed, should not be allowed to. They may of course be part of some government endorsed experiment.
That would explain a lot.
The funeral director was from ‘Simplicity’. They all have names like that: Ease, Calm, Reassurance. In this line of business ‘Moody’ & ‘Prank’ don’t get many calls, although I’m beginning to wonder. The casket lowering device ground to a halt halfway down. Far too much weight. Two minutes of mild panic ensued until the undertaker fetched his hand winch and started winching. After three turns it slipped, fell out and bounced into the grave. Without a second thought he leapt in after it. It was obviously his favourite hand winch. Personally I’d have left it there and got another one. The funeral director was now sniggering behind her hand. Most unprofessional I thought.
Here’s the thing: is it better to bury a man with a handle to a casket lowering device – what’s he going to do…winch himself back up again? – or jump into his open grave to retrieve it. This is not a dilemma I’ve been taught to deal with. Even Shakespeare didn’t cover this one, not that it would help this crowd if he had. The attendees didn’t look like they saw echoes in literature old, new or any past issues of Hello magazine. Totally unfazed, they had a refreshments break during which the grandmother gave the children gingerbread men she’d baked in the shape of her late husband. Oh yes she did. The children walked round munching and chatting.
“I’m eating grandpa’s head.”
“I’ve got his legs.”
They consumed him in large bite sized pieces until finally the undertaker rose triumphantly from the grave with the hand winch and some of the family members applauded as though they hadn’t expected to see him again.
The Munsters travelled by car. None of them walked the five hundred metres from the cemetery to the memorial home. Six of them were in wheelchairs for no other reason I could see but sheer bulk. I opened the double doors and stood off to one side feeling like Nate in ‘Six Feet Under’. Then they arrived and descended on the food like a pack of bulimic hippos, devouring sandwiches and cakes as though they’d been ordered to do so by Major Calorie and General Obesity themselves. Sweets left in bowls around the room were swept into handbags. Two of the bowls went in with them. I overheard a large gathering – that’s two people in this case – wondering what the complimentary packets of tissues would go for on eBay. They have “Funeral Home” and “Memorial Park” written on them and are not something you’d would want to whip out in a cinema to comfort someone with.
I have to say I admire their ruthless efficiency. I feel pleased with myself when I get home with tea and coffee sachets from a hotel room but that’s just peanuts in comparison, ranking as nothing more than amateur pilfering. This crowd hoovered up every last crumb and drop of drink we had. I’m surprised they didn’t have doggy bags and flasks with them – this is one area I feel they could improve in.
I worked furiously, bringing out more and more food. Mainly out of fear that in their hunger they might turn their attentions on me. Marooned on a desert island with this lot you wouldn’t last past morning tea; you’d be toast, as they say, or casserole or whatever else took their fancy. No one in the sixty strong gathering appeared to be from a different gene pool except for one slim Latino girl who was so out of place I can only assume she was there researching her genetics thesis. This monstrously obese family would provide enough material for several PHDs and more insight into the dangers of inbreeding than any royal family. The Latino girl and I became increasingly aware of one another. It was hard not to. We were two sheep amongst wolves. I was tempted to slip her a floor plan with emergency exits should things turn nasty. Out in the open we could outrun them.