The Goodbye Girls' Blog

Funeral: Real Fun

The Devil Has The Details

the-devil-has-details-goodbye-girlsWanting to avoid unsolicited observations about her appearance, Aislin waited until Letty was in the back garden before zipping out the front door. She was ahead of schedule, so drove to Picnic Park to assess it in terms of access, toilets, parking, and proximity to neighbours. If City Hall had already issued a permit, it was not her problem if the neighbours complained, and she was pretty sure they would. If they were smart, they would lock their doors and leave town for the day—an appealing thought. 

The park maintenance crew was out in force, trimming up trees, edging walkways, installing extra garbage cans and portable toilets. Traffic barriers were stacked and ready to be placed. 

Despite the whine of machinery and a small army of park workers, there were some die-hard park users. And then she realized they weren’t locals out for a walk; they were undercover cops. She watched the workers and noticed some were more efficient and focused; others were not. One gave her a hard once over as he strolled past with a rake. She assumed her license plate had been recorded and her photo taken. 

Deadheading & Dead Men

deadheading-and-dead-men-goodbye-girlsLetty showed Aislin how to hold the stem and break off the spent rhododendron blooms without harming next years’ buds. Aislin had not thought to bring gloves, so her fingers quickly grew a mudge of dirty, sticky sap. She hated the stickiness. 

“If you can’t manage the deadheading, why are you so careful not to break off next year’s buds? It seems like you’re aiding and abetting your doom.”

“What a question! Why would I deny myself the indulgence of all this colour after a long, wet winter? Most people think of spring bulbs as the harbingers of better days, but not me. I like to watch the big buds swell. And I like the solid comfort of the trunks and branches. Bulbs are a bit ephemeral for me.” 

“If you say so. But, it seems to me you need to watch what you wish for.” Taking advantage of the unscripted opening, she followed up with, “Speaking of wishes, how was your conversation with Otto?”

Otto’s Riddle

Otto's-riddle-goodbye-girlsLetty poured the tea and passed around the cookies. They sipped in silence. 

“Anyone know how to plan a funeral?” asked Sarah.

“Not a clue,” replied Aislin. Looking at Letty, “Was hoping, with your vast experience in attending them, you would be our advisor.”

“I’ve only been to funerals for people who die of natural causes. Nice people. Not murdered bikers.”

“Really? You’re suddenly aware that we have a problem here? Where was your concern when Mr. 10-Gauge was dripping charm all over you two? I still can’t believe we’re going to work with a guy called 10-Gauge!”

Drinkin’ & Dancin’

drinkin-and-dancin-goodbye-girls“Fine. We’re in, but I am neither happy nor comfortable. For the record.” Aislin crossed her arms. “And, I suggest we all prepare our last wishes before we get going. And further to that thought, who will do our funerals if we all die in the crossfire?”

Letty poured liqueurs for each of them, which they drank in silence, Sarah grinning widely, Letty looking bemused, Aislin frowning. Sarah jumped up and started jigging around the kitchen. She dragged a reluctant Aislin in, and after a few turns around the kitchen, Aislin grabbed Letty. Elaine barged in. 

“What is going on? I’ve been worried sick about you, Letty. I’ve left three messages. I heard a biker gang was here. And here you are all dancing? And drinking? It’s not even noon! Letty, you know you’re supposed to avoid excitement. It’s not good for your blood pressure.”

And then Jim Brownlee barged in. “Anyone hurt?”

A Rift Arises

a-rift-goodbye-girlsAislin ran into her room to change. Flipping through her office clothes, she pulled out her most severe suit jacket and favourite jeans, both of which felt a bit tight. She checked her bum in the mirror; then switched the jacket for a long sweater. She ran back downstairs, checked to make sure Fitz was still in sight, and assembled the coffee tray, trying not to slam the coffee mugs. Steeling herself to be pleasant and not show fear, she went out to greet the bikers, who were smiling and chatting with one of the neighbours about the bikes.

“Good morning. Here’s your coffee. Mr. Whiteside, can I bring you a coffee?”

“No, that’s fine, Aislin, but thanks. I was just telling these young men how I always wanted a Harley. I had dreams of cruising through my retirement with the wind in my face, but the missus wouldn’t go for it. I heard these bad boys coming well before they arrived. Couldn’t believe my luck. What a great way to start the day.”

Letty & 10-Gauge

Letty-and-Ten-Gauge-Goodbye-girlsAislin was wired from top to toe. She took a hot shower, but there was no calming down. Sleep came in snatches and ended in full-body spasmodic twitches. Intermittently, hysterical laughter engulfed her. It was a relief to hear the obnoxiously insistent robins. She squeezed into her running gear. It had been a month since she’d last laced up. She crept downstairs, careful to avoid the creaky treads, and slipped out. It was a hard re-introduction to running, but it was good to feel her muscles singing again. And the air was sweet and fresh. 

Letty was up and making coffee. Riding her endorphin high, Aislin greeted Letty cheerfully and made small talk about her run, her running schedule when she lived in Vancouver and all the positive differences between the two running experiences. Letty replied monosyllabically. Breakfast was a quiet affair. 

“Sarah and Fitz are coming over at nine. Fitz wants to see you and Secretariat.” Letty’s face softened. “Also, apparently, we have our first gig as funeral planners. This all came down yesterday while I was out.” Aislin hoped Letty would not latch onto what went down between them.

Riding In Hearses With Boys

riding-in-hearses-goodbye-girlsAs her fury came off the boil, she started to take in the houses and gardens. The mid-afternoon light threw soft shadows through the grand old maples that lined the quiet streets. The houses were modest, with good bones. They looked lived in and loved, not tarted up and on show.

A few people were tending their front gardens or washing their cars. No one seemed to recognize her. She didn’t feel as exposed as she expected. Her jaw and fists unclenched. She even returned waves.

“Hey, Mo, you allowed out without Curly?”

Aislin stopped and stared. Nothing of what she was looking at fit together. Standing in front of her, soapy mitt in hand, was Nick. And in front of him was a hearse, covered in suds. Her mind struggled sluggishly to process the scene.

“I thought you were a vet?”

Plotting A Party

plotting-a-party-goodbey-girlsLetty’s seventy-fifth birthday was galloping down the calendar. Aislin had not been home to celebrate with her since she moved to Toronto for university. Sending a card and a quick phone call were the only markers. One year she emailed Letty rather than send a card but instantly regretted it as it invited regular communication. 

She was devoid of ideas on how to celebrate her gran’s birthday. She tried subtly asking how past birthdays had been celebrated but was delivered a withering look, which she knew was well deserved. Elaine would know, but Aislin could not stomach the idea of asking her for help. 

Instead, she texted her one-stop source of information. “Hey, I need to pick your brain about how to celebrate Letty’s upcoming birthday.” 

Sarah instantly replied, “Meeting at 10, in the office.” The rapidity of Sarah’s responses sometimes caused Aislin to wonder if she hovered over her phone, waiting for a message. She had mentioned that the transition from working to having a baby was tough, the worst part being the empty inbox. Her solution had been to sign up for a wide variety of newsletters so that she could hear the satisfying ping of incoming mail. Aislin, on the other hand, relished her empty inbox. 

What’s Missing?

what's-missing-goodbey-girlsAs soon as Sarah settled in their booth the next morning, Aislin asked her what she knew about Otto. Sarah didn’t know much, so she texted her older brother, Sean, who worked as a gardener at The Maples for a few years. He responded right away with some remarkably insightful observations about Otto’s private life. 

“Wow, way to go, Sean. Who knew he paid any attention to anything that didn’t have a motor?” Sarah shrugged and summarized Sean’s reply. “Sean really liked the guy. Otto and Cynthia weren’t a happy couple.” Sarah looked up from her phone. “For Sean to notice, it had to be bad.” And then went back to reading aloud, “Cynthia ran everything from behind the scene. Otto was basically her puppet. Otto always seemed sad. They never had kids, and Sean thinks that was why. Otto took an interest in Sean’s adventures with cars and tried to help him develop some goals. Otto’s dad lived with them until he passed, and that made things really tense in the marriage. The old man was a bit of a rogue, and more than one assistant quit because of him. At one point, the dad was in a senior’s home but got kicked out, probably because he was a dirty old man. So, Otto and Cynthia had to take him in. That’s about all. Why the interest in Otto’s background?”

True Confessions

true-confessions-goodbye-girlsAislin’s commitment quailed at times. Was she fair to Sarah by surging ahead when she was on such shaky emotional grounds? She pulled over before entering the grounds of The Maples, rolled down the windows and inhaled deeply. The scent of newly mown spring grass mingled with the smell of the ocean slowed her heart rate. She had not made an appointment, so she could sit there and breathe as long as needed. 

She drove a bit further. When she saw the parking lot, she stopped again. She was hoping it would be full, but no such luck. She checked for messages. No urgent call from Letty. Nothing from Sarah. After a few moments of cursing about her cavalier offer to drive out and talk to Otto, she put the car in gear and slowly entered the expansive gardens. The beds, which glowed with daffodils and cheery primula, worsened her descending dark mood. It was incongruous and wrong to have such cheerful floral displays in a setting that processed death. 

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