Jazz Funeral for Meat
Originally published in VLAK Magazine. Purchase VLAK online.
Raymona wanted to have a jazz funeral but no one was dead, so we hired some musicians to have some last rites for meat. Raymona's husband had been a circus ringleader but he was killed suddenly by a smack in the head by a corn cob hurled out of the window of a moving vehicle while Raymona in the passenger seat enumerated a honey-do list. I never knew him but I know his funeral was well-choreographed, precise, and Protestant, and it did nothing to acclimate Raymona to the wrinkles on her face or the spots on her skin. So Raymona took her late husband's brass-buttoned coat out of the closet and put a notice in the local newspaper: FUNERAL FOR FOOD (Light Lunch Served). The jazz funeral for meat was not to be a mourning over death but a celebration of life, and so it was decided that the best venue for the event was in the middle of the market.
At the jazz funeral of the pork shank and the headcheese and the offal Raymona made the congregants hold umbrellas and said be careful, you don't want to put an eye out. On a humid day she was only three foot ten but she stood on an aquarium tank inside of which was a tangle of red claws and rubber bands and rubbed her fists over her husband's brass buttons and called to our attention the tuba player who did the valet parking at the church and who needed a ride home if anyone was willing. I wore a red dress to pay respect to the flesh. Raymona said, you're going to wear that? The others said, I'm sorry for your loss. But I certainly hadn't known the honoree before Raymona had him on ice with an apple in his mouth in the back of a borrowed F150.
Confirmation of the saxophonist's lacto-ovo-vegetarianism gave the event an air of suspicion and in short order he was politely excused. Then it was back to celebrating life. Under her breath Raymona told me: when it's my turn, dig a hole in the ground and be done with it. Then the tuba farted out a sad song and I began to cry. I looked around to see if anyone else was so moved and caught the eye of the upright bassist, bronze and beautiful and boy, and boy oh boy oh. The bass player caught my gaze and congenially he lifted one hand in the air, the biggest hand I had ever seen, hello, I acknowledge you.
Later I leaned coolly on a wooden crate and asked him, How did you become a bassist? and he said, I always wanted to be violinist but you see my big hands? and of course, I had seen those hands, and about them the following had occurred to me: I desire those big hands to be lain all over my body. I said, Uh uh huh, coolly, and he said, When I tried to play the violin these hands were so big and manly that they made the violin feel submissive and weak, and she wouldn't play, she just lay there in my big hands. I said, Uh huh uh huh. He said, So I tried to play the cello (Uh huh) but these hands were so strong and virile that the cello swooned and went limp to my touch. Uh uh uh uh uh. I watched him stand there with the bass and together their bodies fit, and suddenly mine didn't fit anywhere but jingled and groaned, and the crate I was leaning on rumbled and said, Eep!
At the punch bowl Raymona said, you had better not be making whoopie at the jazz funeral for meat! Most of the people in attendance were strictly interested in the free lunch and so I sought the company of the catfish and the tilapia, of whom I asked many polite questions and from whom I received little in return. Then it was the moment for the main event, and Raymona held a baton and the tuba player and the bassist beautifully brutishly heaved over their shoulders the pink body of a well-upholstered hog. He was slick and he smiled a little and they walked him all over so everyone could see and remember and everyone thought of all the good times they had had together, the tenderloin and the BsLT and the shoulders and knuckles and knees, God rest, God bless, God love him.
The sun had set and Raymona had only just lit the jazz funeral pyre and contracted the valet tubist to crank our honoree around when the when the bassist came to ask me to dance, and he put one big hand on the small of my back and I became round and rump and loin. And then he put his mouth on me and the catfish gaped and the bass looked on in envy. On the night air and on our breaths were the smells of ribs and rack and flank and belly and suckling and chop and cassoulet and cubano and porchetta and panchetta and carnitas and chicharrones and moo shu and prosciutto and al pastor. We were hungry. What goes in a whoopie pie?
Beside us candied quick like caramel the skin of our departed, a perfect crisp, his juice preserved. Over the shoulder of my beloved I watched Raymona watch me, slowly polishing off the last kernels of an ear of corn.