A. B. Funkhauser
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction,
Metaphysical, Paranormal, Dark Humor
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Date of Publication: April 23, 2015
Number of pages: 237
Word Count: 66,235
Formats available: Electronic, Paper Back
Cover Artist: Michelle Crocker
Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against god, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.
At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.
Is it really worth it?
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Fresh writing filled with rich vocabulary, this story features a vivid cast of colourful, living-breathing characters. This one will keep you reading late into the night until the final page.—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7
Ms. A.B Funkhauser is a brilliant and wacky writer …Her distinctive voice tells an intriguing story that mixes moral conflicts with dark humor.—Rachael Stapleton, Author, The Temple of Indra’s Jewel and Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire
The macabre black comedy is definitely a different sort of book! You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour. —Diana Harrison, Author, Always and Forever
Heuer Lost and Found is a quirky and irreverent story about a man who dies and finds his spirit trapped in a funeral home with an ex-lover who happens to be the mortician. The characterization is rich the story well-told.—Cryssa Bazos, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
Author A. B. Funkhauser strikes a macabre cord with her book "Heuer Lost and Found". I found it to have a similar feel to the HBO series "Six Feet Under".--Young, Author, A Harem Boy’s Saga Vol I, II, and III
Two Weeks Ago
The house, like the man who lived in it, was remarkable: a 1950s clapboard-brick number with a metal garage door that needed serious painting. Likewise, the windows, which had been replaced once in the Seventies under some home improvement program, then never again. They were wooden and they were cracked, allowing wasps and other insects inside.
This was of little consequence to him.
The neighbors, whom Heuer prodigiously ignored, would stare at the place. Greek, Italian, and house proud, they found the man’s disdain for his own home objectionable. He could see it on their faces when he looked out at them through dirty windows.
To hell with them.
If the neighbors disapproved of the moss green roof with its tar shingles that habitually blew off, then let them replace it. Money didn’t fall from the sky and if it did, he wouldn’t spend it on improvements to please strangers.
They were insects.
And yet there were times when Jürgen Heuer was forced to compromise. Money, he learned, could solve just about anything. But not where the willful and the pernicious were concerned. These, once singled out, required special attention.
Alfons Vermiglia, the Genovese neighbor next door, had taken great offense to his acacia tree, a towering twenty-five foot behemoth that had grown from a cutting given to him by a lodge brother. The acacia was esteemed in Masonic lore appearing often in ritual, rendering it so much more than just mere tree. In practical terms, it provided relief, offering shade on hot days to the little things beneath it. And it bloomed semi-annually, whimsically releasing a preponderance of white petals that carried on the wind mystical scent—the same found in sacred incense and parfums.
It was a dirty son of a bitch of a tree that dropped its leaves continuously from spring to fall, shedding tiny branches from its diffident margins. These were covered in nasty little thorns that damaged vinyl pool liners and soft feet alike. They also did a pretty amazing job of clogging Alfons’ pool filter, turning his twenty-five hundred gallon toy pool green overnight.
This chemistry compromised the neighbor’s pleasure and it heightened his passions, blinding Alfons to the true nature of his enemy. He crossed over onto Heuer’s property and drove copper nails into the root system. It was an old trick, Byzantine in its treachery; the copper would kill the tree slowly over time leading no one to suspect foul play.
But Heuer was cagey and suspicious by nature, so when the tree displayed signs of failure, he knew where to look.
The acacia recovered and Alfons said nothing. Heuer planted aralia—the “Devil’s Walking Stick”—along the fence line and this served as an even thornier reminder that he knew. And if there was any doubt at all, he went further by coating his neighbor’s corkscrew hazel with a generous dose of Wipe Out.
Intrusive neighbors and their misplaced curiosities were, by turns, annoying and amusing and their interest, though unwanted, did not go unappreciated. The Greeks on the other side of him weren’t combative in the least and they offered gardening advice whenever they caught him out of doors. The man, Panos, talked politics and cars, and expressed interest in the vehicle that sat shrouded and silent on Heuer’s driveway. He spoke long and colorfully about the glory days of Detroit muscle cars and how it all got bungled and bargained away.
“They sacrificed an industry to please a bunch of big mouths in Hollywood,” Panos would rant in complete disregard for history: Al Gore and Global Warming didn’t kill the GTO; the OPEC oil crisis did. But there was no point in telling him that.
Panos was an armchair car guy and incurable conspiracy theorist. He also kept to his side of the fence, unlike his wife, Stavroula, who was driven by natural instinct. Not content to leave an unmarried man alone, she routinely crossed Heuer’s weedy lawn, banging on the door with offers of food and a good housecleaning.
Heuer had no trouble accepting her cooking. But he declined her brush and broom. Was it kindness, or was she trying to see inside? He suspected the latter.
No one was ever seen entering Heuer’s house and while this piqued public interest, he never gave in, not even to those who were kind to him. He liked Panos and Stavroula and he regretted poisoning their cat.
But not enough to let them in to his home.
Others on the street had less contact with him. Canvassers at election time would disturb him, in spite of the lawn sign warning the solicitous away. That this didn’t apply to neighbor kids brave enough to pedal cookies and magazine subscriptions in spite of the sign, was a testament, perhaps, to some residual soft spot in his heart that endured.
Even so, he knew that people talked about him and, frankly, he had trouble accounting for their fascination. Short, curt, bespectacled, he courted an ethos that favored enforced detachment. When people got close enough to hear him speak, they detected a trace of an accent. Now faded after years of U.S. residency, his speech still bore the unmistakable patterns of someone undeniably foreign. Elaborate, overwrought and heavy on the adverbs, he spoke very much like his neighbors. Yet the distance between them was incalculable…
Day 1: Post Mortem
Heuer shook his head, finding it especially odd that he would think of such things at this particular moment. The circumstances, after all, were beyond peculiar. Coming out of thick, dense fog, standing upright, looking wildly around, and having difficulty comprehending, the last thing that should trouble him was human relations.
The man on the floor would have agreed, had he not lacked the resources to speak.
Heuer canvassed his surroundings. The room, still dark, the shades drawn, and the plants Stavroula forced on him, wilted and dry, bespoke of an unqualified sadness. His computer, left on and unattended, buzzed pointlessly in the corner, its screen saver, a multi-colored Spirograph montage, interspersed with translucent images of faceless Bond girls, twisting ad infinitum for an audience of none.
What happened here?
The bottle of Johnnie Black lay open and empty on the bedroom floor, along with a pack of Marlboro’s, gifts from an old friend. The desk chair lay on its side, toppled, in keeping with the rest of the room. His bed sheets were twisted, the pillows on the floor, and there were stains on the walls; strange residues deposited over time representing neglect and a desire to tell.
He looked down at his hands. They kept changing; the veins, wavy, rose and fell like pots of worms.
There was no evidence of eating, however, and this was really weird, for it was in this room that Heuer lived. Flat screens, mounted on the ceiling and on the desktop, kept him in line with the world outside in ways that papers could not. Screens blasted twenty-four and seven with their talking heads and CNN, whereas papers were flat and dirty, suitable only for the bottoms of bird cages. He cancelled the dailies first and then the weeklies, seeing no value whatever in printed words.
Pictures were another matter. Several in paint and charcoal and sepia covered the walls and floors. He loved them all, and he stared at them for hours when he pondered. His beer fridge, humidor, and model rocket collection completed him; housing the things he loved, all within perfect reach.
His senses, though dulled, honed in on a scent, distant yet familiar, coming from inside the room. It was bog-like-foul like a place he’d visited long ago, buried under wood ash. He frowned.
What was the last thing he ate? Did he cook or go for takeout? He wanted to go down to the kitchen to check, but found, to his astonishment, that he could not get past the doorframe into the outer hall.
Nein, das kann nicht sein!—Now this is not right!—he fumed, switching to German. He would do this whenever he encountered static. The spit and sharp of it forced people back because they could not understand what he meant.
Unballing his fists he felt his chest, registering the sensation of “feel”—he could feel “touch,” but he could not locate the beating heart. Consciously knitting his brows, he considered other bodily wants, his legal mind checking and balancing the laws of nature against the laws of the impossible. He could not, for example, feel “hunger” and he wasn’t dying for a drink either.
Was this a mark of passage into the nether? The man on the floor had no comment.
He thought about his bowels and if they needed attention, but that, to his great relief, no longer appeared to matter. Regularity, in recent years, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. When he was young, he reveled in a good clean out after the morning coffee because it reset his clock and established the tone for the rest of the day. Not so latterly. His prostate had kept its promise, letting him down, enlarging, pressing where it ought naught. Awake most nights, he lost sleep and dreams.
With this in mind, he bounced up and down on the soles of his expensive shoes in an effort to confirm if he was awake or not. Perhaps he was sleepwalking, or heading off to the can for another urinary evacuation that wouldn’t come?
The man on the floor ruled out these options.
He tried the door again, and again, to his dismay, he could not leave.
What to do? What to do?
‘I think, therefore I am,’ went the popular saying, but what good was ‘being’ when one was confined to a bedroom like a rat in a cage?
He struggled to remain calm, just as he became aware of that heavy oppressive feeling one gets before receiving bad news. Pacing back and forth across the ancient floorboards in the house he was born into, he checked for the kinds of incriminating evidence the court of public opinion would hold against him once found. Pornography, loaded handguns, too many candy wrappers all had to be dispatched before someone inevitably broke the door down.
As light turned to dark and day gave over into night, Heuer’s thoughts came faster and faster, in different languages, interspersed with corrugated images, accompanied by generous doses of Seventies rock; a fitting sound track for the old life, now ended.
He fell to his knees. Somewhere in this mélange was something to be grateful for and with time, he was sure, he would figure out what that single, great, thing might be. For now, all he could really do was take comfort in the fact that his death had been perfect.
Charles Emerson Forsythe
Born March 1945 in the bible belt in the aftermath of war. Raised on prayer and the Farmer’s Almanac Charlie grew up believing that faith, hard work and a little treachery would see him through. A dedicated funeral director, he has little patience for self delusion, but infinite hope that humans, like great works of art, get better the longer he looks at them.
From where Charlie Forsythe stood, this Monday was no different from any other. He rose at the appointed hour, switched on CLASSICAL Radio One, caught the morning news, and consumed the light breakfast of a poached egg and grapefruit that had been placed on the settee by his faithful steward Bernard.
He took the morning meal in his boudoir; as always a place of calm, studied elegance. It was, he thought, worlds removed from the hideousness and brutality of the street below. In actuality, it afforded him the tactile calm one needed to make a living off other people’s misery. And the room was positioned beautifully, facing east to catch the rising sun.
The condominium he called home was well placed at the centre of his city, with tony shops and fine dining mere steps away. Secured with gates that covered off locked doors, and a concierge to keep out those he cared not to meet, it was a testament to a life of hard work and the rewards it reaps. His success was his own, and he achieved it boldly and unapologetically.
His manner of dress was dictated by personal choice, buttressed by confidence gained through years of slips and falls. Charlie, without question, was above critique. It was, for example, going to be a hot day, yet this did not dissuade him from choosing the winter weight Savile Row in charcoal. To that, he paired a Nautica button down shirt in grandee pink, and a Milano silk tie with tumbling cascades of diagonal bars in strawberry and slate. He did not wear the Italian cufflinks, newly acquired through the broker. In a conservative business like his, these were too rude, too over the top; a gross advertisement that hinted at poor taste.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
Well, dear, where I come from we were taught not to go on about ourselves; that is, unless we belonged to the Roman Church where extolling one’s virtues and vices is encouraged in the confessional. But since I’m pressed, I suppose my best quality—and indeed my worst—is that I watch and then I act, and not always with precision. I suppose if I took more time to get to the heart of what’s happening in front of me, I would be rewarded with a nice ribbon or medal. But I don’t, so commendations elude me.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
I grew up on a pig farm so I know about getting dirty and what it takes to get clean.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
(Smiles) The young people like to march in the parade every summer and good for them. I’m so very proud of them. But old fellas like me are less—what’s the word—demonstrative. I’m old school, you know, but I am tremendously proud of who I am and will tell you more if you really must know. But you do know, don’t you?
What are you most afraid of?
Having to start all over again and remembering. Have you ever heard of the old soul? And if you believe in the mythology of it, you have an idea of where wisdom comes from. If I am to return to this life, let me return brand new, with a clean slate. If I come back and remember everything that came before, I’d very likely quit school and become a juvenile delinquent. (laughs) I mean, can you imagine? Having to learn sums and letters all over again? Surely not! I’d rather be born thirty with a nice convertible in the garage.
What do you want more than anything?
I want to die at work. Retirement is not something I see for myself. And I don’t golf.
What is your relationship status?
I’m never lonely, yet I have never married. There was a woman once. Played the organ at the first church I belonged to after moving up from the country. She was lovely, but my aunt suggested I not pursue it. She said that some men are better off devoting their life to duty and community. At least, that’s how we talked in those days. And I was too old to go to Vietnam, so I served my community in other ways. Through charity work, and of course, through the funeral home.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
What do you kids call us now? Back in the day I was a “clothes horse.” Still am. Kids these days—if they wear a suit at all—wear it with an open shirt and without a tie. Fine for the club: I don’t dispute that. But for a work day? And what are these casual Fridays? We don’t have those in funeral service, thank God.
How much of a rebel are you?
(Laughs) My goodness. You are digging aren’t you? Rebel is not a word I like to use, though I have been accused of not supporting General Washington or his revolution. I collect Britannia. I like antiques. I am old fashioned. But I am an American first and foremost. I love this country. (Thinking). No. I’m not a rebel at all.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
Staying in one place for more than thirty years. It’s not an easy thing to do. Life pulls, makes demands. Yet I moved to Michigan and I stayed in Michigan. I’ve never had any desire to live anywhere else…other than the Kingdom of Heaven. (winks)
What is your idea of happiness?
Balancing quiet time with friends and family time. I love my family, but I have to drive to Ohio to see them and I absolutely will not fly. People bring suitcases on board as carry on and it’s a bother. What happened to cargo? But I digress. I love a nice BBQ by the lake or long afternoon’s motor boating down the river. Maybe I should retire? I think I just contradicted myself.
What is your current state of mind?
I try to keep it peaceful. Not allow myself to get bothered by little things…like suitcases being brought on to aircraft as carry on. I don’t watch the news anymore and I hardly ever pick up a paper. You see, dear, when you live long enough, things start to repeat and the bad things I just don’t want to look at. As to my current, current state right now:
I am thinking about a nice single malt scotch, three fingers deep, and I’m wondering if I should invite you along.
What is your most treasured possession?
I could say my health and my faculties, which is true, but I really love where I live. I’m on the top floor with a nice 9 foot ceiling and I can see clean through the skyscrapers right down to the lake. I think I treasure the view.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’ve been accused by the one’s I love (and the one’s I don’t) of being persnickedy; fussy. I fuss about things far too much.
What is it that you most dislike?
Grandstanding, probably because I do it too. There are times in this life where we are forced into corners and must rise above the rest. Fifty percent of the time I don’t have a problem with this, but at other times I do. I don’t like being an arrogant cuss. But sometimes it’s my only defense.
Which living person do you most despise?
I will never say, because in addition to working in an extremely spiritual profession, I also come from a devoted group of Believers. To despise and to hate is negative and it eats you. I’ve felt this many times in my life and I fight it back. It’s something to defeat rather than nurture. Am I being preachy? Forgive me if I am.
What is your greatest regret?
No regrets. I may have acted hastily in some situations, but the results of my actions never resulted in the physical injury or deaths of others. I did ignore a friend’s plea for help once and he never spoke to me again. I suppose I could regret that. But then, neither one of us suffered…
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Michelangelo’s David and the story that comes with him attaches itself to me. Strength under adversity followed by triumph: I like that. You ask about fiction and some say David is a fiction, but then the same thing was said about Troy and they found Troy didn’t they? I supposed I shouldn’t be obstinate: Hemingway’s Old Man from Old Man And The Sea is a favorite. I liked his doggedness though he fought a losing battle and knew it.
Which living person do you most admire?
Malala Yousafzai for all the obvious reasons. What that girl has gone through and she still keeps coming back. She makes me feel rather small and rightly so.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I need to be more patient. Maybe I once was, but I’ve forgotten how and I would like to get that back.
What is your motto?
Carpe diem, of course. (Laughs) I’m seventy years old and so I must seize the day in case it’s the last.
A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, fiction writer and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it.
“Were it not for the calling, I would have just as likely remained an office assistant shuffling files around, and would have been happy doing so.”
Life had another plan. After a long day at the funeral home in the waning months of winter 2010, she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out into the parking lot. At that moment a thought occurred: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains?
Like funeral directing, the writing called, and four years and several drafts later, Heuer Lost and Found was born.
What’s a Heuer? Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer the lawyer is a man conflicted. Complex, layered, and very dead, he counts on the ministrations of the funeral director to set him free. A labor of love and a quintessential muse, Heuer has gone on to inspire four other full length works and over a dozen short stories.
“To my husband John and my children Adam and Melina, I owe thanks for the encouragement, the support, and the belief that what I was doing was as important as anything I’ve tackled before at work or in art.”
Funkhauser is currently working on a new manuscript begun in November during NaNoWriMo 2014.
Thanks Karen for giving me the time and space. Isn't Charlie a character?ReplyDelete