Last evening, I re-watched the 2011 Jack Black film, Bernie. (If Bernie isn’t a classic movie, it ought to be, because Jack Black’s performance is a tour de force!) For those of you who haven’t seen this little gem, suffice it to say it is based upon the true story of one Bernie Tiede, a Texas mortician accused of murdering an 81-year-old woman named Marjorie Nugent. If you liked Fargo, you’ll love Bernie.
Somewhere back in junior high school, I was introduced to the writing of the acknowledged master of the horror genre, Edgar Allan Poe, and a particularly disturbing short story of his called The Premature Burial. The story so upset me that I vowed that, upon my demise, I would never be buried (at least if I had anything to say about it).
Fast forward some 50 years later to a bedtime conversation I had with my wife, Becky, about my desire to have my cremated remains scattered upon the waters of my favorite trout stream, the Beaverkill, in New York’s Catskill Mountains. The conversation went something like this:
Becky —“About your wishes to have your ashes scattered at Junction Pool . . . “
(Doesn’t everyone have similar stimulating conversation at bedtime? No? Surely you do.)
Joe — “Yeah. What about it?”
(I was truly curious.)
Becky — “Well, I just don’t know if I’m comfortable with the idea of my not having your remains with me . . . you know . . . after you’re . . . well . . . gone.“
(Hmmmm, I’d never given the subject much thought.)
Joe — “Well, why don’t you just scatter half on the water, and keep the other half at home?”
(Seemed only reasonable, wouldn’t you agree?)
Becky — “Oh, no! Then you wouldn’t be . . . well . . . you know . . . all together.”
(Really? Hadn’t thought of that either. Apparently, the dead cannot lie peacefully unless every atom is perfectly intact.)
Joe — “Oh heck, who knows if they’ll even give you my ashes in the first place. They’ll probably just give you some ashes from a cat . . . or a dog.”
At that point, Becky hit me with a pillow, and things got kind of ugly, but you get the picture.
It all comes back to Edgar Allan Poe—well, sort of. You see, if I hadn’t read The Premature Burial, I would never have decided to be cremated, and we would never have had that conversation in the first place. It’s all his fault. Am I wrong? Am I wrong? Anyway, read the short story, and definitely see the movie—Bernie, not The Premature Burial (which was a hideous film starring Ray Miland).