Stenny’s is well-known as a good spot to throw a funeral lunch; this dates back years, to when it was Pogo’s. There’s a big room in the back conducive to large gatherings, and some say that (oddly) the kitchen does better job on food served en masse than in individual portions.
Today, sadly, the funeral lunch is for someone we know—Alice, the ancient psychic who gave Stan the Nut such a cryptic and (to Stan) piss-poor view into his future. The lunch was arranged three days ago when Alice’s daughter approached Tara at the bar.
“Hi, you’re Tara, right?” the woman said.
“Yes, hello, how can I help you?” Tara responded.
“I’m Alice’s daughter; my name is Miranda.”
“Alice,” Tara said slowly. “I’m sorry, I can’t place her.”
“Oh yes, right, sorry. Can I get you a drink?”
“No, I’m here to arrange a luncheon,” Miranda said.
“Oh, sure, I can help you with that,” Tara said. “What’s the occasion?”
“My mother died. Didn’t I say that?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Tara said, while thinking No, you most certainly did not.
“So I’m here to arrange a luncheon.”
“Oh sure, I can help you with that,” Tara said again.
Their conversation continued in this fit-and-start fashion until all of the particulars were decided.
Now, a Tuesday afternoon in the 3rd week of March, Alice’s memorial lunch is in full swing. Ryan (Leigh’s “darling boy”) and perky Sarah are the servers; Stephen is working the bar and as such is getting regular updates about how things are going. Long Haul and her Miller Lites have settled in for the afternoon, and she is showing great interest in Ryan and Sarah’s reports.
Sarah stands at the service bar and smiles at Long Haul as she waits for Stephen to approach. “Crazy back there,” she says.
“What now?” Long Haul says. She has already heard that a preponderance of the attendees are of Alice’s psychic persuasion, and that they are drinking odd mixtures of alcohol that could accurately be called potions.
“They are selling their services to each other,” Sarah says. “The tarot card readers are hustling the palm readers, the fortune tellers are hustling the angel card readers. Or vice versa. You get the idea.”
“Are they charging full price? Or is there a professional courtesy discount?” Long Haul offers her cleaning services at a reduced rate to friends and acquaintances who offer other manual-labor services; it would not sit well with her if the group in the back did not do the same.
“I’m not sure, Tina, but I don’t think so,” Sarah says. She switches her attention to Stephen, and gives him the latest drink order. “Two vanilla vodkas on the rocks with heavy cream, sweet & low, and coffee; a cranberry sangria; and rum and vodka with orange juice, pineapple juice, nutmeg, and Strega. Three of those.”
Melissa would have said, “Fucking lunatics,” or something like that; Tara would have rolled her eyes and sighed, but Stephen smiles and says, “What an interesting lot they are.”
“What else are they doing?” Long Haul asks as Stephen prepares the drinks.
“Normal funeral lunch stuff, I guess,” Sarah says.
As we know, Sarah is young and sweet in addition to being perky, and Long Haul (who Sarah respectfully always calls by her given name) is a customer, so she gives the question some thought before answering.
“Eating, talking, looking at pictures of Alice, listening to the speeches,” she says.
“There are speeches?” Long Haul asks.
Sarah has loaded up her tray with the six drinks and says, “You know, remembrances, tributes. About Alice and her life. Gotta take these back. Talk to you later, Tina.”
Ryan and she cross paths, which is lucky for Long Haul, as she picks up her line of questioning with him.
“What are people saying about Alice?” she asks.
“Two Long Island Iced Teas, one with no vodka but double gin; a Tequila Sunrise; and three Singapore Slings, one with double grenadine, one with no grenadine, one with double Benedictine,” Ryan says to Stephen before replying to Long Haul. “Oh you know, anecdotes from the 11th century and thereabouts. How Alice cavorted with Leif Ericson.” Ryan is able to make this joke because he’s an avid reader of ancient history.
“Really? Wow.” Long Haul can sometimes be very gullible. “So there are people there as old as Alice?”
“Maybe not quite. She was over a thousand, remember. There’s one guy who may be close to 800. And Alice’s daughter, of course. She’s got to be about 975 if Alice had a normal span of childbearing years. Which of course may or may not be the case. Thanks, Stephen,” Ryan says as Stephen places the last Singapore Sling on the tray.
Stan rounds the corner, clearly headed from the back room. He sits next to Long Haul.
“Were you at Alice’s funeral lunch?” she asks.
“Yep, all Stenny’s regulars were invited. The chicken picante was very nice. Roast beef was a little chewy.”
“Did you know her?” Long Haul asks.
“Are you questioning why I attended, Tina? I told you all Stenny’s regulars were invited. And a free meal is a free meal.”
“No, Stan, I was not questioning that. Just asking you question. Don’t be asshole.” As we have seen, many of their conversations take this sort of path.
“Oh, ok,” Stan says, appeased. “I met her when she told my fortune. It was just last month. She was so old I thought she’d live forever.”
“Remind me what she told you. I remember you weren’t happy.”
“I wasn’t. She said ‘Your future will be determined by a trip to the past.’”
“Has it?” Long Haul asks.
“I’m here, aren’t I, Tina? Not mucking around in 1847.”
“I told you not to be an asshole. And why 1847?”
Stan sighs. “No reason, Tina. I was making a point.”
Long Haul takes a big gulp of her Miller Lite and says, “I’m going back there for some food. Can I bring you anything?”
“Some cookies would be nice,” Stan says.
“Get them yourself, crabby apple,” Long Haul says, pleasing herself immensely.