Chapter 1



Three fresh ones came in this morning, a busy morning by our standards. I can smell the formaldehyde creeping off of their bodies but I am eating breakfast at the moment, a bacon and egg muffin from the local deli ... and it is delicious. My name is Bob; it's an unremarkable name by any standard, I'll give you that, but I am a pretty standard guy. This decrepit cesspool, a.ka Sunny Time Funeral Parlor, is where I work. I've always thought the name was a bit of a cruel pun, one of those "the grass is greener on the other side" meanings, but it turns out the owner's first name was Sunny. He passed away about a decade ago, now and his son, Lionel, now runs the place, not that you particularly care. So what is it I do here? I'm a beautician and comforter of the bereaved. The morgue delivers bodies that have been ravaged in all grotesque manners and I weave magic to make them look more radiant than when they were alive. I know what you are thinking, "that's just sick, morbid and macabre", it's a common reaction, and it's ok. When I started this job, roughly thirteen years ago, I thought it would simply be good experience and a few extra bucks but then I found a type of morbid pleasure in 're-animating' the dead and here I am thirteen years and countless funerals later. I know what you want to know, it's the same as everyone; you want to know what the people under those sheets died of and I'll tell you ... after I introduce you to a few of my other ghastly cohorts.

Our receptionist at Sunny Time Funeral Parlor is exquisite, truly one of a kind and the fact that she works in such a gloom soaked industry such as this is truly a travesty. Her name is Daphne or that's what her name tag says at least. Yes it is true, unremarkable Bob with the common name is too shy to talk to her instead he just stammers by in the mornings tripping over his tongue which is dragging on the floor and keeps on going until he gets to his office. Some say she won a beauty pageant one year but was stripped of her title for sleeping with the one of the judges and others say she never lost her title, instead she disappeared off the circuit and wound up her a few years later. Regardless of what her story is she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen; long auburn colored hair that cascades over her tanned shoulders and stops just shy of her heart shaped bottom, brown eyes that go on for as long as her legs, a cute little birthmark that sits just under her eye and breasts so perfectly formed it would put Pamela Anderson to shame. But what's this? Here comes Lionel, waddling his way through the front door just in time to ruin my idol worship of Daphne; bastard. Lionel looks important, fat and out of shape, but important non the less; standing just a shade five foot nine and weighing about 105 kg, it's truly a miracle he hasn't wound up on my table yet. When most people first see him they can't help but stare at his eyebrows. A few months ago at a funeral some small kid, God bless his soul, walked up and asked him if he could use them as umbrellas when it rained. Lionel snorted and waddled furiously away. He always wears suits with his short hair slicked back over his bald spot, he likes to look more important than he actually is. "Bob, what have you done with the new deliveries?" He was standing in front of me and I could swear his mouth was moving but he was still just a blur transcended by Daphne, sign, Daphne. "Bob!" Oh that's right, he likes to be answered, prick. "On the tables, I'll start on them in a second"

"How many are there?"

"Three?"

"Do you know what sex they are?"

"Nope."

"Do you know who they are?"

"Nope."

"Do you know what they died of?"

"Nope."

"Do you know when the funerals are?"

"Soon."

"Useless!" And that got rid of the balding terrier. I know it sounds like I was a little short with the guy but you have to understand, I really don't like him and he can't fire me, I'm too good. Earlier in the year a young man came in, shot point blank in the eye, cool huh, and the sides of his mouth slit open, getting cooler right, and I made it look like he was going to his fucking prom. Yeah, my job is real glamorous (I'm rolling my eyes right now by the way). Well at least there is Daphne; have I ever asked her out? Course not. Why not? Because I'm just ordinary Bob and she's Daphne, perfectly perfect.

"Morning Daphne. Can you tell me when the newbie's in there are being buried?"

"Hey Bob, umm, the female in one week and the two males the week after. One at the start of the week and the other at the end."

"Thanks." See, I'm a wuss. But a wuss that needs to get back to work.

Three bodies today; so very busy. Normally I wouldn't contemplate considering these cadavers until a day or two before their funerals but, since you've been so nice and listened to my story so far, I'll let you know what's wrong now. Lets start with the young male, they always have interesting stories. Um, well that was unexpected. Ladies and Gentlemen drum roll please, mister smartass here managed to get himself hit by an ambulance. How? Clearly not looking both ways when crossing the road. Contestant number two come on down! The old male. Died of cancer, old age, nothing too interesting. Now for the female. Says aged 24, still a youngster ... I wonder what she looks like. I know you're thinking I should respect the dead and so forth but it's only one look, and I'm sure she won't mind. WOAH! Those can't be real, they're still perky. One of them at least. She's a bit of a hottie, course if she were alive I'd never be able to speak to her ... but she's not so no harm no foul. Oh yeah, what did she die of? Says here the silicon from her breast implants leaked, that explains the disproportionate breasts. I still have a few more days left until I have to start working on the bodies for their funerals so it's back into the cold storage units for my three new best friends and time for lunch for me.

Normally I just eat lunch in the 'office' but today I've decided to get some fresh air, head down to the local deli and pick up a sandwich. I mean, I'm used to staring at dead bodies all day so they don't creep me out, but staring at a dead girls 36 DD's while I'm gnashing away seems just a little perverse even for me. Unfortunately I remember now why I never come out for lunch. There are so many crowds around at this time and so many people who should have walked in front of a bus a long time ago. This couple walking in front of me, sure they are cute with their pecks and banter, but do they really need to occupy the entire sidewalk while the forty of us behind them wallow in self-loathing that we don't have that kind of romance. Then when you squeeze by them at the first sight of an opening you get stuck behind the old woman who's just plodding along without a care in the world which would be fine except she seems to be hell bent on walking exactly where you want to walk. Then by the time you dodge the sidewalk mayhem you reach the deli line; this brings us to the current moment.

The world is filled with ignorant and annoying people. People who appear to be placed upon God's green earth with one simple purpose; seek out and annoy you. It doesn't matter where you are or who you are. You could be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at 20,000 feet above sea level and standing on the top would be some business man with an over inflated sense of worth yelling incessantly into his mobile phone "can you hear me now?" And there is one such person like that standing in front of me at the moment. Of course he is at the front of the line and of course he doesn't care that he is holding up every single person behind him while he discusses something that I'm sure is of grave importance whilst mumbling through an order for a half- caff, double mocha, no cream, soy latte and a chicken salad sandwich without tomato and dressing. The pretentious ass finally receives his lunch and is off, leaving me to order. It's a quick lunch today, a chicken wrap with extra dressing and tomato and a lemonade, not because I have anything particularly exciting or pressing to do this afternoon but because the sky looks like it's about to crack open; the weathermen called for clear skies today but what do they know, it's only their job to predict the weather.

I get half way back to the office when bolts of lighting split the skies and rain begins to pelt down. Of course, me without an umbrella, wind up soaking wet with no change of clothes until I get home later tonight. As I'm sure you can tell though I'm a glass half full kind of guy. So the bright side is I'm going to take a longer lunch and ride out the worst of the storm sitting by a fire at a quaint little café and then head back, hopefully, if the rain backs off a little. On the down side I might not get to see Daphne again today, but I'm sure I can deal with staring at her face book page tonight; not that I do that because, you know, it would be stalkerish.

At about 3 pm the rain began to slow to a soft pitter so I headed back to work in a caffeine- induced frenzy. It took me half the time it normally would as I bounced my way off the sidewalk and into the reception area of Sunny Times.

"Where have you been?" I don't know how long Lionel has been standing there waiting for me, and I don't think I care much either.

"Well it started to rain. I just got my hair blow waved. My make up would have run." I didn't get a response after that, just a disgruntled huff from a man with a inferiority complex and a stern look as he marched away, steam practically fizzing out of his hairy ears. There was a soft laugh in the background. At first I wasn't sure, but it got a little louder and I was able to decipher the source; Daphne was sitting behind the reception desk listening to the whole conversation.

"One day he'll fire you, you know that right." Daphne always had a smirk when she talked, especially when she knew she was right. It was just a cute little quirk.

"It's bound to happen one day. But he may get hit by a bus one day too. Boy would his body be fun to work on. It'd have him looking like an Asian transvestite hooker in no time." Another laugh came from Daphne. This one was more pronounced, more confident. If I was good with girls and asking them out now would be a perfect time. I'm not though. I nervously scratched the back of my neck and with a courtesy laugh shuttled back into my office.

Most days I don't really have anything exciting to do around here. Today is one of those days. All I have to do is tough it out until five pm and I'm home free. That's approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. Shouldn't be too hard. Believe it or not I do get some type of real work around these parts. You are more than welcome to join me in my journey into the abode of tedious paperwork but I'm guessing you would prefer to simply come back at around five pm when I clock out.

You came back, I feel so loved. With my paperwork out of the way I can now finally head home to relax in front of the idiot box until dinner time and bedtime. It's a nightly routine, let me grab my coat. I can hear you silently judging me by the way. Can you say that you capitalize on every moment? That saying, "Live everyday as if it was your last." Everybody's heard it at least once. It's bullshit. If you lived everyday like it was your last you'd end up wasting all your energy on frivolous pursuits like sky diving or climbing the Eiffel tower; things that will only get you broke and living under the underpass on your local highway. If you're lucky I guess it could be an underpass in a particularly affluent neighborhood. Time to say goodbye to my most beloved of co-workers first though. Lionel never really greets or farewells me if he doesn't want something. Daphne on the other hand. Every goodbye is filled with opportunity and makes me feel so inadequate that I can't simply say "do you want to go out for dinner?" If you don't believe me listen to this. "Night Daphne."

"Oh, anything planned for tonight Bob?"

"Not really, you?"

"Home alone, dinner with my cats. I love my life"

" ... Haha ... well I'll see you tomorrow." She's HOME ALONE, having DINNER with CATS! And I can't say "why don't you come out with me?" all I can do is nervously laugh. Real slick.

Just as I step out into the asphalt parking lot the heavens begin to split open again and I am once again left standing alone getting drenched by a torrential downpour that seems to hate me. Of course the only spot I could find this morning sits two hundred meters away from the entrance so I'm forced to walk the distance, using my briefcase as the clichéd umbrella. My car isn't exactly slick. The sort of car you'd expect from a guy that puts makeup on dead people. There is dust clogging the fuel cap distributor meaning it does not always start and if it does the engine revs for three or four minutes before it does, the hinge on the passenger side door has been bent upwards from a scrap with a fence. To close it you have to pull up and push in. Years of being parked in a gravel driveway has eroded the once beautiful metallic silver paint lining the outside and the exhaust pipe blows enough steam to wholly contribute to global warming. But as any man would tell you none of those flaws means anything to me; it's my car and I love it dearly. Plus I can't afford a new one. As I duck into the drivers seat, slamming the car door closed behind me and shaking loose water from my polyester suit (I know, I reek of fashion) I begin the arduous task of starting my engine. First there is a low, monotonous whirr that's accompanied by what sounds like a young animal being ran over at 80 km an hour. Next the whole car beings to shake and rattle violently as if it has had too much to drink after a big night out. Finally, after this episode is convened the car finally ticks over and the car lurches into gear.

There is one thing I hate more than my work- supermarkets during rush hour. Unfortunately I forgot that I have nothing in the fridge for dinner tonight and nothing for breakfast tomorrow so my hands are more or less tied tonight. They are vile places. Mothers with their babies who have been pushed to the brink of exertion and patience looking for an unsuspecting fool to wrong them so they can vent. Seniors, god bless their souls, who trot around the aisles, walking exactly where you want to go and moving as if the world has stopped. Children hustling in to pick up snacks and soft drinks so they can join their playground chums in the thrills of childhood obesity. One of my favorite reason for hating the supermarket though; damn checkout people who are too old for the job but still seem to be content. Why are they allowed to be forty- five with no future and happy? It's not fair. You don't have to tell me, I'm cranky. I'm still a little upset about the Daphne goodbye earlier this evening. For all our sakes though I'll move on, collect my dinner and leave this accursed tomb of despair. Tonight's dinner will be simple; frozen fish fillets accompanied with potato gems and a little bit of pre- made coleslaw for fiber. My mom, God bless her Jewish soul, drilled the importance of dietary fiber into me every night.

The checkout queues at supermarkets are always a fantastic place; truly riveting experiences. Here I am with my measly five to six items standing in the express checkout line; those new fancy checkouts where you put the items through yourself. Every once in a while this idea actually proves conducive to time management and customer flow, however, more often or not you are put into a situation I am in now. As I look around at the four available self checkout booths I notice the full futility of the mechanisms at hand. Checkout one is out of order. Checkout two is cash only and of course everyone in queue is paying by plastic. Checkout three has an old Asian couple who are examining the barcode reader as if they where trying to diffuse a nuclear bomb whilst fighting off a herd of angry terrorists. Lastly, checkout four; a mother with her toddler son. I don't hate children. I understand they are our future and all but is it really necessary to teach them how to weigh two tomatoes themselves or swipe the barcode on a machine that they can't even reach. Meanwhile here we are, the ten other people in the queue just begging that someone would step in, through the child aside, strike a superhero pose and them proceed to swipe the mothers items faster than that underpants wearing superhero who runs around with a giant S on his chest. Fifteen minutes and countless evil eyes later I'm finally out of the supermarket and meandering through the parking lot. I can see the blinding glint of sunlight reflecting off of car windows; I'm assuming this means the sun has come out and someone upstairs doesn't completely hate me. If there's one thing I hate more than mothers clogging the checkout lanes inside supermarkets its parking stalkers in the parking lot. Currently there's this one male following me through the car park at a distance, almost as if he's stalking his prey. It would be just as easy for him to roll up beside me, ask me if I'm leaving and where I'm parked and then respectably follow me to my parking space. Because he's being a tool though I think its time I cut through some parked cars until I lose him.

I finally zigzag my way to my car and guess what? Mr. stalker is gone, given up the chase in the hopes of finding an easier prey. I toss my shopping bag into my car boot and begin the arduous task of starting my engine. First time no luck. Second time, no luck. Finally on the third time the engine begins to rev for two or so minutes until finally clicking over. I put the car in reverse, my foot on the accelerator and suddenly the car chokes and stalls. Seemingly simultaneously rain begins to cascade down my windscreen. Guess somebody doesn't really like me as much as I thought. After another three failed attempts at starting my engine I'm finally off. The ferocity of the rain has increased, I think I even saw hail at one stage, but I press on in the pursuit of reaching my one bedroom apartment. In the distance I can hear thunder rolling and suddenly the sky cracks open. In a moody way the brutality of the weather is actually rather soothing, beautiful almost. Unfortunately while I was admiring the skyline I failed to realize the drunken driver careening towards me in the wrong lane of traffic. Thinking fast I realize there isn't much I can do. Two options really, swerve into oncoming traffic or take my chances off road. There is always the option of hitting him head on but I'm not even wearing my seatbelt. Swerving further to my left I clear the road just in time to clear his car. Damn drunken school kids. Trying to get myself back on the road is proving more difficult though. The rain has made the normally hard dirt surface turn to mud and my three year old tires don't exactly have the best traction to begin with. I turn sharply into the skid in an attempt to regain control. No luck though. I don't know if it's true what they say; that your whole life flashes behind your eyes just before your eyes but I can tell you what I say was boring, mundane even. A quick flash of a tree in front of me after my reminiscing and then...

Damn my head hurts. Feels like I've been forced to listen to Britney Spears' new album over and over again for the past decade or so. Thank the heavens I at least have airbags that actually work. They say 45% of airbags don't inflate on impact; they also say that 70% of all stats are made up though. You decide. That damn hooligan! Now that the shock has started to wear off I find myself properly assessing the situation and believe me I don't like it. My car is stuck in a muddy embankment and the front of my car has been crippled by a tree. On top of all that it's still raining down hard. My car normally doesn't start like it should so I highly doubt it will start with a smashed in fender; never the less I vainly try despite knowing the outcome. It feels like I'm going through the post accident repartee with my engine. First it whirrs and clicks, secondly it begins to spit and then, most surprisingly off all, the engine roars to life. My car starts when half the front end is missing, what a life.

My car limped home, perpetually over revving and under performing, not that I expect much else from it nowadays, especially considering the circumstances. The whole way home there was a horrible screeching sound being emitted from my cars underbelly. It could have been anything from my front fender dragging to my axel, half torn off, scratching the gravel roads. I didn't want to know the answer though so I never looked, just assumed no matter what my car was done for regardless. As I sit down at my dinner table its still raining outside. With the adrenaline from the crash beginning to wear off I start to feel a brutal throbbing in my neck and forehead. Guess I shouldn't have expected to come out from the crash unharmed. Do I really want to look in the mirror. The skin on my face could be hanging off my bones for all I know or my jaw could literally be dragging on the floor. Wouldn't that be a pick up line for next time I see Daphne though, "Sorry about that, the heat in here just made my jaw drop (then a sleazy wink)." So instead I decide to feel first. Jaw still in place, nose not broken, skin still on bones. So far this is all starting to sound pretty ok. Eyes, one and two, good I'm not blind. Ears, yep two of them as well. And forehead. This is something I don't really want to feel, especially considering it's where the pain is coming from. As my hand slowly begins to move upwards from my ears I feel the emergence of a bump. Small at first and then getting bigger and bigger until finally I realize it takes up nearly a quarter of my forehead. It's a purple black bruise/ bump and it's not pretty.

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Story tagged with:
Fiction / Humor /