map Funeral Dysfunction

by Janessa Mulepati

Published in Issue No. 270 ~ November, 2019

A funeral was not the place for an erection, especially the funeral of one’s mother. Simon knew this. He knew it so well that he imagined hellfire consuming his balls. Pubic hair for kindling. Unfortunately, this did nothing to change how attractive the undertaker was. She bent over his mother’s casket to rearrange flowers, a pencil skirt pulling tight and riding high to reveal little lace skulls on her pantyhose.

Skulls! Jesus.

“Mr. Buchwald?”


Heaven help him, she had adorable dimples.

“Do you need anything before the service starts?”

“No, thank you. I’d like a few more moments alone if you don’t mind. I need to compose myself.”

“Oh! Of course. I’m sorry.”

The woman looked sweetly apologetic, which did not help things. Simon tried to speak, but the undertaker was already walking away, her words soft but firm: “Call if you need anything.”

He held a hymnal over his lap and dug one of its corners into his stomach, focusing on the pain. Surely that would help. Guests were waiting outside the church doors for the service to begin, and he needed to greet them.

Think about your mother.

But why? She’d badgered him about his job, a too-small apartment, marriage and kids he didn’t want, and cereal with too much sugar. Once, she’d said that his preferred underwear might restrict blood flow and damage his virility, and what kind of mother used the word virility anywhere near her child?

The undertaker, half-visible near the doors, giggled at something on her phone, and the sound sent Simon’s full attention back south. The woman would be beautiful in bed, half-covered by a sheet. Her mouth….

Hell-bound. He was definitely hell-bound, and he couldn’t summon enough filial sentiment to care for even five seconds. What had the mother once told him? Get on with it and make some babies for the bloodline?

“Mr. Buchwald? I’m sorry to interrupt, but more people are arriving. Should I ask them to wait?”

“Yes! No. I….” He rose with his back to the woman. “Let them in.”

His mother deserved this kind of a mess at her funeral. Really. And anyway, maybe she would delight in seeing him so drawn to an eligible woman. For all he knew, it’d been her dying wish. Now there was a thought to kill his erection. What if she’d selected this particular undertaker with care? Mother had, after all, arranged and prepaid for her own funeral.

Simon’s arousal softened, and despite circumstances, he mourned it. He couldn’t remember the last erection of this magnitude. Damn mother and her meddling.

“Mr. Buchwald, they’re coming in now.”

“Simon.” He tried a polite smile. “Please.”

The undertaker blushed and licked her lips. Hot damn.

“Okay, Simon.”

Forget mother. Screw her, and whatever catalog of single undertakers might exist. There was nothing but this undertaker and the way she brushed hair behind one ear as he approached. For the first time today, he felt in control.

“So…” He locked eyes with her. “This must be a difficult job. The tears. Families. I have nowhere to go after this. If you’re free, we could grab coffee or…I guess that sounds weird.”

“Not at all.”

“Yeah? You’re not saying that to be polite?”

“We all heal in our own way.”

She accepted the invitation and sauntered off. Her name was Stella, and Simon liked how that matched the glow in her voice. He didn’t think about his mother once during the entire service, not even when they read her dying wishes, whatever they were. He might ask someone about it years from now after distance washed away the power of a matriarch’s will—after time sanded down the scabs over sharp words.

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Janessa Mulepati lives in the northeast United States. She is a writer at heart, an artist second, and also dearly loves her day job. Without a day job, she might become a hermit, so really, it's best for her. Right now, she is probably drinking too much coffee and working on a story. She is forever grateful to the amazing folks who encourage her creative work.