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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 16 page 07

fiction

The Funeral of Tanner Blakely

by Garth Pettersen

The sun rose and the sun set on the day of Tanner Blakely's funeral. What else can I say? I can't say Tanner and I were friends. Can't say he had any friends. We had grown up together, always in the same elementary school class. Don't think I'd have even gone to his funeral but Mother was insistent.

It was held at Jacobsen's Funeral Chapel — you know, the one that looks like a church. When Mother and I entered, there was a heck of a lot more people than I had expected. Guess everybody likes a good show. Mother wanted to sit near the front. I balked at that and we compromised on a fifth row pew.

I recognized other people I knew —Techy Anderson, Welder Blunt, Mech Smith — and I waved when they looked my way.

“Hey, Ledger. How you doing?” called Welder.

“Doin' good, man. Hang in there,” I replied over the heads between us.

Some of the older women flocked over to squawk with Mother. They kept that up until Mortician Jacobsen paced solemnly up the aisle — the signal that proceedings were about to start. He stopped at the front of the chapel and turned to face the congregation.

“Brothers and sisters,” he began, “we are gathered here today to celebrate the passing of Tanner John Blakely. Please stand and join the choir in singing, In Death We are Anointed with Dignity.”

The choir consisted of four white-haired ladies accompanied on organ by a fifth. The congregation sang the old favourite with gusto.

When the gathering regained their seats, Jacobsen rolled on. “Though Tanner struggled with depression his whole life, he persevered, soldiered on as it were —”

“You tell 'em, Mort!” someone called out from the congregation. Everyone laughed.

“…but life became too much of a struggle,” Jacobsen continued, ignoring the interruption, “and Tanner decided to end his life.”

“Yo, Tanner!” another voice called.

Mother leaned over to me and said, “It's a lively crowd today.”

“Selly Baxter and Trucker Wilson," I said. “They're enjoying the time off work.”

“To give the Obloquy,” Jacobsen said, “I call on Tanner's father, Judge Lawman Blakely.”

There was generous applause as Judge Blakely walked up to the lectern. He took out his notes, took his time putting on glasses, then cleared his throat and began, viewing his audience overtop the spectacles.

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