Undertaking

Today’s breakfast: black coffee and a bagel, pulled off of the funeral home's complimentary coffee and bagel cart. it always struck me as odd. 'Parents just died? How about some coffee? No? Then a bagel will do you fine." But, Mr Johnston, the funeral director, insists on it.

I’ve been told that I need to overload with protein in the morning, pile my plate high with eggs and bacon. FDA guidelines and all that. I’ve also been told that sunlight is good for me. Truth be told, I work on 18 cadavers a week, and the people who have coffee and bagels for breakfast look just as dead as everyone else.

People don’t understand the work of the undertaker. Usually, when the wine is served, and the hors d’oeuvres have been laid so pretty on the table, I wind up eating by myself. But, my clients don’t complain. Well, at least until recently.

I like to do my work during the day time, because no matter how used you get to draining blood from the veins and pumping in a preservative, there is something about the night time. There’s a time where the hearts in the cold bodies pump blood just one more time. Sometimes, I think I hear laughter, coughing, pleading, love.

I don't think I'm going crazy, but I’ve been coming into the shop with a Post-It note stuck to the ledger. I work alone. So, naturally, my first thought was, “the dead has finally done it.” I could just imagine Mrs Glover pulling her old, wrinkly body over the stainless steel bed, trudging zombie-like into my office, shuffling through the supplies until she finds the Post-Its, and scrawling "Why did you do it?" on them.

Obviously, someone was playing a trick on me. We have a cleaning crew that comes in once a month to make sure we’re code compliant. But, they wouldn’t go this far to play a joke. I don’t even know their names. My boss, the owner of the place, only comes in every couple months. My brother, Carl, is a huge jokester. But, Jack, my other brother, was always better. Carl would get so angry. Perhaps, one of them was in town, but again, to go two weeks, just dropping in after hours to leave a note on my desk, both of them are too lazy for that.

I stayed late one night.
In my chair. Like I said, the night changes the place. It's not that it's creepier. Trust me, it couldn't get creepier, but you get used to it. I had to find out who kept putting these stupid Post-Its on my desk. It was more annoying than anything else.

And I fell asleep. I’ve never been good at stake outs.

The light came in through the window shades, casting a criss-crossed pall over the office. I yawned, silently cursed myself for not pulling through, and in my hand I found a pen. In front of me was the Post-It note with that same damn message. “Why did you do it?” Scattered across the desk were a hundred more Post-It notes with the same message, “Why did you do it? Why did you do it? Why did you do it?”

I felt dizzy as I stood up, and I started tearing the Post-Its from my desk, crumpling them into tiny balls, throwing them at the walls, ripping up the ledger, ripping the drawers from the desks. I ran into the mortuary, knocking over vials of formaldehyde, clanging and crashing into the trays that held my utensils. Broken glass and bent metal littered the floor. I could feel the stinging pain of chemicals scratching my eyes and the tears that were trying to clear it.

“Because I had to,” I shouted to the cadavers. “I had to. She was going to die! I had to!” And I fell to my knees. "I had to," I said to myself this time, trying to convince myself that she wasn't dead, and that she would never die.

I stood up after what seemed like an entire morning. I poured myself a cup of coffee and grabbed a bagel from the complimentary beverage and bagel cart. Mr Johnston sure had a good idea when he put this thing here. I walked to the locked closet. The closet always stayed locked. No one but me knew where it was. I pulled out the key, my secret key, and unlocked the door. “Hello, Rachel. How are you today.” And I put my hand on her cheek.

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