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Bittersweet Candy Kisses: One Less Stiff at the Funeral

One Less Stiff at the Funeral by Sean Kennedy

Series: Bittersweet Candy Kisses
Length: Novelette - 12,680 words

Available exclusively in the Bittersweet Candy Kisses Anthology

Over 180,000 words total, only $4.99 at your favorite retailer!


(Previously released in 2010 in the Petit Morts series)


When he hung his brand new psychology degree on the wall, Jason Harvey had imagined working at one of the many hospitals or clinics in Melbourne. The want ads, however, hadn’t cooperated. Now Jason finds himself facing the newly bereaved across the counselor’s desk of the Newlin Funeral Parlour.

Certainly all people deserve sympathy and patience in their time of loss, but Jason’s current client has him at wit’s end. What’s worse, the deceased has included a bizarre request in her final wishes: that her passing be commemorated…with chocolate.

Things start looking up for Jason when amicable young Fred takes over the funeral coordination duties from his sour aunt, but despite their best efforts to honor the departed in the manner she’s requested, they find the memorial service sliding inexorably out of control….


Jason tried to stifle the yawn that threatened to burst from him without any deference to social or professional etiquette at all. He attempted to cover it up further by taking a sip from his lukewarm coffee, but he almost ended up choking. He set the mug down with an unintentionally heavy blow, making the woman sitting across from him jump.

“Is there a problem?” she asked.

Adele Conway was a strange fish. Most people would have asked Are you okay? but she was too formal for that. She sat rigidly on the chair with a perfectly ironed handkerchief held in one hand. One perfectly ironed, perfectly dry handkerchief. Jason had seen many people sitting across from him in what passed as his poor excuse of an office, and none of them were this composed. Usually he was exposed to raw emotional displays every day, but Adele was sizing him up instead, and obviously waiting for him to say something.

“Please continue, Ms. Conway,” Jason managed to choke out. His face was burning from trying to suppress the cough. He wondered how red he looked.

“Miss,” she corrected him. “I never married.”

She didn’t look old enough to be from that generation that cared about such precise gender pronouns, as if using Ms was the equivalent of burning your boyfriend’s draft card along with your bra, but Jason decided not to fight it.  “Miss Conway, sorry.”

“We were talking about Mother’s chocolates.”

“Of course.” And that was weird as well. Mother. Not Mum. Or Ma. Or anything that could be seen as even remotely affectionate. But Adele was no different from any of the other Conways; at least those that Jason had met so far. It was a strange mix of disdain and reserve that seemed to hold them upright. “You want some kind of display?”

“I’m not certain I would say I want it particularly,” Adele said. “But appearances must be maintained. And people always seem to appreciate spectacle. I’m sure that’s probably why she had it written into the will, as just one more thing to have people running around doing for her!”

Jason wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, but he nodded, hoping he had his suitably concerned mask on. Adele was the kind of person who seemed to want you to know exactly how busy she was, how much of her time she spent on other people, and how she never got any thanks for it in the end.

Adele gave a hearty sniff, and wiped at her eyes with her handkerchief. Jason couldn’t help but notice yet again that the eyes and the handkerchief remained entirely dry. Yet he couldn’t silently accuse her of crocodile tears; it just didn’t seem to be her way. He had been waiting throughout their whole appointment for the dam to break, but there must have been some hardy beavers keeping watch over it in her brain. “Mother always liked her chocolates.”

“Don’t we all?” was what he said, and immediately regretted it. It was so easy to overstep the mark with some clients, even with the lightest tone. Most of them wanted you to be as sombre as they were in their darkest moment, and that was what Jason often had trouble with. In fact, he had had trouble with it ever since he started with the Newlin Funeral Parlour.

And Adele Conway was one of those clients. She straightened up, if it was even possible for her to get any straighter, and looked down at her dry handkerchief. Sighing, she closed it away in her handbag, obviously deciding it was going to remain that way and its presence was therefore useless.

“Of course, what I meant to say—”

She waved him off. “May I be blunt with you, Mr. Harvey?”

Jason had been Mr. Harvey to her from the very first moment they had met, even though he had stressed he would prefer to be called by his first name. That had been ignored immediately. “Go ahead.”

“The Conways are not known for their...I guess it would be...emotional displays?”

Jason nodded, even though he had to bite his tongue rather viciously.

“Frankly, when they said it was part of the service here at Newlin’s to deal with a counsellor when making the arrangements for my mother’s funeral, I almost decided to go elsewhere. If I wanted to see a therapist, I would most certainly pay for one who possessed comfortable furniture and didn’t look as if he just graduated from high school.”

Feeling as if he was withering beneath her steady, unflinching gaze, Jason didn’t even really feel like he could argue the point—after all, didn’t he think exactly the same thing himself? He felt like a fraud every time he met with a grieving family member. This hadn’t turned out to be exactly the job he envisioned when he stepped off the stage at graduation with his psychology degree in hand. Jobs were hard to get at a clinic in Melbourne at that point of time, so the advert in the paper calling for a combined counsellor/funeral arrangement assistant had seemed pretty grim, and he’d been sure that the competition wouldn’t be that fierce given the work involved. After all, who really wanted to work in a funeral parlour? It wasn't exactly every kid's dream job. At the very least it would be good enough to tide him over until he decided what it was he actually wanted to do with his life, and then figured out exactly how he was going to achieve it.

Hell, he had even gotten used to the bodies, once he started seeing them as bizarrely life-like wax dummies that smelled a bit too much of cleaning chemicals.

“I may look young—”

“You look fifteen. I don’t know what on earth they’re thinking putting a child in such a position—”

A child? “Ms. Conway—”


Miss Conway, I assure you my age has nothing to do with my ability to plan your mother’s wedding—”

Funeral!” she barked.

Jason could feel his face burning again. “That’s what I meant.”


Bittersweet Candy Kisses

Hue, Tint and Shade by Jordan Castillo Price
Yellow is as yellow does.

Moolah and Moonshine by Jordan Castillo Price
If you ever go to France, watch out for those ticklers.

Spanish Fly Guy by Jordan Castillo Price
A new twist on liquid courage.

Pretty Ugly by Jordan Castillo Price
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...usually.

One Less Stiff at the Funeral by Sean Kennedy
Chocolate makes everything better. Even a eulogy.

Wishink Well by Jordan Castillo Price
You can't get something for nothing.

Happily Neverafterby Jordan Castillo Price
All's well that ends well.

London Eye by Clare London
Give credit where credit is due.

Spirits and Second Chances by Sean Kennedy
The past can come back to haunt you.

Loose Change by Sean Kennedy
If there's one thing you can always count on, it's change.

Media Naranja (Other Half) by Clare London and Jordan Castillo Price
There's someone for everyone.

Immortal Coil by Jordan Castillo Price
Love is more than skin deep.



I’ll say this about One Less Stiff at the Funeral, you have never been to a funeral where the guests and relatives of the dearly departed had such a rollicking good time. How much fun was it? I’m still chuckling (two days after reading it) at some of the lines and the antics. - Reviews by Jessewave



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