Watch the Grass Grow by A.B. Funkhauser

Watch the Grass Grow by A.B. Funkhauser

Watching an excellent newish documentary on New Zealand vampires, I’m reminded of the oft criticized nocturnal practices of Rattus norvegicus (common sewer rat). Like the vamps in WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014), dear Rattus has a habit of bumbling into spaces man likes to call his own, an act seen as an unwelcomed intrusion. Rat chews on wires, starts fires and damages water courses with his annoying burrowing, as does vampire, as witnessed by the film’s 8,000 year old nosferatu Peter, whose untimely death in a tragic sunlight accident sets off a chain of events that result in the near break up of unlikely, but cohesive, flatmates.

Being out of step, out of place and eschewing acceptance when all we want is the opposite is a compelling thing to play with, and as a writer, I could not resist the temptation to build a character that is not only morally ambiguous, but quite happy to be so. Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, Heuer the lawyer is not a likeable character, at least that’s what more than a few reviewers have said so far. He is “a bug” existing in a “macabre setting” surrounded by “odd balls” yet we “root for him” and long for him to be found.

I personally liked him from day one, but I have odd sensibilities—always have—and so I was more than pleased to see that my Rattus norvegicus had made his way, wanted or not, into the psyches of the reader.

“...he had trouble accounting for their fascination. Short, curt, bespectacled, he courted an ethos that favored enforced detachment. When people got close enough to hear him speak, they detected a trace of an accent. Now faded after years of U.S. residency, his speech still bore the unmistakable patterns of someone undeniably foreign. Elaborate, overwrought and heavy on the adverbs, he spoke very much like his neighbors. Yet the distance between them was incalculable…”

How did I do that? The answer might surprise you: I don’t really know.

Like many, writing was something that hadn’t occurred to me, that is, until I had a memento mori. A Latin term, MM is defined in various dictionaries as an ‘object signifying death.’ It could be anything— a casket, over-sized flower arrangement, or wretched reality television show—as long as it awakens the viewer to the notion that fragility lurks, and that this fragility can compromise what’s right there in front of our noses.

But MM for me was so much more than symbology. It was a green light that gave me a framework from which to hang all the observations, obfuscations, happy lies, and friendly exaggerations that make up a life in progress that wants to be shared.

“You’re writing fiction,” my friend, the writer, assured, when I brought up the subject of the grief journal I’d been working on since the sudden passing of a dear friend. What was a private effort at memorialization had unexpectedly degenerated into a lot of made up stuff with generous dollops of humor, the kind that flavored all the conversations we had when he was alive.

“It’s okay,” writer friend suggested. “Keep going.”

Somewhere in and amongst the facts and feelings that assault the bereaved, Heuer emerged like an unwanted house guest I could not get rid of.

 'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened', Dr. Seuss insisted, and so I embraced my new weird friend with all his flaws and foibles and weird ideas. What got me, held me, and kept me banging at the keyboard well into the grey hours was the wonderful joy that overtakes Heuer when Schadenfreude stings the tree hating neighbor:

“Alfons Vermiglia, the Genovese neighbor next door, had taken great offense to his acacia tree, a towering twenty-five foot behemoth that had grown from a cutting given to him by a lodge brother. The acacia was esteemed in Masonic lore appearing often in ritual, rendering it so much more than just mere tree. In practical terms, it provided relief, offering shade on hot days to the little things beneath it. And it bloomed semi-annually, whimsically releasing a preponderance of white petals that carried on the wind mystical scent—the same found in sacred incense and parfums.

What horseshit.

It was a dirty son of a bitch of a tree that dropped its leaves continuously from spring to fall, shedding tiny branches from its diffident margins. These were covered in nasty little thorns that damaged vinyl pool liners and soft feet alike. They also did a pretty amazing job of clogging Alfons’ pool filter, turning his twenty-five hundred gallon toy pool green overnight.

This chemistry compromised the neighbor’s pleasure and it heightened his passions, blinding Alfons to the true nature of his enemy. He crossed over onto Heuer’s property and drove copper nails into the root system. It was an old trick, Byzantine in its treachery; the copper would kill the tree slowly over time leading no one to suspect foul play.

But Heuer was cagey and suspicious by nature, so when the tree displayed signs of failure, he knew where to look.

The acacia recovered and Alfons said nothing. Heuer planted aralia—the “Devil’s Walking Stick”—along the fence line and this served as an even thornier reminder that he knew. And if there was any doubt at all, he went further by coating his neighbor’s corkscrew hazel with a generous dose of Wipe Out.”
Heuer’s exaltation became my own: writing him was not unlike playing a Steinway piano at Madison Square Garden or piloting a helicopter under heavy fire. I have done neither, but the play of emotions that came with each scene gave me a pretty good idea what it must be like to be grand, heroic and afraid all at the same time.


Two years ago, Central Ontario, Canada got slammed with an ice storm that laid waste to heritage trees, frilly hedgerows and verdant front gardens. The mess that became my front yard has been a sort spot ever since.

With my documentary at an end, I make my way outside to watch the grass grow. I have diligently worked at filling holes and killing off pretty lacy clover patches to grow a lawn that bare feet can walk on once more.

It is a hopeful moment, because, like MM, it is something from which other things will come. This is writing. This is how I do it...

I think.

Let me percolate on it for awhile, at least until the next beasty burrows its way into my consciousness. Let it start some fires; let it water onto my page.

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant,

I am A.B. Funkhauser.

Thank you, Marie, for having me aboard. Best!


My pleasure, A.B.! Thanks for stopping by and giving us an insightful take on your writing experience!  :)


Guest Blogger Bio




A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it.

“Were it not for the calling, I would have just as likely remained an office assistant shuffling files around, and would have been happy doing so.”

Life had another plan. After a long day at the funeral home in the waning months of winter 2010, she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out. At that moment a thought occurred: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains?
Like funeral directing, the writing called, and four years and several drafts later, Heuer Lost and Found was born.

What’s a Heuer? Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer the lawyer is a man conflicted. Complex, layered, and very dead, he counts on the ministrations of the funeral director to set him free.

A labor of love and a quintessential muse, Heuer has gone on to inspire four other full length works and over a dozen short stories.*

“To my husband John and my children Adam and Melina, I owe thanks for the encouragement, the support, and the belief that what I was doing was as important as anything I’ve tackled before at work or in art.”

Funkhauser is currently working on a new manuscript begun in November during NaNoWriMo 2014.

*The novels: Heuer Lost And Found, Scooter Nation, The Heuer Effect, Poor Undertaker, Dirty Dale. The Shorts: The Essential Heuer, Jack Bunny and the Rocket Man, Turd Meets Rock, Cassarine, Terra Nova, Ursa Major, Hey! Birdy, Birdy, The Hagfish Conundrum, Mutual of Omaha, Cheetahs in Flight, Lady Predator, and more…

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