Friends at a Funeral
The summer day smells like popcorn. The grill is sizzling at the other end of the garden but the thin stack of smoke is being blown away from us, across the fields to south. Uncle Artie is tending to the meat, doling out burgers and sausages to the kids who come up to him holding open buns and baps. Despite everything there is a happiness to be found here, a much needed coming together for the family. Aunt Edi would be proud. You gotta give the lady props to be able to command this sort of reception, this sort of forgiveness. Pity it could only be obtained through her death. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw my Grandfather and my Uncle Edmund speaking, let alone getting on.
I’m sitting on a lawn chair watching my nephews playing an impromptu game of soccer with my brother, who is sprinting across the makeshift pitch with the best of them, as if he wasn’t decked out for a funeral. I shake my head.
“I hear you, bro,” Says Bladder from beside me, “His energy is ridonk, right?”
“Ridonk?” I ask, looking over at him.
“You know, Ridonkulous. It’s nutzo. I can’t run like that without the penguin suit.”
“Right?” I laugh. Bladder has been Bobby’s best friend for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember I’ve never really been able to work out why. He’s a decent guy, for sure, but Bobby and him are so wildly different that I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what fuels the chemistry between them, but he’s family now. Of that there can be no doubt. Don’t ask about the name. It’s a long story.
I become aware that a stranger in a suit is walking slowly over to us, a thin hand-rolled cigarette hanging limply from his lips. I think it’s kind of inappropriate. His hair is a messy tussle of brown atop his head, his face fostering a semi-vacant expression and he walks with the self-assured cool that only a male model on a catwalk can muster.
“Hunter, my man,” Bladder says, getting up and slapping hands and bumping shoulders with the new guy. A long time ago Bladder tried to teach me such an opening routine but I refused to go through the process of learning it and, thus, lost the privileges. I stand up so that I’m not the bozo sitting down and, rather than wait for Bladder to do the impossible, introduce myself.
“Christian,” I say, holding out my hand, “Nice to meet you.”
“You’re Christian?” he asks, seemingly incredulous. He looks to Bladder for confirmation.
“Ha, uh, I guess?” I add, “you seem to have me at a disadvantage.”
“Hunter,” he says, finally taking my hand and shaking it, “I’m Bobby’s boyfriend.”
“Oh, right,” I say as the man, the myth, the douche runs off the pitch towards us.
“Yo yo, don’t you homos be talking trash about me,” he shouts, jumping on Hunter’s back who seems totally prepared for it – seriously, he hardly shifts and his arms instantly clamp tight around my brother’s legs – and kisses him on the cheek from above.
“Where’s Emma, bro?” Bobby asks, looking around as if he’ll suddenly spot her, “I didn’t see her at the service.”
“Oh, no, she’s back home,” I say, slightly awkwardly, “she didn’t think her prescence would be appreciated at a funeral.”
“Right, girl’s got a point,” Bobby replies, grimacing.
“Mmm,” I agree, sipping on my beer.
“I get it,” Hunter says, nodding sagely, “relationship’s too… fresh for family affairs?”
Bobby and I laugh. It’s a strange sound at what is a wake. “Something like that man, something like that.”
to be continued (TOMORROW!!)