(Eight panels are on the screen, showing families garbed in somber black attire. In the top-left, the REVEREND, host of this Zoom call, puts his glasses on before examining the buttons on his screen.)
REVEREND: We are here to honor the memory of Edward Phillips, who dedicated most of his life to civil service and charity before his untimely passing. While we are unable to support one another in person, I am grateful for the opportunity that we have here to find closure together. Now, I sent you all a PDF with—
(BROTHER enters the call.)
BROTHER: Sorry I’m late! For some reason, my calendar recorded the call being for tomorrow. Fortunately, I just noticed the time when browsing through my e-mails.
REVEREND: It’s alright. We’re all glad you are—
(A cacophony of hello’s drown out the rest of the REVEREND words. A flutter of questions are directed towards BROTHER on how he’s been coping. Nothing said is intelligible.)
REVEREND: Now that most of us are here, let’s—
BROTHER: You know, yeah, Jessica, it’s been hard. Like this morning, I was—
THE HOST HAS MUTED ALL MICROPHONES.
REVEREND: Okay, yesterday, I sent you all a PDF with some psalms to sing during the service. Could you open it?
(Most of the families are frantically gesticulating with their arms and tapping on the screen. Some of them are typing on their computers.)
SISTER (in chat): what? I can’t hear anyone.
AUNT (in chat): I THINK SOMETING IS WRONG WIT THE CONNECTION
UNCLE (in chat): No no no! [facepalm emoji] 🤦
UNCLE (in chat): reverend turned off mics
(REVEREND continues speaking, oblivious to the ongoing conversation in chat. Everyone else continues typing, oblivious to whatever REVEREND is saying.)
REVEREND: Okay, does everyone have the PDF open? Go to page 14. Is everyone there?
AUNT (in chat): WHAT HE TALKIN ABOUT?
BROTHER (in chat): you got capslock on again, dorris
AUNT (in chat): WHAT?
BROTHER (in chat): nvm
SISTER (in chat): the pdf emailed to us yesterday
AUNT (in chat): NOO!! ATTACHMENTS = VIRUS! I GOT HACKD THAT WAY
(UNCLE sends a copy of the PDF in the chat. No one can open it.)
UNCLE IS RAISING THEIR HAND.
REVEREND: Oh, yes? You have a question?
UNCLE: Reverend, it seems some people had trouble getting the PDF. Could you share it with us in the call?
REVEREND: Yes, well, how about I just screen share the PDF? That should be more convenient. Can everyone see it? Great. We will sing the second psalm there. It’s a beautiful piece about grief and moving on. Let’s sing it together.
(REVEREND unmutes everyone for singing the psalm. All the panels show people leaning close to their computers to read the words on the screen. The psalm is a rhythmless atonal dirge because no one’s sound is in sync with anyone else’s.)
REVEREND: Normally, at this point in the service, we would bury the deceased but considering the situation, we can’t do that. The funeral home was kind enough to e-mail me some pictures of the tombstone. They looked lovely. Anyway, lacking a physical burial, I ask all of you to mentally imagine burying your loved one by sprinkling a handful of dirt onto an imaginary coffin. Okay? Take your time.
(The Zoom call is quiet. The families are all getting teary as they mime sprinkling dust. Meanwhile, REVEREND is on his cellphone watching a YouTube video of a dog wearing a party hat dancing on its hind legs. He chuckles. After a few moments of sprinkling, REVEREND clears his throat to grab attention.)
REVEREND: Wonderful job. I’m sure that was difficult for many of you. Now, let’s keep moving as this call only can last for 40 minutes. As many of you may know—
SISTER IS RAISING THEIR HAND.
REVEREND: Uh, you would like to say something?
SISTER: Not critique your program or anything, I’m sure you’re trying your best. I’m just wondering when can family members eulogize or—
BROTHER: Right, I had this whole story written about how Ed used to protect me from bullies that I would—
REVEREND: Yeah, no, I don’t want this to become some sort of open-mic.
REVEREND: Thanks for your understanding. Edward cultivated a deep and long friendship with Bill Clinton. The two of them met in college and kept in contact throughout their lives. President Bill Clinton has been gracious enough to join our Zoom call to share a few words.
(BILL CLINTON enters the call.)
AUNT: I can’t see Bill Clinton. Where is he? Is he here?
UNCLE: Dorris, you’re on a cellphone. You can only see four pictures at a time.
AUNT: I want to see Bill Clinton! Bill, do you remember me?
UNCLE: Of course he doesn’t. Why would he remember someone who went to a bunch of his rallies in the nineties?
BROTHER: I see him just fine. Oh, look, he’s wearing that sweater Ed got him.
AUNT: WHY CAN’T I SEE HIM? BILL, I LOVE YOU!
UNCLE: Dorris, it’s okay. Just go onto your—
AUNT: BILL, DID YOU LIKE THE PIES I SENT YOU? I MADE YOU RHUBARB BECAUSE I READ—
UNCLE: I ate all the pies. Dorris, you’re holding everybody up.
(AUNT has her face pressed up against the screen, yelling into the microphone. This is excruciating for everyone wearing headphones.)
AUNT: Bill Clinton, where are you?! I just want to—
UNCLE: For goodness sake, Dorris, shut up! Just log on your computer and problem solved. Actually, no. You’ll find a way to screw that up too. Geez! Why do you always have to make everything so complicated?
(AUNT leaves the call.)
CLINTON: Excuse me, I have to leave in a bit. Would it be okay if I just start?
REVEREND (looking up from cell phone): Yes, yes, of course. I’m so sorry to inconvenience you. Please begin.
CLINTON: When I think of Edward, my fondest memory is—
THIS MEETING HAS TIMED OUT. THANK YOU FOR USING ZOOM!