Short Story: The Prank

My uncle had always been that uncomfortable combination of meticulous planner and prankster, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that his funeral arrangements had already been set in motion and paid for years ago, but that we weren’t allowed to know what those arrangements were.

Well that wasn’t entirely true. The time and place for the final service were related by the professionally calm representatives of the funeral home. The number of cortege cars for family were also announced and where the pickup would be from.

For all the frustration and annoyance he’d caused in life, we couldn’t have hoped for an easier passage in a difficult time, even if we did wonder how his sense of humour was going to be expressed in all this.

As the day arrived and relatives gathered in their somber attire, more than one conversation turned to his love of pranks. Old favourite stories of elaborate or raucously spontaneous tricks were dusted off, bringing more happiness than annoyance in retrospect. It certainly served to help lighten the mood, and I like to think he’d have approved of the celebratory nature of the stories.

Soon enough though it was time for the final farewell. We dutifully got into the cars provided, while others prepared to follow along. There was some debate as to whether his final prank might be to change the advertised venue, and so the family cars were closely followed so as not to lose them.

In that, we were disappointed. The venue was as advertised: the local crematorium – with the only slight variation to previous similar occasions being that he had asked for a humanist ceremony, and that he’d actually bought out the two surrounding time slots as well so no one would feel rushed.

The service was short and celebrated his humour, even as it acknowledged the sadness of the day and the darkness of some of his jokes. Perhaps that reminder was there to prepare us for what has just happened.

You see, normally as the service ends, we’re used to curtains coming across to hide the coffin from view while a music track plays. Instead the coffin has stayed in plain view and they’ve started playing a very short tune, over and over. It took me a moment to remember the lyrics:

Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

It’s playing over and over, like the old wind-up jack in the box he used to keep in his study. It always used to terrify me with how suddenly the grotesque clown inside would pop out just when you weren’t expecting it.

Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

It’s playing over and over, and more of us have remembered that jack in the box, and now as the tune cycles round and round, that coffin is somehow looming more and more ominously as we quietly watch with mounting horror.

Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel.

About Tim Maidment

Writer, House Husband, Library Person, Raconteur, Poly, Queer and Bon Vivant. You were expecting something simple?
This entry was posted in Fiction, short story, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.