John and Lenny stand outside the church drawing in on the butts of their cigarettes lamenting and gossiping about their friend Parker’s death. How does a fifty-five-year-old man manage to make his wife poison him? The two of them shoot the shit, unfazed by the crowd thickening in the pews for the viewing. The church bells ring and the small choir begins their rendition of ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ They ignore the cues to be seated.
“You heard what happened to him, right?”
“No, I haven’t, just that he was in the hospital for three days before he died. You know what happened?”
“She’d been poisoning him . . . Preparation H in the cake icing every weekend for two years.”
“He did love cake.”
“He did . . . That’s a bad way to go, though. A hemorrhoid cream death. How do you explain that to your kids?”
“You think they’re gonna tell’em? The family?”
“I sure as hell hope not. I wouldn’t want my kids knowing I died a hemorrhoid cream death. Jesus! I ain’t going to the funeral. It’s sure to be a nesting ground for the media. Half the neighborhood’s here and it’s just the viewing.”
“Are you gonna send flowers to his family?”
“Think I’ll send them an edible arrangement and have Edith bake them a pie.”
“Good. I thought you were gonna say ‘cake’. So glad you didn’t.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure they don’t want any cake any time soon. Damn. Just, damn. Word on the street is that Janie caught him cheating with Elaine. Elaine of all people, Lenny! Can you believe that?”
“Well, Elaine could bake a mean cake. Wait a minute . . . Do we really know if it was Janie and not Elaine who’d been poisoning him?”
“Aw hell, man. Let’s go inside before folks get to questioning what we’re doing.”
“God. That’s still such a bad way to go.”
The two friends stroll inside the building, each of them finding their own wives, and seating themselves quietly. Neither of them mentions the words ‘cake’ or ‘Preparation H’ ever again.
Here lies Parker T. Overton. Loyal Husband. Loving Father. Faithful Servant of the Lord. June 12, 1964 — July 12, 2019. Death by Preparation H.