Lyme grumped his way to the taxi and got in the back, grumbling like a hungry cat and shooting sinister glances at new-fangled technologies. A kid whipped by on a motor-powered skateboard. The kids today struck Lyme as downright lazy; always dreaming up some way to avoid doing any manner of work. Using one leg was too much work for these scamps? Try walking a day in your life.
Gertrude slid slowly onto the seat next to Lyme, smelling like damp cardboard and breath mints.
“Give the man the address,” Lyme grumbled.
Gertrude fuddled with her purse, finally retrieving a soggy piece of paper. “Oh no,” Gertrude said. “My hand santizer exploded.
Lyme harrumphed and took the wet piece of parchment from her claw-like hand. He shook some slick slime from the page and unfolded it with arthritic fingers.
“Take us to 14- no-“ Lyme lost his place on the page.
“You’re reading it all wrong,” Gertrude said.
“I know how to read a number on a page,” Lyme said. In truth, he wasn’t wearing his glasses and he’d forgotten he wasn’t wearing his glasses and the page appeared to Lyme as a wet blur.
“Take your glasses,” Gertrude said. She pressed the bifocles into his hand and then started removing sanitizer-soaked items from her purse.
“Right,” Lyme said. He pushed the glasses up his nose and held up the page. “It’s 2017 Newe Street,” he said.
The taxi took off.
“Chicago is a pretty city,” Gertrude said. They drove through the city, avoiding most traffic thanks to the noon hour.
“I’ve seen prettier,” Lyme said.
The trip took thirty minutes and Lyme paid the taxi driver in cash. They stepped laboriously out of the taxi and onto the sidewalk outside of Sacred Oaks Funeral Home. Lyme sputtered at the sight, and swung his head to look at Gertrude. “There’s no wake?” Lyme said.
“Flo’s children didn’t want one,” Gertrude said.
Lyme’s eyes bulged and he rightly steamed as the couple made their way into the funeral home. They entered into a bit of despair; an ill-lit room full of wailing, bubbling family and friends.
A young man approached Lyme and Gertrude with wet eyes.
“You must be Lyme,” he said, offering a hand.
Lyme took it and shook.
“And Gertude,” the young man said.
He shook Gertrude’s hand.
“Who’re you?” Lyme asked.
“Ralphie,” Ralphie said. “Flo’s Grandson.”
“Ah, straight to brass tacks then,” Lyme said. He rolled up the sleeves of his cardigan. “How could you have a funeral without a wake?”
Ralphie seemed taken aback.
“There are no wakes in Chicago sir. Not since 2020.”
“What?” Lyme said quietly.
“Government ruled they simply served as drunken disasters. We’re not allowed to have them,” Ralphie said.
“You can’t have a funeral without a wake,” Lyme said. “Where’s the booze? You want me to suffer?”
A woman wailed in the background and Lyme festered where he stood.
“Listen boyo, I know you think you know everything, but I’ve been around a long time. Flo’s been my friend five decades. Fifty years of friendship. You can bet your ass I won’t be sitting through this sober,” Lyme said.
With that, he turned for the exit.
“Sorry dear,” Gertrude said. “Lyme’s rather outspoken, but you should really serve a beverage. Someone’s died for God’s sake.”
Gertrude shook her head and followed Lyme out of the funeral home.
The couple returned fifteen minutes later.
“Who wants whiskey?” Lyme called. Gertrude strained under the weight of her purse which appeared clunky and mishaped due to the excess of bottles contained within.
“What?” An older man said. The man shared Flo’s dark brown eyes and he walked over to Lyme and Gertrude shaking his head emphatically. “What is this?”
“Alcohol m’boy, it’s good for pain, take a swig,” Lyme said. He thrust a bottle of whiskey in the older man’s arms.
“Who’re you young man?” Gertrude said.
“Calvin, Flo’s son,” the man said.
“Drink up, the hurt is harder the closer to the heart the loss is,” Gertrude said.
Flo’s family simply stared awestruck as Gertrude and Lyme went among them, distributing bottles of hard liquor. Some started drinking immediately, recoiling at the taste of warm whiskey, but somehow the disgusting flavour seemed to suit the occasion.
Once they made their rounds, Gertrude and Lyme stood by the casket, and Lyme drank deep from a bottle of scotch.
“Listen here now,” Lyme said, raising the bottle. “A toast, to the finest woman we ever knew. The peak of kindness, the vision of grace and the best damn cooker in the United States. Nothing against your cooking dear,” he added.
“No offense taken, keep going dear, it’s lovely,” Gertrude said.
“Flo loved whiskey. I spent more’n a few nights sitting around a table with her, Gertrude and the ole’ late tatter tap Thompson. Flo could dance with the best of em,’ and her voice – boy, her voice could shake a room to it’s knees,” Lyme said. He raised his bottle high.
“So let’s drink to the finest woman most of us’ll ever know and then drink again to forget she’s gone,” Lyme said.
Every single person in that room took a drink, and by the end of the night, not a single sober, sobbing person saddened the room.
Prompt from reddit.com/r/writingprompts