GENRE: Contemporary Romance
SYNOPSIS:Thirty-two-year-old Richard Franchitti didn’t believe in love at first sight until he met free-spirited Catherine and started a brand new life. A devoted father and husband, Richard fought to keep his family together when it would have been easier to walk away.
Tragedy left him with unfinished business.
Now a disembodied spirit, Richard relives his most important days. From the beginnings of unconditional love, to the joy of his daughter’s birth, and all of the difficult times in between, each treasured moment brings him closer to answering the question:
Why am I still here?
He was born Richard Franchitti, but his friends call him Ricky. Welcome to his funeral.
About the Author
Matt has always been a voracious reader and reviewer of books and, after 37 years, has decided to make the transition to writer. Better late than never. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, 1.75 children, crazy dog, and overly personable guinea pig. He's written two novels in 2012 which is he currently editing and continues to work on short stories. Look for more from the self-proclaimed "dude who writes".
Nobody likes a funeral.
For most people they’re unavoidable, like taxes, waiting in lines at the DMV, and birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese.
If you ever stop to think about it, it doesn’t take long to realize how brutal the ritual is.
For your consideration:
On the worst day of their life, the bereaved, whether they are husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter, are on display more than the deceased, forced to endure a barrage of uncomfortable, stammering condolences from friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances; their naked sorrow front and center. Perhaps the last thing anybody wants to do in aftermath of such loss is shake dozens of hands and hear the words ‘I’m so sorry’ over and over again.
They’re also necessary. Even cleansing.
While emotionally draining and difficult, they provide a certain degree of closure, and act as an arena in which survivors, in a unifying display of support, can say that one final goodbye.
That being said, when you put all the pros aside, it doesn’t change the fact that nobody likes a funeral.
Nobody living, at least.
As for me? I’m not sure what to think.
I hated them like every other living person hated them, while I was alive.
Being dead has skewed my perspective.
Admittedly, it’s amazing bearing witness to this procession of people. People I haven’t seen in years, people I’ve forgotten about, people whose lives I’d touched in the limited amount of time I had. Believe me, it’s no small thing seeing someone who fell off the precipice of your life’s path years ago come to pay their respects. It’s awesome in the strictest definition of the word, not the eighties surfer way.
And that’s how I see it, so far. I’m sure everyone has their own feelings about it. (Yes, even dead I have feelings. Sort of.). Then again, I’ve nothing to compare it to, do I? I’ve yet to meet another dead person. Something tells me that once I’m finished viewing my viewing (wink wink, nudge nudge) I’ll move along on to that next plane of existence. Heaven? Hell? Who knows? Death doesn’t come with a guidebook, even if that’s what Beetlejuice would have you believe.
I have no death liaison.
Maybe I’ll get one later? Time will tell. For right now, I’m stuck in this funeral parlor with no way out.
In life I’d been what could be defined as a social drinker. By no means an alcoholic, I wasn’t a teetotaler either. Work hard, play hard … in moderation. It was a running joke between my wife Catherine and me. Knowing my idea of tying on a good one involved three, maybe four beers over the course of a night out, she’d say, ‘One of these days that booze is going to kill you, Ricky!’, her face alight with mischief. For my part, I’d play the role of the subservient husband, and reply with the ubiquitous, ‘Yes, dear, I won’t drink and drive, dear.’ I meant it, and she knew I did. I never drove drunk in thirty-plus years.
Irony is a Budweiser truck hopping a curb and splattering you like a bug on a windshield before you even have your first beer.
Looking down on myself, laid out in my ornate casket, I have to admit the mortician did a bang-up job. Everything on my face is where it should be. Open casket? That’s a win in my book.
Details are gossamer at this point, a side effect of being newly dead I imagine, but the way I understand it, the Bud delivery guy was trying to make a yellow light, hit a pothole, blew a tire, and bam! I’m a human pancake, tenderized into the afterlife. Do I plan to haunt the driver? No. Taking a man of my youngish vintage away from his family is something he’ll have to live with for the rest of his days, however many of them he’s lucky enough to get. And it’s not as if he’d planned on turning me into a crepe. It was an accident. They do happen.
I do blame that pothole, though. Damn that pothole.
Now that I think about it, my wife was right. Booze did kill me, if indirectly. If I weren’t dead I’d be embarrassed. But since I am, I don’t much care. Dead is dead, regardless of how you get there.
In any event, the mortician has done a fantastic job of putting my face back to rights. Now all in attendance can gaze upon my devastatingly handsome visage one last time as they usher me off into the great unknown.
Catherine’s picked out one of my favorite suits for the occasion, a charcoal gray affair with a white shirt and gray tie. These colors compliment my olive complexion rather nicely I think, and in combination with the hints of gray at my temples, I look stately. Also nice to see the mortician took it upon himself to split my unibrow in two. You can’t look stately with a unibrow.
On the topic of appearance, my wife is as attractive as ever. Even in death, I can’t help drinking her in. She’s seated in a chair at the front of the parlor, her blond hair radiant in contrast to the funeral black she’s wearing. Dark circles stand out beneath her hazel eyes, eyes that are red and puffy, and she seems a bit thinner. Not abnormal given the circumstances.
Despite the sad set to her shoulders, the misty eyes, and the suffering she exudes, I’m thankful that such a beautiful creature had decided to spend her life with me.
I’d met Catherine Maddox (now the widow Catherine Frachitti) through a friend of mine. My best friend, in point of fact. Bill Henly.
While they were dating.
That tidbit must sound inherently evil. There are rules, especially among guys. The Man Code, to be more specific. Every male on the planet is born with these rules branded into his DNA. Don’t date a friend’s ex, don’t have sex with a friend’s girlfriend, so on and so forth.
Let the record show that I am no home wrecker! Bill and Catherine had been seeing each other when I met her. Nothing serious, and for reasons only known to them, their relationship didn’t last. After Bill did the requisite guy thing (read: talked post-breakup smack about her), I did the right thing and asked him if he’d be okay with me asking her out.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: So, you’re not dating Cat anymore, huh?
Me: Um, would it be cool if I asked her out?
Bill: Yeah, sure.
It was a conversation for the ages. A manly conversation of epic proportions. It may seem flimsy to an outsider, but to guys it was volumes’ worth.
I let the breakup embers fade, and a few weeks later, when I’d mustered up the testicular fortitude, I asked Catherine out. After a moment’s thought, she said yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Dating Catherine put no apparent stress on my relationship with Bill. Good looking in an All-American way, he never lacked for female companionship. At six-foot-five and almost as broad, he towered over my meager five-foot-eight. He’d played football in high school and college, earning an athletic scholarship to Princeton University, but blew out his knee in his second year. His spare time no longer filled with practices and games, he hunkered down and focused on his studies which paved the way to his future career as a financial advisor. Still, he remained an ever faithful workout freak. The combination of good looks, muscular build, and his large salary lured many a willing woman into his bed. Catherine was no exception, but that wasn’t entirely Bill’s doing.
The story is a simple one. Back in the day the three of us were nigh inseparable. Catherine and I were always double-dating with Bill and his love du jour. Even if he wasn’t seeing anybody (the exception to the rule), the three of us would go out to eat, see movies, hang out on lawn chairs in the summer drinking concoctions with little umbrellas in them.
It was on one such occasion when things took a change for the pornographic. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. Or as long as I’m dead.
That day is where this story truly starts.