**(out of 4 stars)
Another short from the collection, I AM LEGEND.
Written by: Richard Matheson
Originally published in 1987
(It's so short that I talk pretty openly about the ending. Read it first before reading this.)
I've reviewed and gave my opinions on some short stories, but The Near Departed is extremely short. About three pages long. Whew.
The characters: The small man and the mortician.
Plot: A small man (that's all we know him as) walks into a funeral parlor. He's making preparations for his wife's funeral. He wants everything perfect. Just perfect.
The mortician assures him that everything will go smoothly and not to worry. The little man repeats himself about how important that everything be ready and set for the tragic occasion. "Everybody loved her. She's so beautiful. So young. She has to have the very best. You understand?"
The mortician continues to assure the little man.
The great thing about these stories is the punch line. The final daggar. That last sentence.
Finally satisfied that everything will go as planed, the small man exits, and the mortician asks, "When did she die?"
Not to be too loud, the little man replies quietly and more to himself, "As soon as I get home."
It's the final sentence that will make you go "ohhhhh". I kind of chuckled myself. I think it's pretty brilliant.
The underlying theme is about marriage and what it can do to someone. I'm assuming the little man and his wife have had a pretty long and sustainable relationship. The sparks die, and can't be rekindled. The small man gets fed up and basically offs his own wife.
But what if the little bastard gets home and his wife has something in store for him?
The story is so short that you can go anywhere with it. That's what makes it fun. We bounce into the lives of these characters, not knowing too much into the past. We just arrive. So, we can have fun and go in our own direction. That's the brilliance of a well-crafted short story.