“How does my laugh sound to you,” he said, “does it sound tinny?”


Tinny?” She asked. They were in a coffee shop on Chestnut Street called Coffee Roasters. They were in large over-stuffed chairs. She had a latte in a saucer and she had it delicately balanced on the big round arm of the chair but she didn’t trust its purchase so she had a hand on the edge of the saucer as if she was pinching a lip.

“You know, thin, tepid. My laugh should be, you know, booming. I mean it’s always been booming. But now I am worried that maybe its somewhat tinny. What do you think?”


“You have a nice laugh, Larry,” she said. “Its just fine.”

“But is it booming?”

“I don’t know for sure what booming means.”

“Come on. Everyone knows what a booming laugh is. Big. Hearty. Rumbling. Contagious even.”

“I think of your laugh as warm. A nice warm chuckle.”

“Oh my god. That’s worse than tinny. I was worried it was tinny but now it’s not even a laugh it’s a chuckle. God that’s only one step up from a frickin’ titter. Jesus. That’s what you really think?”


“Larry calm down. It’s a fine laugh. I love your laugh. It makes me smile whenever I hear it. So maybe it is contagious.”

“Does it make you actually laugh or does it just make you smile?


“Oh I don’t know.”

“It isn’t really contagious if it only makes you crack a smile. That’s hardly even infectious.”


“Don’t obsess.”

“I am not obsessing but it’s a bitter blow to be told that your laugh doesn’t work. Maybe it has never worked. All these years I thought it was booming. God, my laugh is like a low grade fever; it can’t even get through the tinkle of background noise at a restaurant.”


“Larry, don’t do this. You have a nice laugh. Lets leave it at that.”

“Easy for you to say. How would you feel if someone told you that, say, your eyes were not at the same level.”

“What does that mean?” She asked, arching one eyebrow.

“Just an example. You know.”

“You are saying that my eyes aren’t level?”

“Just a little askew. Like not exactly at the same precise level – just a tiny bit off, really tiny, like you’d have to use a carpenter’s level to notice. I was just looking for something that was kind of analogous.”

“Not level? How long have you thought that? Is this a new thing or have you been thinking that for the last two years?”

“Don’t worry, it isn’t something new. It’s not like one side of your face is starting to sink or anything. It is just part of how you look. Which I love, by the way. Always have. Fell in love with you with this face.”

“Even though you think it’s lop-sided?”

“I didn’t say lop-sided. I never said that. Its not lop-sided at all.”

“As good as. Now I have got to go find a mirror.”

“Totally unnecessary. I was just trying to make a point.”

“Which was?”

“About my laugh. Remember? You said it isn’t booming.”

“And so you decided to make me feel like damaged goods because you don’t have as good a laugh as your brother?”

“My brother? What does he have to do with this?”


“Oh I know where this is coming from. He has got that big laugh and you are always comparing yourself to him.”

“My brother is a moron. He can laugh all he wants but he is a flat out moron. You know what he said the other day? He said that if he had it to do it over he… oh never mind. It doesn’t bear repeating.”



“No, nothing.”

“You can’t do that. You can’t start in and then just go all silent.”

“He said that if he had to do it over he’d be a male prostitute.”



“Exactly. He thinks he is such a stud.”

“He makes a lot more than he’d make as a prostitute I would imagine.”

“Oh come on, he doesn’t really want to be a prostitute, its just his way of telling me that he is so attractive that women would pay to be with him.”


“God. You two really need to get some help. You could keep a therapist busy for years.”

“A few years in therapy with Jimmy? Jesus, shoot me now. Seriously. I could hardly get through a dinner with him.”

“So that is what this is about, I knew it.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s always the same after you see Jimmy. You spend the next week digging out from whatever bag of shit you have taken home.”

“Yeah, you’re so right. The guy is just a human shit storm. I always tell myself that I will get in and out and I won’t listen to anything he says but he knows just where the buttons are and he pushes and pushes. I am so glad he lives 3000 miles away.”

“You don’t have to see him.”

“I know I know. But I think my folks would want us to talk.”

“You gotta live your own life Larry.”

“He is such an asshole. Did I ever tell you about the cemetery business?”

“What cemetery business?”

“Oh my God. I can’t believe I never told you! You’ll love this. You didn’t know her but my mother’s sister, my Aunt Annie, died a few years after my Mom and I was the executor of Annie’s estate.


“She never married and by the time she died she didn’t have any people around so I got stuck with making the funeral arrangements.”

“You are a good man, Larry.”

“Yeah, yeah. Anyway we buried her up in Westchester.”

“Ok. So.”

“Well the thing is, she wanted to be with my folks in Queens at the family plot. There are five slots there so I told her she could. I probably told her three times. She was really concerned about it. She said my parents were not only her closest relatives but she and my mother were best friends.”

“So why did you put her in Westchester?

“Jimmy and I are co-trustees of the family plot and it turns out that we both have to agree.”

“And he wouldn’t agree that she could be buried there?”

“No. The bastard.”

“But I thought you said it was a family plot.”

“Yeah it is, but she didn’t have one allocated to her.”

“So there wasn’t room?”

“No there are five slots for the future. But we both had to agree who was in them.”

“Why wouldn’t he agree?”

“He said Dad couldn’t stand Annie. He thought she was a gossip. Said Dad would turn over in his grave if Annie was buried there.”

“But she was your mother’s sister?”

“Yeah. Jimmy’s an asshole. I tried everything to get him to change his mind. I offered to give up our spots.”

“Wait, we have spots in a cemetery in Queens? You are kidding?”

“I have two and you get one of them. Think of it as your wedding present.”

“Larry! I hate Queens. I don’t want to get buried in Queens.”

“It’s a really popular cemetery; people are dying to get in.”

“HaHa. Larry, I am serious. I don’t want to be buried in Queens. Promise me right now.”

“Fine. You don’t have to be buried in Queens.”

“I am serious.”

“Me too. Dead serious.”

“Stop it. You can give my spot to Jimmy.”

“That’s what I said, but he was totally dug in.”

“Stop it.”

“It’s a grave topic.”


“Ok. Ok.”

“I can’t believe you couldn’t work this out. What kind of lawyer are you anyway? Don’t you buy shopping centers and things for your clients? You couldn’t even get a little six foot plot for your auntie?”

“I know. I know. I tried to buy him out. I offered up my spots. But you know how he is. And time was running out. I mean Annie was up at the funeral home and they kept asking me what to put in the obituary – they couldn’t get the obituary out until I settled the gravesite issue. So when Jimmy said no for about the fortieth time I really didn’t have a choice. I put her in that big cemetery in Westchester. For the time being.”

“Did she have any family or friends there?”

“No. I just got her a free spot so she would have a place and I figured I could move her later if I could make him see reason.”

“Jesus. That is so sad. It is like she is just renting. How long has she been up there now?”

“Christ, it has to be five years or so.”

“And have you asked him to change his mind?”

“Every time I see him. I even got the lawyers at work involved. I thought maybe I would just sue the bastard, but they said I didn’t have a case.”

“Wow. It takes the breath away.”

“I know. I feel like Annie is disgusted with me cause I broke my promise.”

“Why did you promise her? I mean if you didn’t really have the right to agree?”

“How could I have imagined that Jimmy would be such an asshole? I mean why would it even matter? It’s just a hole in the ground. Its not like Jimmy is all sanctified or anything. I don’t think he has been to church since we were kids. And you know what? He didn’t even tell me the real reason.”

“You mean your father did get along with Annie?”

“My father wouldn’t have cared. He wasn’t that kind of guy. No Larry just used him as a convenient excuse.”

“So what was the real reason?”

“The real reason is that Jimmy couldn’t stand Aunt Annie and Jimmy plans to be buried with the folks and Jimmy doesn’t want Annie horning in.”


“He said that?”

“No but I can read the guy like a book. Its always all about Jimmy.”


“Yeah. Trust me, he doesn’t want me there either. You’d be okay, though. He likes you.”

“Even though I am lopsided.”

“I didn’t say that. Cut me a break.”

“Fine. But I am not getting buried in Queens.”


“Lets just get cremated.”

“Perfect. You can scatter my ashes in the Pacific.”

“Very poetic. That way you can be where you love. Forever.”

“I want to be with you forever, we have to wait and mingle our ashes before they … oh shit!”


“Oh shit! What a great idea! You have given me a great idea! Oh my God darling you are brilliant! Why didn’t I think of it sooner? I have been banging my head for five years and you figured it out in five minutes!”


“What I do with Annie. Oh it’s perfect.”

“Do what with Annie?”

“I get her cremated.”


“I thought you said she was buried five years ago. Isn’t it a little late?”

“No they can do it. They just exhume her and then they do the cremation. Its not like there is a statute of limitations.”

“But why?”

“Don’t you see the strategy – oh my God, it’s so perfect! – I get her cremated and then I put her ashes in a cup and take them to Queens and then I dump her right there on my folks’ gravesite. Then she’ll be with them forever.”

“Jesus. That’s your brilliant plan?”

“Its better than brilliant. Its frickin’ perfect.”

“And what about your brother?”

“I won’t tell him. He’ll never even know.”

“Are you actually thinking about doing this? I mean like as a serious thing?”

“Oh yes. It will so serve him right.”

“Won’t the ashes just blow away?”

“Some of them sure, but I can dig a little hole there and just tamp them down. Maybe sprinkle a little water on them. Like I am sure I can get enough of her in the dirt there to do the job.”

“What job? Larry? What job are you doing? Is this about your Aunt Annie or about Jimmy?”


“It’s about Aunt Annie. I promised her…. Okay, it’s partly about Aunt Annie and partly about Jimmy. But even if was all about Jimmy, it’s what she wanted. I am honoring her.”

“Larry. You better give this some more thought. I don’t think this is a good idea. Its probably not even legal.”

“You have to make a stand sometimes.”

“Larry. Larry.”

“Don’t Larry Larry me.”

“Larry Larry Larry. Give it a rest.”

“I am gonna do it, My Dear.” Larry let out a big laugh, a booming laugh. “You just watch.”

“Oh God, Larry.”

– Jay Duret