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Saturday, 19 July 2014

A Dubious Undertaking - Part 2

Continued from Part 1

“Oh indeed, Archibald.  Then we come to the unfortunate business of Mr. Tomkins.”

“Hur” Archibald chuckled

“This is not a laughing matter, Thurble!”  Josiah shouted but quickly regained his composure.  “I’m sorry, Archibald, please forgive my intemperance.  The past few days have been something of a strain.  Now, Mr. Tomkins” He moved another manila folder to the top of the pile and extracted some papers.  “As I understand it, from the Police report, you took it upon yourself to embalm the late Mr. Tomkins, despite having no training whatsoever in this regard, is that correct?”

“Well, I thought I’d give it a go, Mr. Oakwood.  I’d watched some of the lads at it and it didn’t seem to me that there was much to it”

“I see, I see.  But you encountered a problem when it came to the embalming fluid, is that correct?”

“Couldn’t find none” Archibald confirmed

“You ‘couldn’t find none’.  Indeed.”  Josiah massaged his throbbing temple for a moment.  “Tell me, Archibald, what did you do instead?”

“Went down the garage and got some unleaded”

“You ‘went down the garage and got some unleaded’?”

“Yeah, there was an offer on too.  I got one of them wind-up torches”  He pulled a torch from one of his pockets, “It works a treat down the mortuary.”

“Had it not occurred to you, Archibald, that, given Mr. Tomkins express wish to be cremated, filling his remains full of Unleaded Petrol might not be the wisest choice of actions?”

“Didn’t think, Mr. Oakwood” Archibald muttered

“You didn’t think?  You are aware, are you not, that the resultant explosion permanently removed the hearing of the Crematorium Superintendent, demolished the Balmoral Chapel and deposited Mr. Grimes, the Crematorium Attendant two miles away?”

“There was a bit of a bang” Archibald agreed

“A bit of a bang?  Had it not been for the happy accident of Mr. Grimes landing on a pile of mattresses awaiting disposal at the Municipal Refuse Depot, we could have been facing a murder charge.”

“Bet he bounced quite a bit” Archibald sniggered

“I have no idea whether he bounced or otherwise, and it is immaterial to this conversation” Josiah snapped, 
“As for the late Mr. Tomkins, there was no trace whatsoever”

“But I saw his missus just going out with an urn” Archibald said, perplexed.

“Mrs. Tomkins is about to inter two pounds of Premium Quality Cat Litter along with the detritus from my wood-burning stove, and we can only hope she doesn’t decide to open the urn and examine the contents beforehand.”  Josiah extracted a linen handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his forehead. “That Oakwood and Undershot should be reduced to this” 

“She’ll never know the difference” Archibald said reassuringly

“We can only hope.  Finally, we come to the newspaper advertisement.  Do you know to what I’m referring, Archibald?”

“Think so, Mr. Oakwood”

“For as long as I can remember, Archibald, Oakwood and Undershot have had a box advertisement to the right of the title of the Merkin-Under-Heathwood Advertiser.  The masthead as I believe it is known in the trade.  This has always read ‘Oakwood and Undershot, Understanding and Sympathy at your time of need’.  Do you recall that, Archibald?”

“I’ve noticed it, yes Mr. Oakwood”

“I had no idea, Archibald, that when the Merkin-Under-Heathwood Advertiser sends out its quarterly bills for the cost of this advertisement, that there is an additional section in which one can enter a change of wording for the advertisement, if one should so wish.  But you, Archibald, you spotted this didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I saw it when the bill arrived”

“And you saw fit to change the wording, didn’t you?”

“Yeah”

“Would you like to remind me as to your revised wording, Archibald?”

“Well…it says ‘Oakwood and Undershot…’”

“It does indeed.  But what does it then go on to say?”

We Shift Stiffs.”  Archibald muttered,“ I thought it would be snappier and stuff”

We Shift Stiffs!”  Josiah exclaimed despairingly.  He put his head in his hands and wept bitter tears.

Archibald watched with some concern for a minute and then decided that he should withdraw tactfully.  He could see that Mr. Oakwood was clearly overcome with emotion and there would be time enough for his grateful thanks when he had recovered.  Archibald slipped out of the room, proud of a job well done.

Enjoyed this silliness?  Now try Jambalaya