I’ve never bought a coffin (and long may that continue) and I’m pretty sure they don’t sell them in showrooms like Porsches, but if this gives anyone an idea for a business, do let me know how it goes.
‘So the deluxe model, then… lightweight, durable, lovely silk lining, gorgeous deep varnish finish, Wi-Fi, plenty of leg room…’
‘Wi-Fi?’ said Charles. ‘Why… why would it need Wi-Fi?’
The salesman, known by his name badge as ‘Jamie J – Coffin Genius’, eyed Charles incredulously. ‘Charlie,’ he said. ‘Can I call you Charlie?’
‘I’d rather you didn’t,’ stammered Charles.
‘Charlie,’ continued Jamie. ‘You’ve gotta have Wi-Fi in your coffin these days. Your dad, right, I bet he loved his mobile, right?’
‘Not really, he could only just about turn it on.’
‘Everyone loves their mobiles, course they do,’ said Jamie. ‘So we’re finding that more and more of our clients – actually, we think of them more as friends than clients, friends we’re meeting just that little bit late – want to have their phones buried with them.
‘Now,’ he continued, words cascading over Charles as he tried to interrupt, ‘sure you could get the basic package,’ – said with a sneer and a condescending look – ‘with its polyester lining and no way for your dad to Tweet from the grave…’
Charles’ eyes almost boggled out of his head.
‘…but you’d want the best for your old man, right Charlie?’ said Jamie, patting Charles on the back and making him wince.
‘But I really don’t think…’ said Charles weakly.
‘Look Charlie,’ said Jamie, all slicked back hair and sharklike grin, ‘My old dad, he’s coming to the end of his time, right, and he said to me, “Jamie,” he said, “I want the best. I don’t want to be uncomfy down there, you know me, I like my creature comforts. And I’m a tall man, Jamie, so I need lots of leg room. And worse,” and you know Charlie, I almost shed a tear at this bit, “and worse, I can’t be without YouTube. You know how I love me videos of cats falling off tables. What am I gonna do six feet under without that? I’ll be bored off me nut.”
‘So I said, “Dad, come down to me shop. We’ll pick you out something fancy, and I’ll keep it for you for when you go.” And he did, and he chose not the deluxe, but the super-deluxe model – complete with Netflix subscription, Sky TV and a mini-fridge, the things they do these days, and what’s more, I said, “Dad, seeing as it’s you, I’ll give you a three per cent discount.” And he gave me such a big hug, and he kept telling me how much he loves me, what a brilliant son I am, I could barely shut him up. I mean, you’ve gotta do the best for your old pops, isn’t that right? I know you agree with me, Charlie.’
By this point, Charles was simply nodding along, stupefied by the sales patter.
‘Tell you what, Charlie,’ said Jamie, putting his arm around Charles’ shoulders. ‘I wouldn’t normally do this, but let me take you into the back, and I’ll show you the coffin I’ve got reserved for me dad. It’s the business. I’ll do you a deal on one just like it.’
He guided Charles through the showroom, past the display of discount coffins (‘Buy one, get two free!’) and through some double doors. Down a corridor, and into a back room.
‘There,’ said Jamie. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’
It was, Charles could just about recognise through his mental fug, an exceptional looking coffin. It was twice the size of any he’d ever seen, with burnished brass handles, plump purple cushions and deep, varnished inviting oak. Inside, it had a small TV screen, a mini-fridge, and a phone charging socket. It practically radiated luxury, and almost made you wish you were dead so you could have a go in it without feeling awkward.
Jamie circled his prey. ‘And what’s more, Charlie, seeing as it’s you, I’ll give you a five per cent discount. That’s even more than I gave to my old man, but I think you and me are on the same wavelength, you know what I mean.’
Charles gulped. ‘How much is it?’ he quavered.
‘Thirteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty pounds?!’ screeched Charles’ son Martin, studying the funeral bill a couple of days after Gramps had been laid to rest. ‘For a coffin? Dad, have you gone completely bloody mad?!’
‘It’s got Wi-Fi in it,’ said Charles. ‘And Netflix.’
‘Netflix! Netflix! Gramps only just about worked out that there was a Channel 5 last year, and you think now he’s dead his corpse is suddenly going to wake up and start watching Orange Is The New Black?! He’s dead, Dad, he doesn’t need Wi-Fi!’
‘He can Tweet, the man in the shop said. And watch YouTube. And all that.’
‘What? Is he going to emerge at the Pearly gates, phone in hand and send us Snapchat pictures of the angels? Or does he just lie in the coffin for the rest of eternity, watching YouTube while his limbs rot off?’
‘I’ll remind you that this is your Gramps you’re talking about. Don’t be so disrespectful. The man said sometimes corpses do really just “wake up” as you put it, and need some entertainment.’
‘Look, sorry Dad, but… jeez. When did Gramps get a phone that could do all that anyway?’
‘I bought one for him, through the Coffin Shop. Look, it’s toward the bottom of the bill.’ He pointed. ‘I put it in your Gramps’ suit pocket during the viewing. Only forty-five quid a month, unlimited calls and texts, 20 gig of data, the man said it was a good deal.’
Martin’s face was as cold as his grandad’s corpse. ‘I’m going down to that bloody shop,’ he said icily, ‘right now and I’m going to tell them—‘
He was interrupted by a brief buzz from his pocket. He had a tweet, from an account he’d never seen before.
‘Hi buddy – 1st tweet! Coffin v comfy – & loving Orange Is the New Black. #Fab! Bit lonely tho, follow me back! Luv, Gramps. X x’
Martin handed his phone to his dad, and fainted.