CHAPTER ONE- The Passing
Bernard Strange’s passing was like no other. While the deceased tend to bring together close family and friends to stand around his or her grave in a dimly lit church or green-grassed graveyard, Mr Strange’s funeral was a rather different occasion.
It was on a beach…in Brighton.
The Strange family, together with the uncles and aunts, cousins and other distant relatives that no-one ever sees anymore, stood gathered around Bernard’s light brown coffin. Believe it or not, it was Bernard’s wish to be buried at sea.
The coffin also was strange. While the grand oak coffin with medal rims was usual, it was fitted with small, yet sturdy wheels on each of its corners that in turn were attached to a steel railing. The railing led out into the sea.
“Dearly beloved,” shouted the vicar. “We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of a…commendable man.” (Yes, even the vicar was struggling to find fitting words for the ceremony.)
Truth be told, Bernard was a very strange individual and certainly lived up to the unfortunate family name. While he lived a reasonably normal life, he had certain ticks to his well-being. For one, his was a perfectionist; only Bernard knew when a room was completely tidy. This was tailored with a layer of OCD- only Bernard knew when a dish was clean. He was one with nature; always proclaiming its beauty and was a keen level five vegan- he never ate a living creature. He was wildly fascinated with the way the world worked. Science was one of his true passions. Some would say he was close to defying gravity before his passing…except he wasn’t.
The Brighton townsfolk and local beach dwellers looked puzzled and rather bemused by the ceremony taking place. Maximus Strange, Bernard’s grandson tried to hide the fact he was part of this embarrassing moment. He took out his Nintendo 3DS and started playing it.
“Turn that thing off!” his mother barked, in a rather hushed tone. She instantly pocketed the device. “At least pay some respects.”
“Where’s dad?” Maximus asked. Indeed, Rodney Strange was no where to be seen.
“He’s…not here. Finding other ways to grieve.” At that, Susan Strange immediately turned back to the attention of the Vicar.
Once the vicar had concluded his speech and Mark Williams, Bernard’s closest friend had swiftly read through his eulogy, four heavyset men acting as the coffin bearers, approached the casket. Rather than finding the routine to lift the coffin onto their shoulders, they timely flipped a release switch under each wheel and the coffin gently rolled out towards the ocean. What was slightly embarrassing however was the fact that the track ended sooner than anyone expected, leaving the coffin caught in a timid current and drifting it back towards shore. The men took responsibility and rolled up their trouser legs and swam out with it to deeper waters. What a strange send off.
The Strange family, dressed in formal funeral attire climbed back onto dry land. Susan used Maximus’ shoulders as support as she put her high-heeled shoes back on her feet.
“Thank God that part’s over. Just a few nibbles at the beach-house and we’re free alright?”
“Can I have my Nintendo back?” Susan sighed as she pulled the gaming device from his purse.
“You’re 18 years old for Christ’s sake! Why do you still play children’s games?”
Thankfully, the funeral reception was a more down to earth gathering. Located five minutes away from the shoreline, the room was appropriately decorated with flowers, and pictures of Bernard. The food display was slightly more pleasing to the family. Free wine is always a plus.
However, the normality was short-lived when Rodney Strange, son of the deceased, made his bold entrance into the reception. He was drunk- very drunk indeed. As he drifted slowly into the room, family guests parted to the sides to let him pass.
“WHERE IS HE? Where’s the idiot? Someone told me I could find him here.”
“Gone? Gone where? Why you all dressed up?” The awkwardness felt by the others had accelerated to a fantastic rate. Susan left the food stand and raced over to him.
“Where the hell have you been?”
“Susan…everyfings under…con-trol. Control. Con-t-r-o-l.”
“We can’t afford this ceremony, let alone your constant binge drinking.”
“RELAX! Bernard will cover the cost. Where is he anyway?” There was a slight gasp from the guests. It was certainly a touchy subject. While Bernard was known to be diligent with his finances, it was never certain who was entitled to his inheritance.
“He’s dead. This is his funeral,” Susan proclaimed. At this, Rodney paused. His body slowed down. His face drooped from the weight of the intoxication.
“What?” Rodney scanned his surroundings to find the relatives staring back at him. He hobbled over to Bernard’s old photo mounted on the wall. As he stared deep into Bernard’s gaze, he let out a growl.
“You…little shit! Why did you have to go and die?!” Rodney goes to rip the picture off the walls. It is received by gasps from the crowd. Two men attempt to wrestle him away, yet his suprising strength gets the better of them.
At that moment, the occasion had become too much for Maximus. He was tired with this new spectacle that his father was putting on. With no hesitation, he grabbed a large metal food tray, removed it’s delicate contents and with a tremendous swoop, clocked him over the back of the head. He fell to the ground with an enormous thud.
“Sorry,” Maximus remarked, discarding the food tray to the ground. “He was driving me nuts.”
“Was there really any need for that Max?” Susan asked as she crouched by his side.
“It seems like there was honestly.”
“You’re grounded…for a week! Now…help me take him into the other room!”
Together, Max and Susan grabbed his limbs and carried him into the other room. Invited guests slowly stepped away from the moment and continued their own private discussions, as if nothing in the last two minutes had happened.
Two questions remained in the minds of all Bernard’s relatives. Why had his only son come charging in drunk and unaware, and attempted to mock his passing? And what gave Rodney’s son Maximus the courage to knock him unconscious with a food tray. Both questions were usually answered with reference to the family’s last name. They certainly lived up to it.