“Funeral Home” by Robert Flanagan


He looked up and down the darkened street before climbing onto the porch of the funeral home. A lone street light provided weak, yellow light as he climbed the four concrete steps.

He had waited until the sun was down before making his move, so that the only people, who might see him  might be police, so he kept a sharp eye out for them.

Izzy Bolo was homeless and drunk, but he knew things.  He knew where the bodies were buried.  He loved that saying, especially as he snuck onto the porch of an undertaker.

He made his way over to the corner, getting as far away from the street as he could, and lay down on the piece of cardboard that he had stashed in the bushes.  He used the cardboard, because although he stunk of liquor and had not shave, or bathed in days, he had been upset when he had come to last week and discovered that he was covered with dust and dirt–most of it from lying on the Sweet’s Funeral Home’s porch at night.

Izzy had gotten to his feet and brushed himself off. It had taken him all of the way to the shelter to get the dust and dirt off.

He got some cold cereal and milk for breakfast up at the shelter.  He was homeless, but he knew he had to eat something.  An old rummy had told him that.

“Hey, Izzy.  You ok?”

That was Jacky, the morning man at the shelter.  He was a big guy, but had been out on the streets himself, so knew that underneath a lot of these guys’s insistence that they were ok, he knew that many of them were barely hanging on.

He was used to coming into the shelter in the morning and hearing about this or that one, who just was no more.

Jacky had also been one of the dead men walking before he came into the shelter for more then a meal.

The shelter had programs, and he wished a guy like Izzy would get involved.  He looked at Izzy, and for the first time thought he saw the signs of wet brain.

Izzy was a short, skinny white guy, but he had always seemed to have it together.

Nowadays, Izzy was much dirtier and unkempt then Jack had ever seen him.  He wondered where Izzy was crashing, because he was not on the list of regulars at the shelter.

Izzy ate silently and then went outside and wandered down to the Avenue, where he would bum change and get a half pint of vodka.

He would drink half of it fast to get the edge off, and then sip it until dinner time back at the shelter.

He sat on the steps of the park sipping his bounty, and thinking soft thoughts. If and when his pain in the ass mind would ask him why he didn’t get off of the street, he would take a sip and the thought would go away.

At dinner time, Izzy went up and sat in the park across from the shelter.  He would cross the busy street and get in line for a meal when they started letting people in.

The shelter was across a street, but between the booze and the speeding cars, sometimes it seemed a lifetime away.

There were times when he could barely manage to get to his feet to wait patiently to cross the street. Saying “Fuck It” was but a breath away.

“Izzy, man.  How you doing?” asked Jackie, spotting the small, man in the back of the line and making a point to walk back there.

The line of homeless men went out onto the sidewalk these days.  There was something about Izzy that interested Jackie.

Izzy was white and Jackie was black, but one alcoholic recognized a kindred spirit.

“I’m fine.” Izzy said, looking at his shoes.

“You know, they got good things here for a fella like you and me.”


Jackie walked away, feeling the melancholia that seeing so much misery, yet being able to do jack-shit about it made a man feel bad, but there were too many of them to dwell on only one.

Still, he wondered what was driving Izzy.  Izzy was a smart man underneath all of that booze.

Izzy ate his meal just as he had done earlier.  He ate alone, never asking someone to pass the plastic bowl, with slices of bread to mop up some of the sauce from the spaghetti and meatballs.

Afterward, he disappeared and went back down to sit alone and then much later, he slept.

“No, please, no.  Oh, God.  Stop……No.”, he groaned at one point.

Even though he was terribly uncomfortable on the cement porch of the funeral home, the dream came.  Izzy was not aware, but felt hung over in the morning and took a swallow of booze.

He had been sleeping down by the tracks and had been awakened by the noise.

After the men had done what they wanted to do with the girl, they had come running by where Izzy was.

Izzy had opened his eyes a bit, but he soon resumed his vodka infused sleep, but not before seeing who one of the men were.

Izzy went up to the shelter as usual, but this time when Jackie came wandering around, he asked in his friendly way, “hey, Izzy.  How you doing?”

“I’m ok.”

“Where you crashing, man?”


“You know, we got room.”

“I’m ok.”

“Somebody said a few guys were hanging around Sweets.”

“I wouldn’t know.” replied Izzy.  His heart thrummed in his chest.

“Hanging around a funeral place would give me the creeps.”

Izzy looked up into the face of the man.

Jacky had undergone a remarkable transformation in the past few years.  He was clean shaven and was wearing nice clothes.

When they found Izzy’s body, they had initially thought he had frozen to death, as it was January by that time.

When Izzy was assaulted, he was anestitized, so did not feel the thrusts, nor hear the voice, which said, “sorry, man, but I can’t risk you remembering”

As he drifted off, Izzy heard his father screaming at him, but that was before he heard nothing.  Some slightly irate citizen called the police the next day.

“You people have got to do something!  I was out for a walk and saw this dead body on the porch of the funeral Home.

It was lying on the porch of a funeral home, for Christ’s sake!

Turning the body over, that the two patrol cops saw the puncture wounds, and later, as they drove away, Officer Joey Claiborne began talking to his partner about the TV show his old lady had been blabbing about.

“They started out talking about how a tiger can’t change its stripes….”

“Who started out?” asked William, his partner.

“The great show. The one I was telling you about, dummy.”


Robert Flanagan has been in recovery for a number of years. For awhile, he lived on the steps of a funeral home.