It was going to be a big night at the funeral home.
Two for the price of one, actually. Two wakes on the same night, each of which touched on our collective conscience, even to the point of waking it from its deep slumber. Right now, we were avoiding having to choose one open coffin over the other by, er, killing time in the snack room.
Jimmy Chimichanga fumbled around the pockets of his rose-colored sports jacket for a minute or so before producing a Taco Bell Ultimate Chalupa.
"I didn't realize this was a bring-your-own-munch kinda wake," grumbled Yogi.
"Well, I missed supper and with back-to-back wakes, who knows when you eat?" Jimmy said. "Get yourself some coffee, Yogi."
"They oughta have fudge brownies or something," I noted. "It oughta be in the cost of a wake, which I hear is considerable."
"It is at the funeral home that death becomes a principle of business," said The Professor. As is customary, no one understood.
"What was George's last name?" asked the Violent Femme. She was here because it was our anniversary and I'd promised her a midnight show somewheres.
"His name is 'Pizznozzle.' Yeah, all those Zs," reported Yogi. "His name reads like a snore."
"It reads like a name oughta be on a trophy," I said. "Like 'This year's Pizznozzle Award goes to ... '"
"It looked good on his plumber's truck," Jimmy said. "The truck said 'George Pizznozzle No. 3,' even though it was his only truck. Said the three made it look like he was a growing concern."
"Let's go take a smoke," Yogi said. "Funerals cry out for tobacco."
The crescent moon hung upside down and yellow, like an English smile. Everyone lit up and someone asked if anyone had seen George.
"I peeped in on him," Yogi said. "He's dead alright. He had a plaid jacket on that you shouldn't be caught alive in."
"He was a handsome man who spent some time and affection on homely women. Who gives men a better name?" We continued not understanding Prof.
"What did he die of?" I asked.
"Exhaustion," The Professor promptly answered. "It was Samuel Butler who wrote that life is one long process of getting tired."
"Was Butler his doctor's name?" asked Jimmy. "I heard his doctor was a Christian Scientist."
"His wife bears a startling resemblance to Colin Powell," commented Violent Femme. She likes to change the subject.
"Her name is Lisa Marie and she was born two days after Elvis' daughter," reported Yogi. "Even though her momma kept driving over all the potholes on Almonaster trying to have her on the same day."
"One time she told me her momma usta tell her 'You been late ever since. And a disappointment to your momma,'" added Jimmy Chimichanga.
A scarecrow with a hound's-tooth cap hurried past.
"There's Buckley," Yogi noted. "He'd rather go to a funeral than the Super Bowl. He'd rather one good-bye than 100 hellos."
"That must be what keeps him going," Jimmy said. "He's been on his deathbed since 1987."
Smoking implements hit the ground. "We better go look in on corpse No. 2," Yogi said. "She was almost too old to die."
"Nobody looked better in old age than Front Row," Jimmy said, "except maybe oak trees."
"Longevity is the antidote to the poison of mortality," declared Prof. "That's why during wake-talk, one so often hears the mantra: 'They lived a good, long life.' As if the years erase the eraser."
"I give up," sighed Violent Femme. "I can't understand a single, solitary thing he's saying tonight."
We headed into Parlor A, where the prize exhibit is a 97-year-old gal named Front Row because she loved to go to ball games and concerts and somehow usually ended up on the front row. She was Duke's grandma, and he would almost certainly have been here had he not had a prior engagement with the state's corrections system.
Instead, old men were everywhere. Like a drawer full of rolled-up toothpaste tubes.
"A group meeting of the CNC," The Professor remarked. "The Council of New Celibates. Living the insipid years."
Presiding over all this was Front Row's daughter, a fresh 75-year-old named Minky, Binky or Winky -- one of those names you give a parakeet.
We gave Front Row the once-over, then went off to the side. Jimmy started telling about the time Duke had run a bet for the deceased, booked the bet, which won, prompting Duke to make up some tale about not getting to the OTB because he'd been rear-ended.
"And if you don't believe in Divine Retribution, check this out," Jimmy said. "An Iranian rear-ends him and flees the scene. Duke says to me: "I been making novenas on North Rampart for this to happen. I prayed that a millionaire'd hit me and instead I get rammed by an Iranian with no passport.'"
"Maybe God only heard the first part of Duke's prayer," theorized Yogi. "Maybe he didn't hear the millionaire part. You know, maybe the Lord don't stick around that church. That ain't such a hot neighborhood no more."
"It's less than a block from the police station," I pointed out.
"See?" Yogi said. "What I tole ya?"
Just then, a wail was heard. Minky, Binky or Winky, much given to weeping, was shrieking as she attempted to climb into the coffin with Front Row. "Momma! If only we'd had more time!" was being shrieked.
"How much time did she think she was going to get?" Violent Femme whispered. "I would think three-quarters of a century ample."