Flash Fiction

Two for One

 

‘Leadbetter and Leadbetter funeral services here.’

He felt his hand shake as he held the receiver. The risk of the double coronary was over, but he hadn’t got his strength back.

‘How can I help you?’ he asked.

‘We really need to talk to Mrs. Smith.’

‘She is not in. Shall I get her to call you?’

‘That would be helpful. Can you remind her she has a funeral booked for the day after tomorrow, but we haven’t been able to collect the body? You don’t happen to know which hospital it would be. Then we could prepare things.’

‘I see,’ was all he could manage.

‘And there are flowers to arrange, and the talk with the vicar. Mrs. Smith is a regular church-goer, but I understand her husband wasn’t, so the Reverend will need a few tips on what to say.’

‘Of course.’

‘Thank you for your consideration at such a difficult time.’

‘No problem,’ he muttered and wanted to put the phone in its holder, but Mr Leadbetter wasn’t finished.

‘One other thing.’

‘Yes.’

‘We are not allowed to …’

He realised the undertaker was searching for the right phrase. This seemed to be an unusual one, even for a man whose profession was corpses.

‘We are not allowed to er… process the deceased, um – until the death has been registered and a death certificate produced.’

‘I’m sure you aren’t,’ he agreed.

‘Quite so, but the OBMandD.’

He interrupted.

‘The OBMandD?’

‘Yes. They can’t confirm that Mr Smith has been registered – or rather, his death – if you understand.’

‘How embarrassing for you.’

‘Quite so! So if you could remind Mrs Smith that this needs to be done. Time is running out. I know the bereaved have so much to think about and we do empathise with her loss – but…’

‘It needs doing.’ He helped him out.

‘Indeed, it does! Anyway, you have been most considerate er, Mr…’

‘Smith.’ He helped him again. ‘I must inform you Mr. Leadbetter, that my wife is highly organised, but not very good at remembering details. Best cancel the funeral and I apologise for the inconvenience. Let me know if we owe you anything.

He put the phone in its holder.

 

The front door opened and his wife sent a loving coooeee down the hallway.

‘Leadbetter and Leadbetter have been on the phone my dear, and Mr Leadbetter was confused.’

The silence from the hallway was deafening. A thin voice croaked, ‘The consultant said you wouldn’t do the night.’

Her pale face peered round the door.

‘And I bumped into Mr Leadbetter,’ she continued, ‘and he was so considerate. I’m afraid I must have got carried away. Did I really book him?’

Her husband smiled.

‘Apparently so, but look on the bright side. Not many men get two funerals for the price of one and the vicar at yours, will have a priceless anecdote.’