Death at a Funeral
By Auburn Red
Disclaimer: Once again I do not own these characters. They belong to John Sullivan. I did however create Gwyneth.
At least it could never be said that Joan Trotter's funeral was uneventful.
Del Boy Trotter walked behind his mother's coffin just keeping his eyes focused on the front as the funeral procession edged further to the open hole. He held his younger brother's hand as Rodney looked at his shoes.
The pallbearers, Trigger, Boycie, Jumbo, and Denzil walked ahead each carrying a corner of the casket. Trigger accidentally lost his grip on the lower right hand side of the black casket dropping it on his foot.
"Trigger you stupid git!" Boycie yelled. "Don't drop the bloody thing!" No sooner had Boycie said that than he dropped his edge of the casket as well causing the coffin to fall halfway to the ground. "The funeral goers all stopped as the coffin opened slightly.
Del Boy stood between his two friends. "Well come on lads, none of us ain't getting any younger are we?" His two friends offered sheepish apologies as they picked up the coffin and continued carrying it to its destination.
They finally approached the gravesite without any further trouble. The four pallbearers placed the coffin on the stand. "Okay lads, gently this time, " Del commanded the boys as they placed the now slightly bent coffin on the stand. The headstone was small too small for the woman that Joan was. Del vowed that he would make her grave the largest most noticeable grave in the cemetery.
Del Boy, Rodney, and Grandad sat in seats facing the open hole. It felt unreal to Del, that's how he got through the past few days. He felt as though he were watching someone else live his life through his body. He felt numb. He spent almost the entirety of the last few weeks nursing his mother and depriving himself of much sleep and trying to carry the faint hope that she would recover. But now here it was. He kept hoping this would be just a dream but he knew no amoung of pinching himself or splashing cold water on his face would tell him otherwise.
Del was distracted from his thoughts by a tug at his sleeve. "Del, "Rodney asked. "What is that hole in the ground for?"
"It's to put Mum in," Del answered hoarsely. Rodney nodded confused. Del told him that Mummy had fallen asleep. Was the hole some kind of special place to put her new bed in? But why was she sleeping outside? Why was everyone watching her go to sleep? and why didn't she wake up when Trigger and Boycie dropped her? Why hadn't she woken up? He knew that she was really sick. Maybe this would help her get better. After all if Del said that she was only sleeping then she was only sleeping. She would wake up and Del would never lie to him would he?
Del raised his voice after the ceremony was over. "Everybody, there's a reception at our place catered by Don yeah?" The Nag's Head pub owner nodded. Del promised to pay at least a portion of his growing tab if he would. Many of the guests nodded. It was a small funeral only a few friends and relatives. Even the other Trotters and Uncle Albert were unable to make it though they sent regards.
Trigger's aunt Reeny leaned over to her friend, Margaret, a mutual acquaintance of Joan's. "This is a sad situation isn't it?"Margaret nodded. "I mean I don't wonder about Del. He's a sharp one, he is. He'll manage on his own. It's poor little Rodney that I wonder what's going to happen to. I'd take him in myself, but I have a full house."
"I know me too," Margaret agreed. "Besides my Ned wouldn't want another mouth to feed roaming around. Well it ain't like he's an orphan is he? I mean they do have a father after all."
"Of course they do," Reeny said darkly. "But I wouldn't trust a day-old plant with Reg Trotter let alone a young bereaved child."
"Well it don't seem like this family has much choice do they?" Margaret pointed at Granddad and Gran Trotter. They were in the middle of a very heated argument which sounded to be about how deep a pan should be before it's called a pot. "And Del's practically a babe in arms himself. Joan had no kin to speak of. Looks like they're stuck with Reg."
"I do feel sorry for them then," Reeny agreed. What neither women saw was the small boy overhearing their conversation and then running back to his mother's gravesite.
Del's sort-of fiancee Gwyneth hugged Del. "Del, I'm so sorry," she said in her cultured middle-class voice. She took her hand in his. He could clearly see the glass faux-diamond ring (the last of his glass diamond rings) on her finger. Del was surprised that Gwyneth wanted to come to the funeral. He hadn't had a lot of time for her lately between working and caring for Mum and now making funeral arrangements. She made her annoyance known. "How are you?"
"Thanks, Gwynnie. I'll be alright, I guess," Del said kissing her. She was quite attractive and was a lot of fun to be around. "Gwyneth, later would you like-" Suddenly they were surrounded by a loud scream. Del glanced close by and saw Rodney was missing. He turned to his mum's gravesite. Rodney was screaming and throwing dirt out of the gravedigger's shovels.
"No no!" Rodney yelled. "Don't do this to Mummy!"
"Son," one of the diggers knelt down. "We have to bury your mum, come on now. She wouldn't want you to be like this." This was as far as he got when Rodney bit his hand. "Ow!"
"NONONONONONO!" Rodney shouted throwing dirt outside of the grave as they tried to fill it.
Del Boy ran over to his brother's side pushing between the two grave diggers. He knelt down and held onto Rodney. "Hey now it's alright, Rodders, it'll be alright."
"Don't let them cover up Mummy, Del," the little boy sobbed into his big brother's chest. Del's black suit was getting wet from Rodney's tears.
"Rodney, they got to," Del soothed him ruffling his little brother's hair and holding him tightly.
Rodney sobbed in his big brother's arms as Del lifted him and carried him like a baby. "But if they cover up Mummy she won't be able to get out when she wakes up."
Holding onto his baby brother, Del felt his knees sag. He had to tell his little brother the truth. "Rodders we need to talk," he said. He led his brother away from the grave, Rodney in his arms. Del Boy turned to the grave and waved at the gravediggers. He nodded and mouthed "go on" to them so they continued to dig while Rodney wasn't looking.
Later that afternoon, Del Boy came into the sitting room surrounded by their guests with Dr. Becker in tow. Del had explained to Rodney the truth about their mother's death. It had not been an easy return home. They had to stop the car twice so Rodney could get out and throw up and the boy was in hysterics, the entire time. Upon their return, Del lay a sobbing Rodney into his bedroom where he had finally fallen asleep thanks to the medicine Dr. Becker gave him. "Thanks for slipping whatever it is you gave him," Del said. "It seemed to work. He's out like a light in there."
"I'm just doing my job," the family doctor replied.
"What did you give him?" Del asked.
"Well what did it look like?" the doctor wryly asked.
Del shrugged. "Milk?"
Becker whispered conspiratorially to the young man. "A few drops of brandy slipped in milk proves to be quite effective as a sedative."
"Yeah?" Del asked eagerly. "Knowing that I may start drinking milk again."
The doctor laughed but then looked concerned at the young man's drawn face. "You could do with some yourself," he said. "How are you?"
Del shrugged. "I'll be right as soon as I can be, I guess." Del invited him to have a drink. He approached the lads.
"How are you Del?" Denzil asked as he sat down."Does everyone have to ask that?" Del was getting irritated. Denzil winced. "Sorry mate, just thought I'd ask."
Del shook his head. "Sorry, my defenses are way up too high. I just feel like I'm on display or something like everyone's looking at me. I mean ignore the dead woman in the coffin. The real tragedy is the son who any moment is supposed to go loopey." Sitting by his friend, Trigger touched his friend by the shoulder. "I just have this feeling that they're placing bets on when I'm supposed to start crying or something."
His friends shook their heads. "No," Denzil said. "They're just concerned."
"Though adding our pockets is a bonus," Boycie quipped. "I had it at 5:00 tonight."
"Boyc," Denzil corrected. Del grinned and laughed. "Nah, it's okay. First laugh I've had in awhile." He sighed and felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see Gwyneth.
"Del, can I talk to you alone for a minute?" she asked. Del followed the dark-haired woman into the hallway. "I'll understand if you want to postpone the date."
Del was confused. "The date for what?"
"The date for our wedding of course," Gwyneth said. Del winced. The trouble with giving these rings to certain birds was that some started making plans, particularly if they've been planning their wedding since they were kids. Gwen was one of those types that walked past bridal shops just to "you know dream." She continued. "I know this has been rough for you."
Del sighed. His relationship with her had definately taken a back seat. "I can't think about that right now but I do want to talk to you. Can we-"
Del was interrupted by the door bursting open. In entered the last person that Del wanted to see right now. He glowered and turned to his girlfriend. "Sorry, Gwen, I have to deal with this."
"-Take your time, Del," Gwyneth said sharply." After all you always do." He didn't respond as he turned to face his father.
If Reginald Trotter had heard about his wife's death he was either the stupidest or the most callous man on earth because he hardly looked the part of the grief-stricken husband. He was dressed in a shocking red snakeskin jacket and sharp red boots. He carried a fat cigar which he waved in Del's face. "Hi all," he approached his mortified son. He glanced from face to face lingering at his father. "What's going on here?" he asked with a throaty laugh. "Who died?"
"Any shred of respect I ever had for you," Del snapped and looked at some of the funeral goers whose faces dropped open in shock. Del turned back to Reg."What the hell are you doing here?" Reg took off as soon as Mum got the letter from the doctor and neither she nor her son had heard from him the whole time
."I won a few at the races, but alas with times being as they are I'm now currently tapped out. I figured if your mum's right, I can talk with her about it."
"Reggie," Granddad gasped in surprise.
"Don't worry about it, Granddad," Del said touching his grandfather on the shoulder. "I'll take care of it."He returned to his father. "Mum's not here."
While his father was probably not the most intelligent of men, but surely he would have figured it out by now. "She moved out then? The hypocritical bitch, I even so much as look at another woman and I get an earful, but she can run off with another man any time she likes! Where is that sow?"
Del's felt his face burn with rage. He tried very hard to keep it in. "She just settled in," he said. "I'll give you the address." He repeated the address of Joan's "location." "Oh one more thing," Del said. "You may want to bring flowers you know she likes them." Reginald wrote the address on a paper and left.
"Well that'll hold him, eh, Gwen," Del said turning to Gwyneth. He could see that she wasn't near him. "Gwyneth?" he asked. She put on her jacket and gathered her purse. "Where you going?"
Gwyneth shrugged. "Home Del," she said.
"So I'll see you soon then?" Del asked but she didn't have to say anything. Her face revealed it all.
Gwyneth shook her head. "Not for now. I need time and so do you." She said. "Besides we'll have more time to see each other when Rodney's gone."
Del started. "Rodney's gone? What do you mean? What do you think is going to happen to him?"
Gwyneth was surprised. "Well you've told me often enough about your dad and certainly looking at this, I'd have to agree. Rodney's going into care isn't he?" Del's mouth stayed firm and lined. He shook his head. Come on, Del, what else is going to happen to him? You couldn't possibly take him in yourself."
"That's exactly what I'm going to do," Del said. "Before she died my Mum told me to look after him.
"By yourself Del," she said. "Why?"
"Well I sure as hell not going to leave him alone with our father am I?" Del asked. "Granddad's alright but well he's getting old." He nodded over at his grandfather who touched what was obviously a burning stove and screamed in pain. "I mean he did a good job looking after Rodney while Mum was sick and I took care of her, but not alone."
"I don't understand Del," Gwen said. "You don't have to take this burden."
"No you don't understand," Del agreed. "I do have to."
"But you're too young," Gwen argued. "You aren't ready."
Del shrugged. "Mum said no one's ever ready to have kids. Look this ain't ideal but I need to take care of him and anyone in my life has to understand that."
Gwen nodded. "I do, but I'm not ready." She said. "I can't jump into this. It's too hard. I realized that at the cemetery. You leaped in for Rodney without a second thought. I couldn't do something like that. I'm too young for this. I didn't know where babies came from until a few years ago. I just...I can't."
Del nodded. "I understand, I ain't going to force you to do something that you don't want to do."
Gwyneth took off her ring and handed it back to Del. "Take care, Del. You can do whatever you like with it. At least the ring is real." Del opened his mouth to say something but thought better of it. He could never accuse Gwyneth of extreme brilliance. As she kissed him on the cheek, Del Boy couldn't shake the feeling that he was not only saying good-bye to Gwyneth, but a part of himself that would never return.
As Gwyneth walked out, Reg stormed back in. He grabbed Del by the shoulder. "You lying little shit!" He yelled. "You made me a complete fool! The driver he told me that the address was a cemetery!"
Del smirked. "Imagine that," he said sarcastically. "I'll give you a hint Dad," He emphasized the dad." Mum didn't get a job as an undertaker."
Reg started but then he seemed to visibly shrink in the next few seconds. He looked deflated and completely defeated. Del continued to speak. "You see Reg when someone is gravely ill, they don't usually make it."
Reg looked across at Del, his father, and the other people as if seeing them for the first time. "Joan," he whispered. He then cleared his throat and stood. "I can't- I just can't bother with this right now. I have to be somewhere." Before Del could say another word, Reg left the flat almost in a daze.
The funeral had dissipated by then. Many of the guests had left. Many of them hugged Del on the way out or offered respects. Vi approached Ted. She had tears in her eyes. "Ted, I'm going home," she said to Granddad."I know we've had our problems but if you would like to you may come with me."
Ted looked meaningfully at his grandson. "Thank you, I- that is," he shook his head. "No."
Vi nodded. "Suit yourself." She hugged her former husband. "Please tell Del Boy that he's in my thoughts and prayers."
"Alright," Granddad said. Then turned to Del who was only a few feet away talking to someone else. "Del Boy your grandmother says that you're in her-"
"-I got the gist Granddad," Del interrupted. He hugged his grandmother. She placed a casserole dish in the kitchen then left.
Del's four friends approached. "So we'll see you tomorrow night at Nag's Head?" Boycie asked."Jumbo'll buy us a round!"
Jumbo smirked. "Apparently, I'll buy a round."
"Yes," Del pointed. "Of course I'm still the same old Del. Good times, lad, good times and we need to plan another dodge. I just got the last ring back." He held up the ring. " 'Sides I know a few leads."
The guys smiled and left except Trigger. "I'm sorry I dropped your mum," he said.
Del smiled at his friend. "No worries mate. It's the first normal thing that happened all day."
Trigger hugged his friend. "She was a good woman, your mum," Trig replied. "
Yeah, she was," Del answered softly.
"Margaret and I left some casserole dishes on the stove for you, dear," Reeny said.
"Thank you kindly," the teenager said. He hugged the two older women before they left.
Before too long, Del and Granddad were left all alone in the flat. Both could feel the quiet mounting all around them. "I'd better get this cleaned up," Del said. He started to put away some of the glasses. He picked up the casseroles. "Why do people insist on feeding other people at funerals?" He tried to make light of the subject as he put the food away.
Granddad shrugged. "Maybe they think food is the last thing people think about," he said. "Anyway, I could use some of it."
"Help yourself Granddad," Del Boy invited. He threw out some of the dishes and gathered them in the sink. He let the water run in the drain as the hot water gathered and he slowly began to wash them.
Granddad followed his grandson into the kitchen and approached him. "Del give yourself a chance to think about her," he said. After all, he had wept himself almost into a stupor but Del had barely cried. "It's better to let it out than hide it or pretend that it never happened."
The teenager turned off the water and pretended that he hadn't heard. "I can't right now Granddad," he said. He tried to smile. "It depends on me don't it?" He cleared his throat. "I'd better look in on Rodney."
Del quietly entered Rodney's bedroom. Rodney's head was buried in the crook of his arm, but he made no movement. Then young boy's jacket had fallen on the floor, but he was still dressed in his white shirt and black short trousers as well as his shoes. Del knelt down and untied his brother's laces and removed his shoes. Then he ruffled his brother's hair. He sat by Rodney's side wondering what would happen to them now. The grief of the few days hit him as he lowered himself onto the bed and cried letting the tears fall silently. "Why didn't you tell me the truth about Mummy?" Rodney asked his voice slightly muffled by the pillow.
Del wiped the tears from his eyes. "I'm sorry, Rodders. I should have told you before. I just didn't know how to say that she was dead."He rubbed his little brother's back. "I guess I thought that if I didn't say it, then it wouldn't be true."
Rodney turned his body around to face his brother. "I don't feel good. Every time I think about Mummy, I get these burning bubbles inside."
Del nodded. "Yeah me too." Even still he did feel Rodney's forehead. The little boy did feel slightly warm. He was probably worrying himself into a fever. Del's voice cracked as he spoke. "You know it's alright to miss her as long as you and I miss her together."
"I wish she were here now," Rodney said crying.
"I know me too," Del replied. He then hugged his little brother as the two cried together. Del pulled away from his brother. "Now, come on let's get you ready for bed right?"
Rodney hesitated. "Del, would you read me a story?"
His older brother smiled and nodded. "Sure mate, what do you want to hear?"
"Mum was reading 'House at Pooh Corner'," Rodney suggested. Del nodded as his baby brother picked up the book by his table.
Del held open the book. It was an older version of the book that he remembered well because it was the same version that Mum read to him when he was little. Yes, he recognized the cover with Winnie-the-Pooh and the writing in red. "Yeah alright, where did she read last?" he asked.
"Pooh had just helped Eeyore move to his new house," Rodney answered. He sat up and moved closer to Del.
The teenager flipped the pages until he came to the spot. "Ah, here it is, Chapter Two: In which Tigger comes to the Forest and Has Breakfast..." Del continued to read to Rodney picking up where his mother left off.