Heather Bartos

Two Tickets to a Funeral

I met my true love on a brilliant, apple-blossom April morning when I went out to haul the trash to the curb and found him sitting there instead. The real trash, the one who had ruined his day although he didn’t know it yet, had already been picked up a few minutes before.

“How do you think he’s going to take it?” I asked her as she flounced out the front door, sloe-eyed and sullen, blonde curls and barely covered curves.

Vivian shrugged. “Better to let him down now.”

I snorted. That would mean she had considered someone’s feelings other than her own, and that was just not possible.

Her ride pulled up, a Navy guy with a wicked set of tattoos, biceps bulging. His Brut cologne drifted out the window.

“See you later!” she shouted, although I was only standing two feet away. She waggled her shiny red nails in a wave.

I went back into the house. Potatoes aren’t going to peel themselves.

Within ten minutes, I spotted him and went back outside. He looked like Ronald Colman in “A Tale of Two Cities,” with dark wavy hair and a cleft chin. He looked as if he had seen a few things and knew a few things we didn’t. She hadn’t told me he was so good-looking. If he had any tattoos, they were under wraps.

“Good morning,” I said, thinking, It won’t be for much longer, my friend.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m supposed to meet Vivian. I’m a few minutes early.”

“Well, actually…. you’re late. My sister just left,” I said.

His face crumpled, like a piece of notebook paper balled up and thrown at a wastebasket.

“Oh,” he said, just a single, empty syllable.

“She left with some big guy with tattoos,” I told him. “He knows where the bodies are buried. He might have some in his trunk now.”

He looked a little startled and then laughed.

I crouched down, pretending to wield a knife.

“‘Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear….’”

He started to smile.

“‘And it shows them, pearly white….’”

He started singing along.

“Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe, and he keeps it out of sight.’”

We both laughed.

“Vivian will be a perfect mobster wife,” I said. “She’d be happy to keep secrets for her man.”

“Doesn’t it make you feel disloyal to speak of your own sister that way?” he asked.

I paused, considering, and then said, “No.”

There was a lot of history in that no. When you have a sister as gorgeous as Vivian, there’s always a lot of history.

“You’re pretty funny,” he said.

“Well, thank you, thank you very much,” I drawled in my best Elvis impersonation.

His voice dropped a few notes lower. “You’re also pretty.”

I pretended I hadn’t heard him. Vivian attracted a certain number of nut cases.

“So, you have the rest of the day off,” I said. “All this lovely suburban landscape is yours to explore.”

I gestured up the street, but then saw what was coming and lowered my arm. It was Mrs. O’Leary and her son, Mikey. His shrieks were growing steadily closer, like an air raid siren warning of imminent attack.

Mikey was the reason I attended Confession on a regular basis. He singlehandedly managed to shut down the entire Catholic grade school with the help of a pair of pliers and a frog. Folks who were opposed to birth control just hadn’t met Mikey yet.

It was too late. His mother had already seen me.

“Irene,” she shouted. “Vivian is supposed to watch Mikey. Where is she?”

“She’s not home,” I said.

“Well, you’ll do just as well,” she said. “I need someone right away.”

Mikey’s eyes rolled back into his head like he needed an exorcism.

“I’m sorry,” Vivian’s former date said. “That won’t work.”

Mrs. O’Leary glanced at the man who had just stood up for me and next to me.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Officer Tate of the Las Vegas Police Department,” he said. “I’m conducting an investigation. We are looking for bodies.”

He managed to keep a straight face, but his eyes were dancing.

Mrs. O’Leary squinted at us.

“Is that so,” she said.

“Yes,” he answered. “Yes, ma’am, it is. I need Irene for questioning.”

 Mikey threw a rock at a cat in the neighbor’s yard. It let out a pitiful yowl.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, then. I’ll see if Suzie is home.”

She nodded at us both. They proceeded up the street like a rounded, red-headed, two-person wrecking ball.

“Poor Suzie,” said the man.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Suzie,” I said. “Suzie knows how to take care of herself.”

“How about you?” he asked. “What are you doing this afternoon besides dodging indentured servitude?”

“Thanks for getting me out of that,” I said. “You have no idea.”

“Oh, I have nephews,” he said. “I know.”

He was quiet a moment, then said, “I have to take you out for questioning. What things you like, what things you don’t like.”

“I don’t like Mikey,” I said.

“I have two tickets to a funeral this afternoon,” he said, taking them out of his pocket. “3pm, downtown at the Highland for Psycho.”

“There would be a funeral then,” I say. “Mine. Vivian met you first.”

“Yeah,” he said. “And she seems pretty possessive. So possessive she’s out with another guy.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “She does that sometimes. Don’t take it personally.”

He stepped a little closer. “I’m not sorry. Can I see your palm for a minute?”

I held it out. He scrutinized it, running his finger over it. It wasn’t cold out, but I shivered.

“Ah, here,” he said. “This says you have to go out for questioning with me. And then to the movies.”

The nicest thing my sister ever did for me was a nasty thing to do to someone else. But he says he didn’t mind.

Heather Bartos lives near Portland, Oregon, and writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She holds a Master’s degree in special education and a Doctoral degree in educational leadership. She has a poem that will be published soon in Porcupine Literary, an essay just published with miniskirt magazine, and essays that will be published later this fall in Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine and Stoneboat Literary Journal.