Who Dares to Disturb the Dead?
Pete Hofmann

It was all in one pot together, stewing in his brain as the years passed. His unavoidable death had a smell and taste to it. He hated the smell and taste until he came to realize that he had control, though not absolute, over it.

Why hold a funeral in a funeral home? Jon had a load of memories which became soil for the thought whenever he passed a funeral home. The wood was old, the antiques might be beautiful, the couches might be nice and comfy. But they might also smell like too many people. The carpet was worn and the coffee was weak. The tea, no one ever drinks tea around here, was always dusty and dry and either beverage tasted like crap in the styrofoam cups. Who wants to eat? We are all dressed up in clothes that might look good but are not comfortable.

He clung to the word funeral for two reasons. First, he wanted to be sure that upon his death the event he planned would serve the same function as all those mind numbing hours of prayer, reflection and nonsense he had to endure from all the members of his large family as they passed on to the next world. He loved them all dearly and remembered them individually with fondness. But Jon could not excuse the waste of the perfect and final opportunity to put your family and friends at ease.

The second reason was that he earnestly wanted to change the definition of the word funeral away from a somber ceremony to a celebration which poked fun at everyone and everything. He wanted others to have the same thing, he wanted it to be socially acceptable. He wanted it to be far from cutting edge and right in the middle of commonplace. He wanted to kill the funeral. That was what should die: the slow moving train of cars blocking traffic, the zombie-like recitation of prayers, and so on.

Jon had attended service and happenings after friends acquaintences had died. But these events lacked a completeness. In his mind they were offered as alternatives, the way soyburgers are offered instead of beef. Forget soyburgers. There is nothing wrong with soy that it has to pretend to look and taste like beef.

He wanted it in the city. He wanted a huge, huge white room. He watched Kubrics' 2001 over and over again. He loved how clean it was. He wanted to have it in a space station, but that just wasn't feasible. He wanted it uncluttered, with room to move. He wanted the couches to be comfortable and new. He wanted one type and shade of flower. He wanted cocktails served. He wanted a closed casket.

He was going to be cremated, but he didn't want to be cremated before his guests arrived. He wanted all his possesions placed in the center of the enormous room. He wanted all his furniture, his bed, linens, clothes, everything that he did not give away already to be up for grabs. People would simply walk up and and tell a burly duo of movers, dressed in white, "I want that." "Very good, sir."

After the guests arrived, his freshly cremated ashes would be in a box and put on a cart and wheeled around with the drinks. Then he wanted his ashes removed from the box and it would be revealed that they were in a clear plastic ball. The ball would be put on the ground and a full litter of white labrador puppies would be released from a clear plastic, sound proofed cube somewhere in the room. They would be encouraged to play with the ball.

He would have video monitors, plasma screens, placed all over the room. They would show collages of his life: days at the lake caught on super-8, video of him in his high school play, the wedding reception, and so on. The videos would be silent, and he would comment over the video. Interludes of video performance art, created by some friends of his, would silently play.

He loved randomness. He got to work on a computer program which played a three second clip of film from a collection of 300 hours of video: dogs mating, a psychology lecture, Macy's parade, moon landing, Love American Style episode, a baby eating ice cream, and so on. On either side of the clip, his parting words.

Jon spent hours and days, nights and weekends on this. When it was finished, the multimedia event was a masterpiece. And once it was completed, he took out a business loan and started his own business.

21st Century Goodbye opened its doors a year later. He hired film editors, a studio, interior designers, fashion consultants, writers, actors, you name it. He had an enormous stable of people with whom he could collaborate, depending on the personality of the client. He made a fortune. One of his selling points was his contingency plan.

"In the event that the original plan falls through, what is your back up plan?", he would ask his clients. "What if no one comes? What do you want to do then?" The answer, of course, was "take it to the street."

Jon's own contingency plan was this:

"First, we'll rent some convertibles. Put my embalmed body in the back of one, play music, drop dimes out the back, rig it so that my hand raises to the music in time. No! Wait! We'll take a week, a month, I don't know...as long as we can hold out...we'll just park the car in empty lots, with the top up at night. Leave my body there. When someone comes to break in, let a bright light shine on me. I'll record my voice... Who dares to disturb the dead!"