by anita marie moscoso
Inspired by the Writing Prompt from the Soul Food Cafe
The Dead Man was wrapped in plastic and resting on the lower shelf of a C.U in a Funeral Home exactly four miles from where he once lived and exactly a half a block from where he died.
“So this is the guy that bought it outside the cemetery, I mean, is that a smack down or what?” the Dead Man heard. “Like to DIE right outside a Funeral Home.” The plastic was pulled back from his face and the Mortician, a young woman with vines and flowers tattooed around her neck, hidden while she worked with a high neck collars shook her head. “Dude, normally I don’t pass judgment on the dead or how you got that way…. but that has got to be a major burn.”
Her name was Alissa and she liked to listen to music as she worked. Loud music, especially at night when she had to work alone. The caretaker who had seen her drive up and knew he was about to be treated to hours of something called The Ramones asked her why she had to have the stereo up so loud and she said, ” You know, we really shouldn’t be here at night. You ever get that feeling?”
The Caretaker nodded because he understood it all right; he didn’t like having a night shift around. He wished that the Morticians quit slacking off or doing whatever it was during the day that managed to put them behind schedule.
What he really hated though was that they called these night shifts “Embalming Parties” and when more then two of them were at these “embalming parties” they ordered Pizza from 4 different places and took bets on which delivery would actually show up.
Morbid little psychos.
“So, anyway, wouldn’t want to over hear something I shouldn’t.”
The Caretaker agreed, “No you wouldn’t” and he smiled and Alissa thought that The Caretaker (Tony) was one of the rare human beings who were lucky enough to be exactly where he should be in this life.
Alissa spent hours rebuilding the Dead Man’s face. At least only one side was damaged and she could use the other side as a guide. When she was finished she pulled the skin back up and over and looked at him for a very long time.
Then she started over.
Alissa was cleaning the Dead Man up when she heard someone walking up behind her.
“You do wonderful work” a voice that was neither male nor female said but one thing she was sure of it was cold.
Alissa shook her head and wouldn’t allow herself to turn around because if she did that she’d end up running and leaving the Dead Man alone with that cold voice.
Alissa heard rustling behind her, and she knew that whatever was back there had just sat down on the little green chair they kept in the room and that they had slid it forwards towards the embalming table.
“I do enjoy watching you all work. After all with the flick of a scalpel and the plunge of a needle you try, and the word is try to not only hide my art, but also deny I even exist. Young lady, we’re speaking artist to artist here. How would you like it if I reached out and did the same…?”
Alissa turned her head away and she felt a hand push at her waist to move her aside and she knew it was reaching towards the Dead Man, to the stitches on the right side of his neck. She pushed back and ignored the voice.
She even managed to smile.
The she placed her hand on the Dead Man’s shoulder and she told him, “Here we go Sir.”
Alissa gently slid The Dead Man off the embalming table and onto the cot and she was about to wheel him out of the Embalming room when she saw the radio through the doorway next to the lockers in the Prep room. It was sitting on an orange plastic chair, like always only this time the cord was neatly coiled and resting on top of the stereo.
She had forgotten to plug it in.