maintenance and workshop was as busy as usual, if there wasn’t a cottage
interior to remodel, decorate, fit out and furnish there were the fleet of
taxis to maintain. One of the white Mini-Mokes was in at the moment.
“Right lads” No.92 the foreman began “one of the jobs today is to fit the taxi with either a dark blue or black and white striped canopy”
“Why’s that then?” No.70 asked.
“Because today is the day of the funeral that’s why, and they need a hearse.”
“Who’s funeral?” 115 asked.
“Must be for that chap who jumped from a hospital window and killed himself” No.41 said.
“And I need someone to go to the beach, just below the lighthouse and set out a number of head stones in the sand” the foreman said.
“That’s a queer thing for anyone to do” 70 said finishing his tea.
“Queer or not it’s got to be done because it’s on the worksheet.”
“So one of us” 115 said “has got to take a load of headstones down to the beach and make it look like a cemetery, why’s that then?”
“Well they’re having a funeral today, I expect they want somewhere to bury the body” the foreman said.
“Funny place to hold a funeral, on the beach!” 41 said.
“Well funny or not you had best get on with it, there’s some wood over in the corner, you can fashion a few headstones out of those” he told No.41 “oh yes and you’ll need a shovel.”
“Because you’re a chosen man” 115 and 70 said in unison.
“Yes” said the foreman “and you two can get busy fitting the black and white striped canopy to the Mini-Moke, and while you’re about it replace the white canopy of that hospital trailer with a black one, and remove the Red Cross.”
And so they got to work, but it was a long drive along the sea wall and out along the cliff path, sitting on what was nothing more than a garden lawn mower! Reaching the lighthouse No.41 stopped and began to off load the wooden headstones and carried them over the rocks to the beach where he dug in the sand. Then having erected a number of them he set about digging a grave. But he was not alone in this task, he had been joined by No.247 who had been sent along to lend a hand.
The funeral cortege consisted of the Brass band, the village hearse, a Top Hat administrative official in black top hat, black suit, and overcoat, and a number of mourners carrying open black umbrellas. A middle aged woman wearing a red trilby hat and a colourful striped umbrella followed at the back of the cortege. The cortege travelled through the village, passed the Town Hall and down the hill towards the Old People’s Home as the brass band playing the Radetzky March. Then across the lawn of the Old People’s Home, through the gates and along the path towards the old cottage, through the arches and along the path until the taxi came to a stop. It was then that four pall bearers removed the flowers and lifted the coffin out of the trailer and following the brass band they carried it along the cliff path towards the lighthouse followed by the Top Hat administrative official and the number of citizens with their black umbrellas. Reaching the lighthouse the cortege made its way over the rocks down onto the sand, then walked in procession towards the cemetery where two grave diggers waited by an open grave, into which the coffin was lowered and all this while the band played the Radetzky March as the people gathered at the graveside. This was observed by the woman in the red trilby hat from the top of the cliffs. There was no ceremony, no words spoken over the grave, the people dispersed while the Top Hat official stood watching as the two gravediggers began to backfill the grave.
“When you’ve finished you can remove the head stones.”
“We can what?” No.41 asked.
“I’m not in a habit of repeating myself” the official said.
“I suppose you want us to dig up the coffin as well!”
“That will not be necessary” the official said and walked away along the beach back towards the village.
“What was all that about, why does he want us to remove the headstones?” No.247 asked.
“I suppose he doesn’t want them washed away with the tide!” 41 replied pulling a headstone out of the sand.
No.247 stood thinking “If this isn’t a cemetery, I wonder if there was an actual body in that coffin?”
“What do you mean?”
“It just looked a bit lightweight that’s all!”
No.41 was busy taking up the headstones “You mean the funeral was staged?!”
“Shall we dig the coffin up and see?”
No.41 thought for a moment then said “Why should they go to all that bother to stage a funeral?”
“Why do they do anything here?” 247 said “come on let’s finish up here, I could do with a cup of tea.”
Had they looked up they would have seen a woman in a red trilby hat and striped cape hurrying along the cliff path back towards the village, and a man in a brown piped blazer following at a discreet distance.
Be seeing you