Matheson must have based his funeral parlor director, Morton Silkline, on every stereotype he could find. Silkline is smooth, and he’s light on his feet; he really is like a dancer, gliding around, offering both sympathy and comfort to the recently bereaved. And all while never losing sight of the whole point of the thing for him – the money. That he does it all in a completely seamless, and genuine manner, is what makes him a perfect monster.
So it’s no surprise that word somehow gets out. To the other monsters, that is. (Because even monsters must have their own grapevine.) This is where Ludwig Asper comes in. Having been, most likely, unceremoniously dispatched by some blood-thirsty vampiric wretch hundreds of years ago, Asper missed the best part of dying – his funeral. So now he intends to make up for that by throwing himself a big bash at Clooney’s Cut-Rate Catafalque, and all his monster friends will be there. (Incidentally, I had to look up the word “catafalque” – it means “a raised structure on which the body of a deceased person lies or is carried in state; a hearse.”1)
I thought this story was a pleasant, little romp. Silkline was perfect, and despite that little hiccup at the beginning, where he gets upset at Asper’s “joke”, by the end of the story he shows himself to be the ultimate parasite – totally adaptable to the new situation. The best part of this story was all the other monsters who attended Asper’s “funeral.” As a few other people have already pointed out – this group acted like any other family. You had the cantankerous, but sweet, crazy cat-lady aunt; the creepy uncle (who never says anything but, “Tasty”); the dignified grand-dad, “Count”; the weird, werewolf cousin, and the assorted “others” who always seem to be there.
Predictably, this group of misfits is seldom in the same room together, and so are not very good at getting along. (Jeez, that sounds so familiar.) But, like most “normal” families, they make an attempt at being nice until the strain is too much for them, and then all hell breaks loose.
The story was a quick read, and it showed the author’s more playful side. I have to say, the creepy gnome-guy who kept murmuring, “tasty” was my favorite. I think I have sat next to that guy, or one of his relatives, on the subway a couple of times. Creepy! Jenny the witch was also good, mostly because I think I have become the “Jenny” in my family. (Eh. Someone’s got to do it.)
I also loved that Matheson did such a nice job of portraiture in this little story – I could see every character clearly, but none more so than Silkline. It was fun to watch him morph from an ordinary, run-of-the-mill leech at the beginning of the story – plump, well-fed, doing very nicely, thank you very much – to an imperturbable and sleek bloodsucker. As someone else so helpfully pointed out, Silkline had an actual character arc in this story.
His mother would’ve been so proud.
Matheson, Richard, “The Funeral”. I Am Legend. 1995. New York: Tor, 2007