From 25 Reasons: The Unwelcome Mourner

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 8th Dec 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Fiction

Another installment of 25 Reasons. Charlie hates funerals, but at this one he isn't the only unwelcome mourner...

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part One

Charlie hated funerals. He didn't see the point. The dead person was, well, dead – and unlikely to care whether someone showed up to look at her in a casket with embalming fluid. In fact, Charlie figured that dead people would have much better things to do than hang around their own funerals.

Moreover, why do women insist on everybody dressing up for funerals? When women are normally upset, like losing a job or a bad breakup, out come the sweatpants and the ice cream. Why must guys don suits, standing around a dead body like a group of Italian gangsters? The whole thing was ridiculous – getting all dressed up to put a dead body which had been pumped full of chemicals into fresh dirt. He smirked that there WAS an appropriate suit for that – the one in his car, waiting for him. He hated putting off the insulation project two weekends in a row, but husbands and fathers made compromises for their wives and children. Charlie just hoped he didn't have to make too many more compromises, because that insulation wasn't going to blow itself. No matter who died.

It wasn't that Charlie objected to the deceased – Jane's great aunt Beverly was a great lady. High spirited. Classy. She was a great conversationalist and a great cook. She loved books, and often passed her favorites down to Jane. Sometimes Charlie really liked that. She'd liked him, too – which was not something he could say about all the members of Jane's family. What was it about in-laws? At least they all could agree to love Seth. That was something.

So Charlie tried not to tug at his tie too much or complain too much about the fact that he was uncomfortable. He knew some men wore three-piece suits to the office every day – bankers, lawyers – schmucks, if you asked Charlie. It was bad enough that he was expected to dress up for conferences.

Beside him, Seth was not trying to hide his discomfort. His index finger hooked once again – none too inconspicuously – to allow him another inch between his neck and his noose. And his phone snuck out of his blazer pocket every time he thought Charlie was blocking his mother's view of him. Charlie was trying his best to be unhelpful in this regard. He loved his son, but had no intention of risking Jane's ire or taking the fall. Seth's mother was going to catch him, and when he did, Charlie would happily throw his son under that bus.

Then the music started. Six men rolled great aunt Beverly down the aisle of the chapel. They lifted the casket to walk the short steps to the front of the chapel altar and placed her casket on the platform.


"Yes, Seth."

"How do they know it won't collapse?"


"The platform. I saw them setting it up earlier. How do they know it won't buckle and fall?"

Charlie remembered wondering the same thing as a younger man. He hadn't ever gotten anyone to explain it fully to him.

"Well…" he started to say, stalling.

"Shhh!" Jane elbowed Charlie. "Show some respect."

"He had a question."


Luckily, not everyone took funerals as seriously as Jane did. The cousin on Seth's other side – Jim or Jonathon or whatever his name was – started whispering to Seth about hydraulics, levers, and pivot points. Charlie was a little jealous. Not only could he not hear the full explanation, but Jane would never fuss at someone from her extended family, and now Seth could get away with talking, too.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Two

The service was in full swing when Charlie was roused from his daydreaming by strangled gasps and startled shrieks.

"Was that a cat?"

"I don't think so."

"How the hell did that get in here?"

The best, and yet worst, comment was a little girl near the front who simply chirped "Pepe!"

There was no mistake. A skunk was wandering unsteadily up the aisle. It made its way to the platform where great-aunt Beverly lay in repose. It wandered around the legs of the hydraulic platform, the stretched out its front feet, cat-like, to lay in a ball under the casket.

"Oh, man! What if it hit a lever and the platform came down and smooshed it?" Seth asked excitedly.

"Seth! That's not funny!" Jane hissed.

Charlie silently high-fived his son. The idea was hilarious.

The officiator stopped. The funeral stopped. Fifty pairs of mourners' eyes fixated just under the casket at the black and white rodent who'd found a quiet place to nap. All the hinges, hydraulics, bolts and nuts did not offer a clear path to removing the rodent from a safe distance. No one wanted to risk their Sunday best getting sprayed. A few people got out their phones and started taking pictures. Jane could not stop Seth from searching "skunk funeral" on his own phone. Of course, when he found video, inspiration struck, and he switched his phone over, cursing himself for not catching the footage of Pepe coming up the aisle.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Three

The funeral director was at a loss for words. They had action plans for fire drills and bad weather, disgruntled relatives and unruly protesters. A sleeping skunk fit none of these protocols. Should they evacuate? Finish the service? Let sleeping skunks lie? They really just didn't know.

But Charlie knew. "Jane, I'll be right back."


"Don't let anyone else go near the skunk. I've just got to go get something out of the car."

"OK." Jane had no idea what was in the car besides Seth's swim trunks and beach towel that she'd been nagging him to get out of the car for about six weeks and about 20 plastic bags she'd been meaning to take to recycle at the grocery store. She hoped Charlie didn't think he was going to catch the skunk and toss it in a plastic bag.

More than one set of in-laws saw Charlie leave. Jane and Seth got some looks that were part sympathy and part critical judgment. Jane glared right back at them. Charlie had his faults, sure, but he wasn't just standing around like a bump on a log. "He's coming back!" Jan snapped at them. Then she kept her eyes forward, presuming to keep them on the altar, casket, or skunk.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Four

Several minutes later, when Jane had almost started to wonder whether Charlie would return, he did – in a very different kind of suit. With her eyes forward, Jane didn't see him come in.

"What is he wearing?"

"Mommy, look at the spaceman!"

Jane couldn't stop herself from turning around. Yes, Charlie did resemble a spaceman in a hazmat suit. He held Seth's beach towel in his hands.

"A hazmat suit? Charlie – where did you get a hazmat suit?"

"I was going to blow insulation this weekend, honey. But I think it'll work for this."

"Be careful honey."

"Sure thing."

Charlie was hardly an animal enthusiast, even for dogs and cats. Still, he approached the skunk determinedly. He knew he had to be calm; he couldn't show fear.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Five

Seth pushed past his mother to stand in the aisle with his camera phone. No way was he going to miss this. All the online videos mentioned that the skunks in them were parts of pranks, and had had their stinkers removed. Judging by the faint odor exuded by this fellow, Seth didn't think it was a prank, his dad was that lucky, or that he was going to miss an opportunity for viral video no matter what happened.

Meanwhile, Charlie wondered what words would soothe a potentially startled skunk. When a much younger Seth would fall asleep on the floor of the living room, Jane would need Charlie to put him back in bed. She couldn't pick him up without waking him. He hoped his magic touch would extend beyond his son. He channeled his inner skunk-whisperer, and, since he was already in a chapel, prayed for luck while he was at it.

The hydraulic arms that brought the casket platform up and down were not going to be his friends in this venture. A front approach was not going to work, either. He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes – thankful the pair he'd bought was cheap and easily replaceable. He pulled the respirator up over his mouth and nose, wishing he'd opted for something a little heavier duty than the paper one he had bought. Fifteen-ninety-nine no longer sounded so expensive compared to getting a snout full of skunk odor. But he hadn't bought the suit for this, he reminded himself, and was just grateful to have what he had. Some skin on his face was still exposed, but at least his tie and jacket were off. A worthy trade, he chuckled as he'd doffed them outside the car.

Since he couldn't approach the skunk from the side, he walked to the head of the casket and crouched down.

"Great Aunt Bev," he said. "I could sure use your help more than your sense of humor right about now."

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Six

That said, he reached under the casket. He placed the beach towel on one side of the skunk. It didn't move. So he reached into the space and covered the skunk completely with the beach towel, being mindful of the business end. Then, slowly and carefully, like he's done with a sleeping Seth hundreds of times, he made a scooping motion with the beach towel and the skunk was in his arms, tail tucked under and held in place by the beach towel and Charlie's arm.

"Go Dad!" Seth cried.

"Shhh!" hissed Charlie and Jane simultaneously: Jane because they were still in the chapel, Charlie because he didn't want sudden noises to wake the animal in his arms.

"Oops. Sorry." Seth whispered. The video on the phone continued to roll.

Charlie didn't try very hard to resist walking, slightly stumbling, toward Jane's parents.
Jane's mother hissed, "Just try it, Charlie, and it's your funeral!"

"Actually," Charlie retorted. "It's Great Aunt Bev's." He smiled, but the mask covered most of it. His father in law tried to hide his own smirk with a bout of fake coughing. His mother in law, not fooled for a moment, elbowed him in the ribs. Charlie returned to the main aisle.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Seven

"Hey, Jane?" Charlie stage-whispered. "Back up, Seth. No need for you to get your suit sprayed."

"Aw, man! Some parents don't let their kids have any fun."

"Seth, hush. Yes, Charlie?" Jane asked, pulling Seth back into their row of seats.

"This is my last funeral, OK?"

"Whatever you say, Charlie. Thank you so much." Jane nearly had tears in her eyes, a mixture of pride, love, and fear all caught up in the female package.

"Oh, you'll thank me all right," he replied. He tried to wink at Jane, and then realized she wouldn't be able to see it through the darkened lenses. He continued his slow, solitary walk out of the chapel. Ushers opened and closed the door for him.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the second door was shut. There were several moments of silence. It was broken when someone – a man, but Jane couldn't tell who it was – said aloud, "Who keeps a hazmat suit in their car?"

The comment was met with a round of laughter that made Jane furious.
"Obviously, someone not afraid to trap a skunk before it sprays all of you! Come on, Seth. Let's go help your dad."

"Now, Jane, he didn't mean…"

"Now, just a minute…"

"Jane, you have to admit…"

Jane ignored all of them. She took Seth's hand, and with head high followed her husband's path out the double doors of the chapel.

By the time Seth and Jane got outside, they saw Charlie laying the skunk, beach towel and all, at the edge of the property line. He stood up, turned around, and took a few tentative steps. Then he ran toward his wife and son.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Eight

"Dad," Seth complained. "That was my favorite beach towel."

"Do you want to go back and get it?"

Seth started toward the skunk, but Jane grabbed his arm. "No you don't, mister."

"I promise you won't like it anymore. We'll replace it next summer."

"You should have put it in the house like I told you weeks ago when the pool closed."

"But then I would have had to use your camping blanket, Jane."

"I'm surprised you didn't try to wrap it up in your suit coat."

"I thought about it. And about tying it up with my tie. But you'd have made me replace the coat, and I don't want to spend the money on it. The beach towel is much more affordable."

Jane looked at her husband and shook her head. She may have even laughed a little, but Charlie couldn't tell.

"Do you want to go back in for the rest of the funeral?"

Seth started to tell his dad about the way his mom had stood up for him, but Jane stopped him. "No, we're good," she said. "I've paid my respects. Let's go home."

"Dad – you were awesome!"

"Son – I was lucky!"

"It would have made a better video if you'd gotten sprayed though."

"Oh, you think so?"

"Yeah, by the time I got the camera on you, it was hard to tell what you were doing, or that it was a skunk in the towel. It's not going to go viral, because nothing really exciting happened."

"Geez, son, I'm so sorry about that."

"Too bad there isn't such thing as Smell-O-Vision. Then they'd know." Seth said.

"Yes, Charlie," Jane added. "Maybe you want to think about leaving your suit with the skunk. It stinks."

Charlie pretended to misunderstand. "It shouldn't. I left my suit in the car."

"I meant…"

"He knows, Mom. He's just teasing you or something."

"Well, I'm not joking," Jane said. "You may not have been sprayed, but you still have a –" she searched for the right word – "an odor. And it will only be worse with us all cramped in the car."

Charlie compromised by tying the legs of his hazmat suit to the roof rack of the car. Because who knew if the skunk would be the only smelly or slightly dangerous thing they'd encounter before he got back to the store to replace this one? If the smell did air out, then he could still use it to blow the insulation and save himself the expense of a new suit. Luckily for him, the respirators came in three packs.

The Unwelcome Mourner: Part Nine

They weren't 10 miles down the road when Seth piped up, "Hey Dad?"

"If you're planning to ask me to get you a skunk for a pet, I'm stopping the car and you're walking home."


"No rats, either," retorted Jane.

"He meant," Charlie started.

"I knew exactly what he meant, Charlie. It's called a joke."

"Can I have a dog?" asked Seth.

"NO!" called both parents together.

"You two are no fun!" Seth complained.

"And don't you forget it."

25 Reasons Why Charlie Should Never Read Jane's Books to Jane...

Some of you might remember that I actually did have an event with a skunk and a funeral. If not, you can find it here. My husband was very helpful in removing the skunk, though not actually near the casket or chapel, I knew the skunk would be included in 25 Reasons.

Have you missed a reason? Don't be afraid to check out:
eighth reason
seventh reason
sixth reason
fifth reason
fourth reason
third reason
second reason
first reason

Note: these reasons are out of order from the manuscript I am putting together for print publication, but your comments make me a better writer, so please do! Feeling inspired? Write your own Wikinut articles. Click here to get started.

A few images and the video did not come from morgueFile. The image of the hazmat suit was taken from Marty McFly at Amazon dot com. The video came from YouTube. The image of the pet sign was taken from two different pictures on Bing Image Search and combined into the single image shown here.


25 Reasons, Charlie And Jane, Funeral, Hazmat Suits, Inlaws, Romance, Skunk

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
8th Dec 2013 (#)

Phyl, this was fun to read. Or do I mean reed? Lol Great work as usual.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
8th Dec 2013 (#)

yeah indeed a great read as always up to speed or should I say spied..oh oh oh shared again....

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Dec 2013 (#)

Ty ladies!!

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author avatar Legend
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Great fun and funny too

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks, Legend!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
18th Dec 2013 (#)

Fun read from beginning to end. Thanks Phyl - siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
19th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks, Siva!

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