Characters: Shirley Grant – the mother
Ian Grant – her eldest son
Don Grant – her second son
Angela Allen – the daughter, her youngest child
Natalie Walker – The funeral arranger
Four people are in a family/kitchen/dining room. There is evidence that a child lives in the house.
Ian, the owner of the house, is on the phone. His brother and mother sit at the table. The siblings
are in their early to mid thir ties and the mother is in her early sixties. The mother, Shirley, is sitting
at the head of the table and is staring off into the distance, obviously thinking of the past. She is
flanked by her son Don and Ian’s empty chair. Her daughter Angela is standing looking out a
Ian speaks on the phone
Ian: Thanks Anne, I appreciate you calling (pause)
Well Emma isn’t here at the moment, she had to go and help Alex at school. They are
doing a reenactment of the Big Bang Theor y, or something. (pause)
Yeah I know – well Alex only had to dress as pluto which was easy, he just needed a
blue outfit. I was worried he was going to have to be a gas giant which would have
been beyond us at the moment. (He laughs ironically then pauses.)
Mm you got to laugh or you’ll cr y, actually the biggest problem, now he’s doing the
Solar system, is he’s questioning the whole “Grandpa’s become a star up in heaven” line.
At least it has given him something to take his mind off things, cause we are all a bit
upset at the moment. (pause)
Yeah, Anyway the funeral arranger is coming over soon so I better go, I’ll tell Emma
you called. (pause)
Ian hangs up the phone, walks across to the table and sits down.
Don: How can you make jokes at a time like this Ian?
Ian: Sorry. Like I said You either laugh or cr y. I feel a bit like a yoyo going from one to the
other. But you know life has to go on.
Angela: (Turning from the window angrily) Not for ever yone it doesn’t. Life won’t go on for
She walks across from the window and stands behind a chair.
Angela: I’m just so glad I got here in time.
Don: In time for what? In time to see him die?
Angela: No! To see him before he died.
Don: He was as good as dead Angie, it was just the machines keeping the air circulating
and the blood pumping.
Angela: What are you tr ying to do Don, make me feel guilty for getting on with my own life?
I got on the first plane. I got here as quick as I could. I got here before you did and
you only had to fly from Melbourne.
Don: Hey, I’ve got a business to run you know. I can’t just drop ever ything and jump on a
Angela: (Snidely) Well aren’t you the important one!
Ian: (Interjecting) I just think you should have come when he had the first scare 3 months
ago, then you could have seen him when he really was still alive.
Angela: (In distress) Oh I was going to, but Mum said he was OK, and I had this impor tant
job come up…
Don: (Mimicking) Aren’t you the important one!
Shirley: (looking away from the window and coming back to the present) Oh shut up will
you. Why are you fighting when your father has only been dead for 24 hours?
Angela moves around and stoops next to her mother with her arm around her shoulders.
Angela: Oh Mum I’m sorr y, let me get you a cup of coffee.
Ian: I’ll get it
Ian gets up and moves around the kitchen. He puts on the kettle and organises cups and a
plunger of coffee.
Shirley: When is that funeral person coming?
Ian looks up at the kitchen clock
Ian: Soon, 10.30.
Shirley: I don’t think I can cope with making all these decisions.
Ian walks back to the table
Ian: It’s OK Mum, we’ll all help, anyway, I thought you had discussed all this with Dad.
Shirley: Yes, but I didn’t really take it all in. I didn’t want to think about it you know, I though
it was better not to worr y him. I kept telling him not to be silly, that he was going to get
Shirley starts to cr y. Angela moves to sit in Ian’s chair, still with her arm on Shirley’s shoulder.
Angela: Oh Mum.
A faint knock is heard from the front door
Don: I think I heard the door.
He gets up and disappears from the room. Everyone else looks towards where he has gone.
Don: (From out of the room) Through this way please.
No one speaks until he returns with a young woman in a very short skirt and jacket of pale
mauve. She smiles brightly as she walks towards the table.
Natalie: Hi everyone, and how are we all today?
The family look at her blankly
Natalie: My name is Natalie Walker and I am the sales representative for James Elgar
Funeral Services. Here’s my card. Now you must be the widow.
Shirley: Oh I..
Don: My father only died yesterday, I don’t think my mother is quite ready to answer to the
Natalie: Well in my experience it is better not to beat around the bush. I have been working
at James Elgar’s for 3 months now so I know a lot about dealing with dead people, and
it is best to just move on. Now Mrs ah.. Grant, shall we get started?
Natalie sits in Don’s chair next to Shirley and pulls out a file and a notebook. Don is forced
reluctantly to sit next to her
Don: (Under his breath) Yeah, but how much do you know about the living?
The kettle boils. Ian moves back into the kitchen.
Ian: Miss .. um Walker? We were about to have coffee would you like one?
Natalie: Yes that would be lovely, white with two. I am supposed to be cutting down on my
sugar intake but a spoonful here and there isn’t going to kill me is it? (She smiles
winningly around the table.) Now this isn’t going to be hard, it is just like playing a multiple
choice game. I give you the options and you choose one.
While she speaks Ian brings the coffee things to the table and serves everyone, then he sits
down next to Angela.
Natalie: Burial or cremation?
Natalie: Good choice. I don’t know why people still want to be buried. All those worms
eating you up Argh!
Angela: Hang on, how come Ian gets to choose? Just because you are the oldest doesn’t
mean that we don’t get a say.
Ian: It’s what Dad wanted Angie, and Mum wants it too, don’t you Mum.
Shirley nods over her coffee cup.
Angela: Well I am not happy about it. I can’t bear the thought of dad being burnt!
Don: I agree I think we should all get to have a say. Just because you live around the
corner from Mum and Dad doesn’t mean you get to have all the say. It’s always the
same with you, bossing us around, now that Dad’s dead I bet you’re going to lay on the whole
head-of-the-family routine. You’ve been bossing me around since the day I was born.
And don’t think I’m going to forget the way you talked me out of getting the scale model
of the Enterprise – just so you could have it.
Ian: (soothingly) Don, I was eight, and I genuinely thought the Klingon cruiser was better
value… Anyway I’m not trying to boss anyone, it’s just that I got to talk to Dad
about all this stuff in the last couple of weeks. He did want to be cremated.
Angela: (Cutting across the men, she addresses Natalie.) What happens when you get
I mean, do they…, does the body….., I mean does it all burn?
Natalie: Pretty much, it is a ver y hot oven, but if it doesn’t, then they just pulverise any
bones that are left.
Shirley chokes on her coffee.
Natalie: And you have to decide whether to take the rings and stuff off. They remove the
coffin handles so they don’t melt and get mixed up with the ashes.
Angela: (in rising hysteria) The ashes! That’s another thing. How do you know it is him?
How do we know that you’ve put him in the container, that you’ve got all of him? How do
you know that some bits of my father are not stuck on to the broom or what ever you use to
sweep the ashes up with?
Shirley: Stop it Angela, Stop it! (She bangs down her cup spilling coffee on the table.)
Don: What’s the matter with you?
Ian: Look, it is probably jet lag, among other things. I’m tired as well, I spent the last three
days sitting by his bed and haven’t slept much, so lets try to pull ourselves together and
get through this.
Natalie: OK so cremation it is. (She ticks something in her note book.) Next, the date. We
can slot you in on… (She leafs through the pages.) Thursday at say 2.30 if you like?
Ian: The sooner the better, so that ever yone can fly back home.
Don: Are you trying to get rid of us?
Ian: No, of course not! You just said you had a lot of work on so I thought you needed to
Don: (Somewhat mollified.) Oh, well yes I have, but I’m allowed compassionate leave
Angela: Don’t worry about him Don, we can stay with mum…
Shirley looks up in alarm
Angela: …or a hotel, it wouldn’t cost that much if we shared a room.
Don: Jesus I’m not staying in a room with you! You give me the heebie jeebies when you
talk in your sleep, and your eyes never quite close when you’re asleep so I feel like
you’re watching me the whole time.
Angela: (Angrily.)What would I be watching you for you idiot? Anyway you haven’t shared a
room with me since I was six. And, for your information, I wear one of those sleeping mask
things you get on the plane, when I sleep.
Don: Well, I bet you look like the bloody bride of Dracula. It’s no wonder your husband left
Angela: You bastard!
Ian: Let’s move on shall we? Mum? Are you Ok? Mum?
Shirley has gone back to gazing out the window. She doesn’t answer.
Natalie: Next the coffin, there are a few to choose from, it depends whether you want to go
cheap or not.
She pulls a brochure out of her brief case and shows them.
Don: (Angrily) Cheap! What do you think we are? This is our father you are talking about.
He should have the best there is.
Ian: (Cautiously.)Well, we should just check the prices, don’t you think?
Don: You always were penny pinching Ian. Give me the brochure.
Don takes the brochure and scans the prices.
Don: Shit, what are they made of? Gold?
Natalie: Of course not, then they wouldn’t burn. Some people just like to spend money on
funerals, it makes them feel less guilty. I think it’s a waste, they should just have
cardboard coffins if they are only going to be burnt. Or recycle them, you know you could
just hire the coffin and after they go down on the lift you could slide out the body into the oven,
spray around some air freshener and send the coffin back up on a conveyer for the next
one. It would sort of pop up in line like the ball at the bowling alley.
Natalie starts writing this new idea in her note book.
Ian: (carefully) I.. ah.. I don’t think we would like a recycled one.
Natalie: No you can’t have one, I just invented them. One day I am going to own my own
funeral parlour so I need to write down all these ideas when I think of them.
I’ve got heaps of things written here. Do you want to hear some? I thought we could
start cold calling people to build up business, you know like the security companies do.
You would be surprised how many people have recent bereavements
when you talk to them. And we could offer discounts if they allowed us to put a sign in
their front lawn saying “This family have been serviced by Natalie Walker Funerals”, and it could
have a black ribbon on. I reckon people might find that useful as guests would know not
to be all bright and cheery when they knocked on the door. Actually – It would be a great to help
people when they are tr ying to find the wake as well, wouldn’t it? (She writes
another note in her book. Don and Ian are speechless.)
Angela: (Interrupting) What does he wear?
Ian and Don: What?
Angela: What do we dress him in? You know, suit, uniform, what? I want to know.
Don: (Under his breath.) I don’t believe this.
Shirley: (Speaking for the first time in a while.) He will wear his good blue suit.
Angela: (Looks at her mother as if she has forgotten she was there.) Well I want him to
wear that grey overcoat I had made for him last time I came through Singapore!
Ian: It won’t match the suit Angie.
Angela: I don’t care, it would make me feel better to know he was wearing it.
Don: It would make me feel better to know I was wearing it, ever yone said it looked good
on me that time I borrowed it.
Angela: How could you Don!
Don: I’m just being practical, he can’t take it with him you know. especially not when it has
been burnt and /or pulverised, and anyway I want him to wear that fishing hat I gave him for
Christmas. Whenever I think of him I imagine him wearing that hat. He loved it.
Ian: Actually I know Alex would be really pleased if he was wearing the slippers he bought
him for Fathers Day, I really think that would help Alex with the grieving
Angela: (Shrilly) You can’t be serious. Natalie, they can’t do that can they?
Natalie: (Cheerfully) Oh you can put him in anything you like, you can dress him in chains
and leather if you want! But I guess you won’t be wanting a viewing then?
Shirley: Ohhh. (She appears about to collapse.)
Don: (Standing and knocking over his chair.) Look, Miss, whatever your name is, you are
upsetting my mother!
Natalie: (With a look of genuine concern) Oh I am sorr y Mrs Allen, don’t upset yourself.
Just think what a good life he had. I mean, he was pretty old wasn’t he? He had had a
long life, he was probably ready to die.
Shirley: (Indignantly) What do you mean, what do you mean? He was only 65, he should
have lived another 20 years at least. I’ll have you know my parents are still alive. They
are nearly in their nineties and still live in their own home in Albany!
Natalie: Wow, hey we’ve got a branch in Albany.
Natalie: James Elgar, we have an office in Albany. Your parents can’t last much longer you
Shirley: I can’t stand this, I’m leaving. I’m going to walk home.
Shirley stands and Don, still standing, moves around to stand with his mother.
Don: Mum don’t, please. Look I will drive you home. Ian can I borrow your car?
Ian comes around the table to join them. Angela appears to have lost interest and is busy reading
a brochure on coffins.
Ian: Sure. Mum why don’t we talk about this later. (he glances back at Natalie and
continues in a lower voice) Maybe we should get someone else, another funeral
company, perhaps and older man in a black suit?
Natalie: (who is writing in her note book at the table) She’s already signed.
Natalie: Your Mother, She signed the release forms, yesterday in the hospital. We’ve
already got the body, so you might as well stay with us. (She laughs cheerfully)
possession is a tenth of the law isn’t it?
Don: (Moving towards her menacingly.) Have you ever pondered your own death Miss
Ian: ( Warningly) Don.
Natalie: No of course not why would I go round thinking about morbid things like that? I’m
a ver y positive person, cheery, you know. I’m a people person, that’s why I’m so
good at this job.
Everyone stares at her in astonishment. She gathers her things and stands up.
Natalie: Well if you have all finished I might as well go. I will ring you tomorrow to confirm
all the decisions you have made. and then we will proceed.
Ian: (Quietly to Don.) I didn’t think we had made any decisions.
Natalie walks past them towards the front door.
Natalie: Good bye, have a nice day.
The family remain in their positions looking at each other questioningly. Except for Angela who
holds up the brochure.
Angela: The Rembrandt looks nice.