Cebu Alacantara buries people for a living.
He digs the graves and puts in the liners, he lowers the coffins into the ground and then he covers the graves and he does it quietly, quickly before the next family shows up for services and of course before the sunsets.
It’s at sunset that Leaning Birches Funeral Home and Cemetery closes for the day and opens for the rest of the night and the Staff goes home and Cebu, who is always the last one out, locks everything up.
Cebu has been at the Cemetery for over 30 years now, and it was on his first day back in November that he and a Mortician were outside the gates waiting for their rides home.
Kousso Eyebright was new to the funeral home too and Cebu liked her right away. He had heard from the other three Morticians that Kousso was good with the families, handy with a needle and on her first case had rebuilt a dead woman’s face with a sculpture’s hand and a surgeon’s skill.
To be honest, that didn’t mean a thing to Cebu but he also heard that Kousso knew some wicked jokes and he was hoping to hear a few of them for himself.
Instead Kousso asked, just like you’d ask for the time of day or in the same tone of voice you’d use to order a hamburger and fries, ” So Cebu, tell me, what’s the best part of your job?”
” I dig graves Kousso, I don’t think there’s a good part to that. ”
” Oh sure there is, you just haven’t figured it out yet. I mean, none of us come to a place like this without being invited you know.”
” And your point is? ”
” Well, if you were invited and you showed up there must have been something that called to you…some little signal that you tossed out that said ‘ hey, I could really enjoy burying dead people for a living. I could show up in the heat and the cold and shovel dirt all day long’. And that’s to say nothing of the fact I’m the last person with the corpse before it’s planted.”
” Now, I had to embalm a guy today that I could swear had brown eyes, but when I put the eyecaps on they were green. Now that was creepy enough, no way would I wanted want to be with him…alone outside here when he goes into the ground.”
” Kousso? ”
” Yes? ”
” You’re weird, do you know that? ”
Kousso shrugged and said,” as a matter of fact I do.”
Then Cebu thought about it a little more and he asked Kousso, ” So you think we’re called to do this work, is that right?”
” You bet I do.”
” Who do you think is making the call Kousso?”
Kousso didn’t answer; she was looking across the street.
There was a lot there and in the middle of it was an empty building that over the years housed a hardware store, a pharmacy and until a few months before had been a flower shop.
The Cemetery Grounds Keepers had taken to going over there to cut the grass and keep the place looking halfway decent because they didn’t want an eyesore in their otherwise nice and quiet neighborhood.
But today there was someone out in front of the building.
It was a small black cat that reminded them both of an owl.
The cat’s head was large and round and it’s body was plump and compact and it’s eyes were a deep dark orange.
And it was looking right at them.
” You don’t come to a place like this, you don’t just show up. I mean think about it. No one comes to a place like this without being called in…do they?”
” None of us ” Cebu agreed.
The little round cat uncurled it’s tail and stood up and stretched and then it started to walk towards them.
It crossed the street in the slow easy stride all cats have and when it got to where Cebu and Kousso were standing it sat back down in front of them, curled it’s tail back around it’s body and looked up at them expectantly.
Kousso, the woman born to be a Mortician said down to the cat, ” We close at sunset.”
The cat looked up at her and blinked and Cebu who knew this was no joke stayed quiet…but only because he was afraid of what he might do if he opened his mouth.
The Cat could have easily gone under the fence but it didn’t. It looked up at Kousso and twitched it’s whiskers at her.
Kousso reached into her purse and took out her keys, She unlocked the gate and pushed it opened and the cat walked through.
” Take your time, I’ll wait. ” Kousso said in her Funeral Directors voice.
” We both will. ” Cebu said.
And they did.