The little white coffin rested on the church
plinth, waiting to slide into the oven beyond.
Rivers of grief should have been flowing down my
cheeks. There should have been immense pain,
greater than the ache in my chest and sick feeling
in my stomach on the day my dog died. I looked
around at the congregation. There were few
people sitting in the pews and most were personal
friends come to lend support. A fly settled on my
hand; I watched it stroke its legs and wondered
how many of its twenty-one days had passed.
‘You’ll miss me when I’m dead,’ my mother said
throughout my childhood.
I didn’t miss her—she wasn’t really inside the
white oblong, her heart still and flesh cold. She
was at home, drinking her morning glass of
grapefruit. She’d be on the telephone later telling
me that I’d done everything wrong. A white coffin
wasn’t dignified—my wreath with its multitude of
chrysanthemums too garish.
I heard her voice echo from the box. ‘Why didn’t
you arrange for a horse and carriage to carry the
coffin? You know that’s what I always wanted.’
I turned the Order of Service between my fingers.
‘I asked the funeral director, Mum. He said they
didn’t have that sort of thing.’
‘You should have insisted.’
‘They only have horse and carriages at big state
‘Isn’t that just like you? Always ready with an
I stared dry-eyed at the minister. He’d lost most
of his hair and spread what little was left over the
bald patches. He had on his concerned yet
optimistic face as he told the congregation and my
mother about the joys of heaven.
‘The poor fool—thinks there’s a little man called
God waiting to give me a hug, does he? Who’s
that sitting beside you?’
‘My friend Brenda and her husband.’
‘Where’s your husband?’
‘Why are you asking me? You know he’s gone.’
‘Oh, yes. Ran off and left you didn’t he.’
‘He had his reasons.’
‘Couldn’t face his creditors and left you to sort it
out. You can pick ‘em, can’t you, Jean.'
‘That’s rich coming from someone that sucked
sweetness from the first few years of three
marriages and then went on her merry way.’
‘What did you say?’
I shifted in my seat and Brenda put a gloved hand
on my knee. ‘You okay?’ she whispered.
‘I’m fine,’ I replied.
‘If a plain, dumpy woman like her can keep her
man, why can’t you? You flit from one to the
other, why don’t you settle down?’
‘I don’t want to settle down, Mum. I’m done with
‘It’s done with you, you mean.’
Light from the stained glass window threw
coloured patterns on the side of the coffin. I
screwed up my eyes and tried to make them into
an image. A field of yellow corn with a tree in the
background, a sandy beach and a lone walker,
melted butter and a spoon.
‘There you are, daydreaming again. No wonder
you did so badly at school. You can’t even
concentrate at my funeral.’
‘Why can’t you understand, I’m happy, Mum. The
past is done and I like where I am.’
Red velvet curtains parted and the little coffin
moved silently along the ramp.
‘You like where you are? At my funeral? You’ll be
sorry for this. You’ll—’
‘Let us pray,’ said the minister.
Maureen Wilkinson is a British author. Her taste in writing
ranges from horror to humour. In the past years she has
successfully submitted short stories and flashes to various
magazines. When accepted she wanted to tell the world.
Unfortunately the world wasn't that interested and she may
have inadvertently bored several of her friends to death before
learning to keep her mouth shut.