July 7th: Someone at the funeral is dressed like a skank
Seen Dead In
, by Alderon Minx

The casket was closed. It made little sense to the mourners present, since Jake Alto had died without violence to his body, and was found and moved shortly thereafter – no bloating, no decomposition, nothing that needed covering by anything thicker than pancake makeup.

“Does ‘e got ‘is pecker out?” Grant Markham had already imbibed more than was expected for a viewing. He had already wailed about the loss, and already damned every higher being he could bring to mind, all that was left was to joke about the dead. “Is that why the lid’shut? Let’see then!”

In a shared moment of horror, the other guests stood motionless as Markham ambled toward the casket. They were shaken from their stupor once he started fumbling with the clasps.

“Dammit, Markham!” Lance Borden hurried forward, and encircled Markham’s wrists. “Stop it, it’s closed for a reason.”

“Oh yeah?” Markham challenged, “What?”

Lance shrugged, “None of my business.” He pulled Markham away from the casket before the drunken man could knock it or the surrounding photos and flowers over.

Dresden Funeral Home had set up the room to Lilly Alto’s specifications: the casket on the farthest end of the room, two aisles of seating just before it, five seats wide on both sides and three rows deep. They used plush tan chairs, cushioned and comfortable. Four tables for three and three tables for five were next, all covered in crisp white linens. Lilly had the affair catered by the Merry Widows – three spry ladies in their seventies who had decided to go into business. They were stationed to the left of the entrance, an open bar manned by Merry Widow 3’s grandson stood to the right.

Lance pulled out a chair at a table for 4. Creedy James looked up from his whiskey sour and raised a brow. He stood from his seat and stepped around the table to take his place at Markham’s left shoulder. Lance put both hands on Markham’s right shoulder and both pushed hard. Markham’s knees finally buckled and he plopped down onto the seat awaiting him. He reached across the table and began nursing Creedy’s sour.

Creedy sighed and moved to return the bar, “You?” he nodded to Lance.

“Are you kidding?”

Lance sat down next to Markham and took the whiskey sour for himself, “You’re drunk.”

“Noosh’it,” Markham snorted, “Jake’s damn pecker – er – ticker. Damn bad heart, damn useless pills, stupid coffin. What could’ve’appened?”

“Lilly’s choice.”

“No,” Creedy returned and pushed a glass in front of Lance, “She doesn’t know why it’s closed either.”

The lady in question took the fourth seat, “Think I should buy into the Merry Widows? They cook, I’ll plan the parties.”

“To be a Merry Widow, don’t you have to be, you know, merry?” Creedy said.

“They didn’t start out merry,” Lilly snorted. Creedy pushed his whiskey sour toward her and she downed it fast. He sighed and returned to the bar.

“I’m going to start getting rid of the guests,” Lilly said in a hush. “I have the room until 10, and I want it empty by 9.”

“Good.” Markham stomped his foot and nodded. “Wesh’ould be alone with him.”

“She meant –“ Lance started.

“Exactly,” Lilly agreed, “The five of us started together, we’ll say goodbye without an audience.”

“An’we can crank that top open ans’ee why it’s closed.”

“She meant –“

“Exactly,” Lilly agreed. “It was supposed to be an open casket, I want to know why it isn’t.”

Creedy sat down again and pushed a gin and tonic toward her, her drink of choice for the last twenty years. The five of them met in fifth grade, stayed close throughout high school, attended universities within 40km of each other and chatted or visited weekly for the last twenty years.

Lilly began making the final rounds, hands were shook, hugs were exchanged; by 9:05 the five friends were alone. Even the Merry Widows had left.

“You wouldn’t believe how annoyed that little twit was about leaving us in here. What does he think we’re going to do?” Lilly strode toward the casket and pointed at the clasps. “The casket I chose didn’t have clasps either.”

“Do you think it’s even him in there?” Creedy worried.

Markham was the first to pry at a clasp, “It’slocked.”

The group turned to Lance.

“Yes, even to a funeral,” Lance said, reaching into his front pants pocket. He flipped open the flat-tipped tool on his Swiss Army Knife and started prying at the clasps.

“This is a little weird, eh?” Creedy chuckled.

Lance lifted the lid and gasped, “A lot weird, holy shit.”

Lilly and the men crowded around the casket.

“At least’is pecker isn’t out,” Markham spoke solemnly, “Well, not all the way.”

The pink cropped top, stretched like saran wrap across his chest, the bare expanse of abdomen, then a jean skirt just long enough to cover, well, not much. Black crotchless fishnet stockings completed the look.

“Should we get the funeral director?” Creedy asked.

“I think the funeral director is well aware,” Lilly spat out.

“This isn’t an emergency,” Lance said, “But we should probably file a police report. We’ll have to do it before he’s cremated.”

They waited until the director returned to the room.

“Mrs. Alto, it’s time –“ his voice stopped as he became aware of the pried open casket. “It wasn’t me!” he wailed. He turned to the door and back to them, then back to the door.

Lance and Creedy hurried to the entrance and grabbed his arms. They hoisted them to their table. Lilly stood up and slapped him.

“I’d have punched you, but I don’t want you bleeding when the police arrive,” Lilly said.

“It wasn’t me,” he moaned, “My assistant was handling the preparations, but when you called to start the viewing an hour earlier, I came in to help finish on time. And I saw him! There was just no time! I hid him in the other casket and locked the clasps. It’s the most expensive model we have here. I – we – I don’t –“

Lance caught the man as he tumbled forward, he lowered him to the floor and stepped back.

“Se’e dead?” Markham asked.

Creedy poked him with the toe of his square toed leather shoes, “Fainted.”

* * *

“I’m going to bed.” Lilly kicked her shoes into the front hall and started up the stairs. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I could use a beer,” Markham moaned and slumped onto the couch.

“What a mess,” Lance said.

“They better not bill her for this,” Creedy returned from the Alto’s kitchen and put a beer in Markham’s hand and one in front of Lance. “I mean, the caterer’s sure, but not the room or the cremation and all the rest.”

“I doubt they’ll get around to sending her an invoice,” Lance snorted. “You know, if they even stay in business after all the legal.”

“Damn, that isn’t the image I want to keep of Jake.”

“Me neither.”

Lance and Creedy looked to Markham, waiting for his agreement.

“I took a picture with my cell phone.” Markham settled into the couch and rested his beer on his chest, “Jake always dressed’oo stuffy.”

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