Introduction: I’m not going to lie, today’s title was stolen from an Orange Goblin album. It’s a fucking brilliant album that’s probably better than this story, but you have time to give it a quick read before rushing off to listen to it. Today’s prompt was eulogy, and we’re saying goodbye to a mean old bastard, enjoy.
‘How do you sum up a life?’ Sandra looked up at the crowd in front of her, although calling it a crowd was generous. There was only a smattering of people spread around the church. ‘I only knew Ben for a few months, but they were eventful ones. He was, I think the usual term is, a character.’
‘He was a wanker,’ someone shouted out, causing giggles across the room.
‘Em, okay, well, I may not have known Ben for long, but I quickly learnt a lot about him, mainly that he had very particular thoughts on the way things should be done. On my first day working for him, he spent thirty minutes explaining to me in great detail exactly how he wanted his bath cleaned. He couldn’t use the bath any more, it was too hard for him to get in and out, but he was desperate for it to be cleaned perfectly.’
‘Should have drowned him in it!’
That was too much for Sandra to ignore, ‘sorry, if you hated him so much, why are you here?’
‘Wanted to make sure the cunt was actually dead.’ A gruff looking man at the back of the church explained.
‘What? That’s horrible.’
‘Ben was horrible, dear. I wouldn’t worry too much about him.’ An elderly woman sitting nearer the front explained, ‘we know you’re trying your best, but he doesn’t deserve any kind words.’
‘He’s dead, though? Surely any old grudges can be forgotten?’
‘Ha, you think he’d let death stop him being a miserable bastard? Wouldn’t be surprised if he was in here now, still trying to pick our pockets with his ghostly hands.’ This was a new contributer, which meant roughly half the church had now declared their hatred of the deceased.
‘Did anyone like him?’
That was the first time that they didn’t have something to add.
‘Death doesn’t turn you into a saint, love. And my ex-husband was as far from a saint as you can get.’ The woman explained, a half-smile on her face as she said it.
‘Oh, yes. We were married once.’
‘So you must have liked him then?’
‘I suppose so. It’s hard to remember. A lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges since. He might have been kinder back then, but I doubt he was good. The bastard wouldn’t have known goodness if it slapped him in the face.’
‘He’d have found a way to turn it bad if he’d ever bumped into it.’ Someone butted in, getting a few laughs.
‘I don’t understand’, Sandra was floundering, she hadn’t wanted to speak at the funeral, but had been told that there was no-one else to do it and she had spent a lot of time with him before his death. Sure, he hadn’t been what you’d call pleasant, but she’d assumed that was just because he was old and dying.
‘He was bad, love.’ The gruff man spoke up again, ‘a thief, abusive and as likely to stab you in the back as he was to shake your hand. Ben McDonald hurt a lot of people, and we’re all glad to see the back of him.’
Sandra turned towards the priest, desperate for someone to help her, but only getting a shrug in response. ‘Well, the Ben I knew was just a sad old man, and while he wasn’t nice, he didn’t seem like a monster.’
‘Being a monster gets harder when you’re old.’ The old woman spoke softly, ‘but trust me. He was one.’
The look on her face told a thousand stories, none of which were happy.
‘I’m sorry,’ Sandra spoke softly, trying to put every ounce of sympathy she had into those words.
‘It’s alright, dear. He can’t get me now. He’s dead.’
The look on her face made Sandra’s decision for her.
‘Yea, he is. Fuck it, not every life needs summing up. Let’s hope he rots in hell.’
The wince of the unhelpful priest and the small cheer made the fact Sandra had just raised her chances of joining him down there feel worth it.