...the Asking of Painful Questions." (The Funeral by Richard Matheson)
After reading "I am Legend," I expected this short story to deal with the monstrous case of the vampire again, and it didn't disappoint. I didn't find this a surprising read, but it was highly entertaining. What made the piece most enjoyable was Matheson's extraordinary use of language and the way he moved from a sedate and serious situation to one of almost perposterous chaos. One moment, there's a barely pulsatile funeral master ready to guide a bereaved customer into the forest of grief and out again with lighter pockets, and in another moment his quarry disappears out a window flapping his wings. This story rapidly stepped across the pictorial line of a believable (albeit macabre) every day situation and leaped a dark chasm to embrace the fantastical and chaotic mosaic of the undead.
Yes, I'm a sap for Matheson I suppose. Some of his language is overly flowery and some people might consider it borderline purple prose...but his combination of words is set on the page so masterfully that I can't help but read his work over and over again. I've never read any other piece of prose that described a man's eyes as 'liver-colored,' (and having done autopsy, I know what a fresh human one looks like) and I adored the pet names Morton Silkline used for his traditional bereaved-one's process. The "Grieved One's Chair" and "The Asking of Painful Questions" were priceless phrases that gave me a huge amount of insight into Silkline's character and day-to-day life.
I did wonder at the end if Morton might make it to the realm of the undead himself, since he was considered (potentially) tasty...but then I was pleased and thoroughly enjoyed the ending. Successful businesses are tough because they demand a lot of the business-person. The greater the pay, the greater the difficulty (in one way or another). Whether it be fame and the loss of freedom that comes with it, or serving a clientele that is demanding and that others find less desirous...business is business and each coin exacts a toll in...all circumstances.
Live long and prosper.