Thursday, November 30, 2006

Funeral of Regret

Category: Issue 5, Short Story Winners

Funeral of Regret

Life is a cliché and the stereotypes are drawn from it.

I’d wanted the sun to shine for Ron on his last day above ground. Like most funerals I’ve attended, the sky turned metallic grey. Occasional clouds scudded above the church roof and tossed down a sprinkle of rain, which lay like scattered jewels on the shoulders of the mourners as we waited for the coffin to arrive.

‘Poor old, Ron, it was bound to happen in the end,’ said a man in a black raincoat.

His companion shook his head. ‘Yes, couldn’t have ended any other way really, not with the chances he took.’


Ron had been my childhood mate and I’d loved him. Not in a sexual way, but in the manner of affection and loyalty a strong friendship arouses

Thirty years before, he’d been the other side of the coin to my confrontational character. I loved fighting, swearing and everything that went with the rough nature of being male. He’d been gentle and nervous, his already pale face would be a shade paler when he followed me to places he’d never have ventured on his own. Once he’d fallen out of a tree I’d urged him to climb. He’d looked up at me white lipped, his arm twisted at a strange angle and said ‘I’m sorry, Luke, I think my arm’s broken.’ That was Ron, always apologising.

I roughed my way through teenage years, playing rugby and swimming for the school team. Ron wasn’t good at sports, but he was always in the crowd cheering me on, his distinctive white blonde hair a beacon at the finishing line. He’d joined the drama group and I must admit I didn’t show as much support as he’d shown me. I was too busy with my own life to notice the direction of his. I suppose in the back of my mind I’d known he was different from the rest of my mates, but I’d chosen to ignore it.

We’d sat at my mother’s kitchen table. Ron played with his teaspoon, twirling it in circles on the yellow plastic surface. ‘I have to tell you something, Luke, and I’m afraid.’

I looked at his thin shoulders hunched over his mug of tea. ‘Afraid - what of?’

‘I’m afraid you’ll hate me.’

I remember feeling confused. There was nothing Ron could do to make me hate him. I thought he should have known that and was mildly irritated. ‘Don’t talk crap, get on with it, what?’

‘I’ve met someone.’ He lifted his head and his soft blue eyes held mine in a pleading stare.

I grinned at him. ‘So? It’s about time, I was beginning to worry about you.’ I waggled my eyebrows in a lascivious manner. ‘Who is she, then?’

Ron looked back into his mug as if he were about to dive into its contents. ‘It’s not a She, Luke. It’s a He. Someone I met at the drama club.’

I never did see the horse that kicked me in the stomach as his statement hung in the air. My mouth opened to speak and there were no words to fill it. I finally found my voice. ‘Who else knows?’ I whispered

‘No one - only you. You’re disgusted with me, aren’t you?’

‘No, I just don’t understand. When did you decide to be a …’ I couldn’t bring myself to say the word.

He leaned across the table to touch my hand and I snatched it away. ‘I didn’t decide, Luke, I just am. I’m sorry.’


The minister stood primly above the open grave, his face arranged in a suitably sombre expression. I followed his gaze to the black lacquered lid of the coffin. The gold handles nestled against the green of the baize material, meant to hide the cold, dirt sides of the grave. I gave a half smile as the thought entered my mind, that the grandeur of the coffin was the metamorphoses of the shy boy I had known. I hadn’t been there to witness it. I had stepped away from him. I felt a flush of guilt. Had I thought his homosexuality would rub off on me?

Drama had been his providence. His voice, always melodious, charmed an audience. His boyish good looks thrilled his female fans. The theatre was his womb, secure, his sexuality un-judged. I’d watched his rise from my self-imposed exile. As his billings grew bigger, I was as proud of him as if I had some hand in his success.

The majority of the mourners were male. Some of the faces were familiar, I’d seen them on TV or watched them in the cinema. None were big stars. These are his real friends I thought as I searched the sad faces, half expecting to see plucked eyebrows and make up. All I saw was people.

The mourners filed past the grave. Each threw a flower, turned and drifted towards the gate. A dark wave of humanity that slipped away like a silent stream. The man in front of me spoke. His voice rang clear in the stillness of the almost empty churchyard.

‘Did they ever catch the bastard’s that beat him to death?’

The dark haired man clasping his arm, replied ‘No, I heard it was some foreigners off one of the boats in the East India Docks. What was the matter with him - inviting three of them home?’

The first man shrugged. ‘Well, you know what a chancer he was and he loved a bit of rough, the rougher the better.’

My heart contracted and I stood still. Was I the catalyst for the path he took? Did he start off by loving the rough side me?

I walked back to the graveside. Tears were hot on my cheeks. I knelt, the scent of flowers wafted around my head as I bent towards the coffin.

‘I’m sorry, Ron.’ I whispered.



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Old Comments

  • There seems to be a generally accepted disposition that homosexuality has some problems with it - that the sex of those with whom we choose to enjoy sexual pleasure carries with it some stigma.  Luke and Ron both exhibit this disposition (“I’m afraid you’ll hate me” and “I never did see the horse that kicked me in the stomach…”).  It is a disposition that I feel ought to be challenged, if not explicitly, then at least by being obviously absent from some major character.  In this story, an explicit challenge from someone close to Luke (perhaps an older sister) would have soothed me.

    I am intentionally ignoring the fact that the major negative theme brought out in the end by Luke has nothing to do with homosexuality:  Luke’s own rough side led his friend into dangerous and ultimately fatal circumstances.  I liked this story because it shows that we do lead those who love us and we should therefore be careful about where we lead them.  However, the unchallenged disposition of negativity towards homosexuality was distratcing, at least for me.

    Some people say that being gay can’t be a choice, “because who would choose that?”  Some people say that to suffer because of your love for others is a sweet kind of suffering.  I like to think that if and when we fight against something innate, we sometimes succeed.  If our choice to fight is well-reasoned, then in that success we find tremendous joy.  But I cannot agree that fighting against sexual attraction and love simply because of the sex of the person we love is well reasoned.  If you add a desire for children, then it starts looking more reasonable.

    When I concentrate on health, safety, joy, and the avoidance of damage instead of morality, guilt, shame, duty, social norms, and xenophobia, I find affection pleasurable and my conclusion is that deep down, we’re all bisexual.  Monogamy and polygamy are a whole other issue.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  02:19 PM
  • If you re-read you will note that the the start of the story occurred many years before and much as it is frowned upon these days i’m afraid it was the general attitude then and illgal. Although this story has been altered to some extent it was the feelings of my husband when he realised his brother was gay. If the story is not PC I’m sorry but by the same token you can’t force people to feel any other way than they do. I tried to steer a middle course and not offend. my husband loved his brother dearly and had no quarrel with anyone’s morals he was open-minded to everyone except his brother - what can I say?
    This was one man’s [Lukes]feelings.


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  02:54 PM
  • A touching narrative throwing up a few questions on homosexuality. Congrats.

    Dr George Karimalil

    Posted by Dr George Karimalil  on  12/06  at  01:54 PM
  • hi GK
    Thanks for reading.
    Strangely enough I had no thought to pose a question of homosexuality. I sought to reveal feelings, The complex nature of two warring factions, what is one willing to accept. He could have been a rapist or a child molester, at what point do you stop loving?
    I don’t know if I’m making myself clear, lol but I know what I mean.
    Thanks again, I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  02:48 PM
  • I knew Ron when he was but a kid. He went to my school, he was in my class, only back then he was not called Ron. His name was Michael and he was not yet into the theatre arts, he was still dreaming about becoming a ballet dancer. We must have scratched at the same chewing-gum stuck to the same table in class for three years, before ‘somebody’ knew. Somebody always knows, sooner or later, even if you never, ever tell them.
    Michael was studying in his free time to become a ballet dancer so he had to be ...different. Perhaps one of his closer friends had become one of his former friends and spilled the beans. But I remember the day where people changed when he was around them, whispering behind his back and laughing and the bigger boys of my class threatened to beat him up if he ever did as much as look at them. They were so afraid…
    It was the day I gave him my lunch apple.
    Perhaps if he had continued dancing, he would not have met the strangers…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/07  at  04:20 PM
  • What a lovely story Flute!

    and like your poetry, it is full of feeling.

    I would have given him an apple too!

    Thanks for reading and even more importantly - to me. Understanding.


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  07:26 AM
  • I like this story. The main character feeling guilty for his friend’s decease is a very common reaction to death. I thought it was an appropiate response to learning that Ron liked ‘rough guys’, instead of him being completely disguisted—knowing that Ron could have once liked him. I also believed the story was very to the point, for the character contrast at the beggining puts emphasis on Ron’s softness and the main character’s roughness.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/09  at  02:36 AM
  • Thanks Kathrynlee
    for taking the time to comment.
    This was on of my more serious efforts - few and far between unfortunatly

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/09  at  03:29 AM
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