archives submissions news (dis)likes

My Totally Aweome Funeral: A Response
Curtis Smith

The Decathlon: The Course
Jessica Hollander

Ambient Plumbing (a prequel)
J. Ryan Stradal

Anne Elliott

Belleville, IL: Liner Notes
Chris Orlet

Lane 12: Behind the Story
Shellie Zacharia

Fireworks: Audio Commentary
J. Chris Rock

Pregnant: Sketches
Catherine Zeidler

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Curtis Smith’s stories and essays have appeared in dozens of literary journals including American Literary Review, Mid-American Review, CutBank, Passages North, Greensboro Review, Night Train, Mississippi Review, and many others. March Street Press has released two collections of his short-short stories. His first novel, An Unadorned Life, was released in 2003; his next, Between Sound and Noise, will be out later this year.

Photo by Sean Carman

McCrea and Sons Distinctive Funeral Services
112 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003
Boston, Miami, Denver and San Francisco

Dear Mr. Smith,

My name is Devon McCrea, founder and executive director of McCrea and Sons Distinctive Funeral Services. I read your story “My Totally Awesome Funeral” in the new issue of Hobart with great interest and, if I may be so bold, a heightened degree of understanding, for despite the story’s veneer of humor, I also sensed the inclination of a kindred spirit.

McCrea and Sons have been fulfilling visionary last requests for over thirty-five years. Perhaps you read of our arrangements for famed oceanographer Niles Santorus, the three chartered luxury yachts anchored in international waters, his family and loved ones lowered into the sea in steel cages as Mr. Santorus’s chum-smeared body was cast into a feeding frenzy of his beloved hammerheads. Or maybe you saw a news report of our service for legendary New York comedian Drake Goodman, a traditional affair up until the point when a former Miss America runner-up and Playboy’s Miss September 1997 engaged in a hair-pulling catfight before the opened casket, each shrieking their exultations of Mr. Goodman’s sexual prowess. Only after being separated by stunned mourners did the women confess their show had been Mr. Goodman’s final prank. Just this past winter, we handled the ceremony of famed industrial raider and shipping tycoon Günter Talbot, his ashes sprinkled into dozens of fireworks rockets which were later set off in an unparalleled pyrotechnic display over the Mojave Desert.

We have studied your story, and while it may currently reside in the domain of whimsy and dreams, we have developed a prospectus that could transform your not-so-far-fetched scenario into reality. At minimal expense to you, we could hire the requested mimes and archers and animal handlers. Our legal team would have no problem obtaining the necessary permits for outdoor burning and the parading of zoo animals. The cost of flying your old girlfriends into town would depend upon their number. Statistics show the average American male has had 6.32, but our independent research indicates the men who plan funerals with us easily double that number (this is in no way a boastful statement – it is merely a recorded fact – and also a testament that those who seek our services tend to have led rich, well-realized lives). We can also provide the requested intimate apparel for these women, but whether or not they agree to wear them to the service is up to them – although provisions may be made to offer the hesitant ones a financial incentive.

The law stipulates your body may not be cremated in any setting that is not licensed and regulated by the state. We can, however, provide you with an amazingly lifelike facsimile that should more than meet the demands of your outdoor service. Our on-site personnel have many responsibilities, and if your friends would take it upon themselves to switch your actual corpse with our substitute . . . well, such things have been known to happen despite our most rigorous efforts to follow the letter of the law.

I am now a proud grandfather, Mr. Smith, and one day, I hope my grandson will follow in his father’s and my footsteps in our quest to provide solace and fulfillment during life’s most challenging phase. During my last visit, my grandson was just learning to wave goodbye, his little fingers flexing as if he were trying to snare invisible jewels from the air. What a sweet, wonderful gesture, I thought, his wishing of farewell and thanks. And at the end of a man’s life, what is left for us to do but to offer one final gesture, one filled with our hard-won sensibilities, one final breath of our never-to-be-duplicated spirits?

We hope we can help provide you with such an opportunity. Until we talk again, best of everything to you and yours.


Devon McCrea