Paul.E.Bailey’s World – Funeral without a Friend (Short Story)

I take a look at the lines of pews and spy a place, but to be honest I really don’t fancy sitting on that cold, hard wood. Instead, I decide to stand here at the back and watch the service take place from this viewpoint.

There’s quiet murmuring all around as they await the emergence of the reverend. Over the last few months of my life he was somebody who I got to know quite well.

Oh; did I fail to mention I’m dead? That this is my funeral?

You probably heard all about it in the news. It was quite a big deal. Everybody was shocked. I’m only…was only forty-one years old. I was pretty famous too. I’d starred in the same soap opera since I was about ten. My name was pretty much synonymous with the show, except obviously I pretty much became known by my onscreen moniker. Often I’d be referred to as Carl rather than James.

Not to toot my own horn, but I was a damned good actor. I was a good-looking bloke too. I scooped a few awards during my life and was even voted the sexiest man in the soaps on a number of occasions in…whatever magazine! Yeah, things were pretty sweet.

So, what happened to me? Simple really. I finished shooting one evening; a scene with my onscreen wife and kids. After filming, I drove to the pub and had a couple of quiet pints. After that, I went home and cried for a couple of hours whilst consuming a bottle of vodka before shooting myself in the head.

Why did I do that?

The answer isn’t too difficult to explain. I don’t have a single person in my life. I was orphaned as a child. I have no mother or father. I have no wife or girlfriend. I have no children. I have no friends. I have literally nobody. I never have. The only conversations I had with co-workers were onscreen with the occasional discussion about an upcoming scene. After filming, I’d occasionally ask if they wanted to get a drink or something, but they always declined.

I don’t know what it was. For whatever reason, nobody could relate to me and nobody even tried. I had a couple of girlfriend’s in my earlier years as a TV star, but it never lasted long and it always seemed they were doing it more because of my fame than anything else.

The reverend I sit here waiting for now, Barry, became the only person I had to talk to. I always felt like a hypocrite when I did because I don’t even really believe in god (note the lowercase ‘G’). What he told me made no sense, but he at least spoke to me. Would he have done so if it wasn’t his job? Well; why should he differ from anybody else?

You wouldn’t think somebody of such fame would be so lonely would you? I imagine there’s always that belief that somebody like me would never go wanting. You’d be right where my finances were concerned. I wasn’t rich, but I certainly had enough to live very comfortably. I had all the mod cons in my house and drove around in a flash Aston Martin DBS. I didn’t want for anything.

Except I did. I’d have exchanged it all for even one true friend. Just one!

I sit here and look around the room. Not one of the charlatans here could’ve given a shit about me. It makes me angry that a lot even have the gall to show up. One old bat sat a few rows down; been on the show for about fifty years. She wouldn’t have pissed on me if I was on fire! My onscreen best mate, Neil; he couldn’t have made it more clear that he didn’t like me once the cameras weren’t rolling. Even went as far as telling me not to talk to him outside the studio once. I wish I knew what I’d done to provoke such a reaction.

Barry comes out and the place goes immediately quiet. There’s a prayer. Blah, blah, blah! He follows that up with some generic nice words that really could be describing anybody but for the references to my onscreen character and the show itself. He talks about our relatively frequent meetings towards the end of my life and how he’s pleased I found god beforehand. Found god indeed! As if I’d spend time searching for something that was clearly never searching for me!

Barry goes into another prayer before a song. I can’t help but laugh at how heartily and seriously some sing along; as though trying desperately to impress with their singing abilities. So many big egos in one room! They finish whatever morbid song it is before somebody is invited up to talk; my onscreen wife, Andrea. Her name in the show was Trina. I never understood why it was Trina and not Kat.

I always fancied her from the moment she arrived on the show. Her strawberry blonde hair hangs loosely around either side of her pale and beautiful face. Full lips are arched downwards in a frown that looks so painted on I’m expecting to see da Vinci walk in and touch it up! Green-brown eyes are glistening with tears and her voice quakes. She’s a fantastic actor.

Shortly after she first came into the show, we actually slept together. Nobody knew about it; just as well because she was married. We’d got on until that. Since then, our off-screen relationship has been just like my off-screen relationship with everybody else. I wouldn’t mind, but it was her who initiated our night of passion. In case you’re wondering, she looks fantastic naked. She’d be perfect if she wasn’t such a bitch!

Her spiel lasts for a length of time I can’t determine before the show’s producer, Francis, steps up. To be fair to him, he isn’t such a bad bloke. There was no relationship between us as such, but he was a pleasant enough man when we spoke. He doesn’t bang on about what an impact I had on him and all that crap. He talks about what a good actor I was and the importance I held on the show. I enjoy his speech. It’s not full of fakery. Fair play to him.

Then up steps Neil. Fuck this! I’m out of here. I’m not even real so I can’t smash his face into the altar as he talks his bollocks! I block out his drivel as I walk through the wall and outside to the cemetery. It looks cold, but I wouldn’t know. I can’t feel external sensations anymore. I head out into the forest of gravestones. The mound of earth marking where my plot will be soon comes into view.

I stand alone when I reach it. I just stare into the six foot deep hole and ruminate on how my rotting corpse is set to remain there for the rest of eternity. I wonder momentarily if the creatures will zero in on my facial wound first. Do creatures even eat your corpse or is that just a myth?

I’m alone. In death as I was in life, I’m alone. There’s absolutely no difference in my spirit or whatever I’ve become wandering from place to place without anybody noticing in death as when I was alive. Nobody noticed then. Nobody cared. Yes, I’m bitter. Yes, I’m disappointed. Yes, I hope all my bastard co-stars suffer hardship for the rest of their lives. Don’t you think I’ve earned the right to feel that way?

In the end, suicide was the right choice. I had nothing left to live for. The fact I went on as long as I did was a minor miracle.

I hear something behind me and swing my head around to see. It’s Andrea. She’s alone. What on earth is she doing?

She literally walks straight through me and stands by the hole my body’s going to be slung in. I walk around her slowly as she stands there with tears streaming down her face. The tears are real. The grief on her face is real. She sucks in a breath of air and her sizeable chest expands provocatively. She tearfully shivers as she releases the air and looks behind momentarily; straight into my face, only not. I move to the other side of the grave and watch her as her lips part.

“Oh, James. I hope you can hear me”.

Yes, Andrea; I can hear you.

“I can’t believe things were so bad that you chose to do this to yourself. You were still so young and had so much ahead of you”.

More riveting stories of fictional family life and our fictional children causing fictional near mental breakdowns? Yeah; I had a shitload ahead of me didn’t I?

“What kills me is seeing all of those arseholes in there pretending like they care when they don’t give a shit. In fact, that’s not true. What kills me the most is that you didn’t know how much I cared”.

Wait…what?

“I had to create a barrier between us after what happened years ago. I couldn’t risk hurting my husband. I’ve cried myself to sleep so many times thinking about it”.

What are you saying, Andrea?

“The truth is that I fell for you almost straightaway. You were so kind and helped me settle into the show so quickly. Do you know how hard it was to play the onscreen wife of a man I was completely head over heels in love with? Each kiss we shared whilst filming was bittersweet”.

She did put a lot of effort into our kisses whilst filming. This doesn’t make sense!

“The night we spent together has stayed with me ever since. I dream about it all the time. For God’s sake, James; do you know how fucking difficult it’s been for me to keep my love for you repressed all these years? My husband is a wonderful man, but you have always been the one I truly yearned for. I wish I hadn’t been such a coward. I could’ve saved you from this, but I had to be loyal to the man I married”.

She breaks down into tears again. All I can do is look at her. I honestly can’t believe what I’m hearing. For all these years I thought she despised me. She calms herself and looks skyward.

“Please know that I’m sorry for being so horrible to you over the years, James. I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings I had. Now I have to suffer your loss and it’s a burden I’ll carry around with me for the rest of my life. I hope you’re at peace now. I don’t know if the ‘other side’ exists, but if you’re there and you can hear me I just want you to know that…I love you. I love with all my heart. Rest in peace my beautiful man”.

She takes another deep breath and unknowingly fixes me with a stare. Her eyes are red owing to the tears, but she has a little smile on her lips; relieved to have gotten the deeply hidden truth off her chest. She turns slowly and walks back towards the church. I watch her long legs and shapely posterior as she moves away with elegant grace.

I don’t know how to take her words. I don’t even know if I believe them. Though if they weren’t true, why would she have stood there alone saying them? The words seemed genuine as did her body language. All these years she was harbouring feelings for me. I wonder for a moment if knowing while I was still alive would’ve made a difference.

Her form grows smaller as she moves further away. I smile a genuine smile for the first time in as long as I can remember. Who would have imagined that the person I pretended to be so close to in the public eye for so long would in fact be the person who felt closest to me in real life? It turns out I really did have a friend all this time. I just didn’t know it.

Photo Credit

Image header from www.telegraph.co.uk by Alamy

44 thoughts on “Paul.E.Bailey’s World – Funeral without a Friend (Short Story)

  1. I really liked this for so many reasons. He starts out so bitter and convinced he did the right thing, only to be smacked in the face with the realization that he was loved all along. Great story. I thought the writing form was excellent also.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I said to Rae, totally winged it. Like the wing of an A380 would look at this story say ‘shiiiiiiit, he wing dat’ (for some reason, the wing of an A380 is a stereotypical Afro-American from Compton). It was definitely a morality tale and I’m glad, though unsurprised, that you picked up on the nuances 🙂 Glad you liked it

      Liked by 1 person

      1. boned up must mean something different there. Lmao!
        Or maybe you just really, really like airplanes. haha
        I want to drive a helicopter so badly, but probably never will. Lessons are like $13k. There’s the military but I’m too old and out of shape!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. When I write I never quite know how it will end. It is just a thought and I freely write to see where that thought leads. I think I like this kind of writing most! I enjoyed the piece you wrote very much.

        Liked by 1 person

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