By T.K. Millin
It wasn't easy growing up in a small town where everybody associated your name with the dead.
My father owned the only funeral home in town and sooner or later, people knew they would eventually pass through on their way to the grave. I knew that’s why no one ever came to visit my parents or why I never had any friends come to play; with the exception of Eddie and Sue.
The fondest memories I have from childhood is the three of us playing hide and seek and red light, green light. Our summers were never spent apart, not even the summer Sue died.
Ever since the second grade when I asked Sue if I could sit next to her at lunch, her beauty captivated me. I can still recall her long silken hair, the color of night. She used to fling it across her shoulders as if she were Queen of the Nile and smile just like Mona Lisa. And even though Eddie ended up winning her affection, I never stopped loving her.
As the years went by, playing hide and seek and red light, green light became passé and so during the summer between eighth and ninth grade the three of us looked for new ways to fill the long hot days. That’s when Eddie came up with the idea to play a game he called, “spying on the dead.”
My father’s mortuary was behind our house in what used to be used as a guest house by the previous owners. He said it was the main reason he purchased the house when we moved into town; because he wanted a separate place to work from where we lived. But I knew it had more to do with my mother’s fear of death.
The first time we played our new game, there had been a collision between a car and a freight train. Our plan was to wait until my father got the call to pick the body up from the morgue and then the three of us would sneak inside the mortuary and hide. At first Sue was hesitant. She was worried my mother would catch us, but I assured her the only way my mother would be seen anywhere near there was if she were dead.
I knew my father used a closet inside the embalming room to store the dirty magazines and movies he didn’t want my mother to know he had. Eddie stepped in first and started flipping through pages of one of the magazines and said, "Wow! Would you look at them pair." Sue grabbed it out of his hands and slapped it across his back.
Suddenly, the front door banged opened and the hallway filled with the echoes of squeaking wheels. I shoved my way into the closet and quietly closed the door.
The three of us huddled together peering through the slats of the door. Not being a stranger to what was to come next I waited in anticipation to see the horror on Eddie and Sue’s faces as they watched my father hook the body up to the pulley and lift it out of the body bag to begin cleaning, shaving and hopefully if this one was already rigor, watch him twist and turn the limbs and head.
As usual, my father pushed the play button on his cassette player and slowly waved his hands in the air as if he were conducting Mozart himself. He unzipped the bag and much to my horror pulled the head out first and then hooked the pulley up to the headless torso. Sue gripped Eddie’s shirt at the tip of his shoulder while he stood in amazement as if watching some daredevil perform a death defying feat.
We spent the rest of the day inside the closet watching my father patiently put the body back together, stitch by stitch, and when he was done the three of us were shocked to finally recognize the body of Mr. Zimmer, the town librarian.
After the second time we played spying on the dead, Eddie wanted to place a bet on who in town was going to be the next corpse. At first, Sue didn’t want to play along, but Eddie coaxed her with the promise of a kiss. For the fun of it I bet on Eddie and in return Eddie bet on me. That’s when Sue came up with the idea of playing a joke on my father by making her the corpse.
She went on to explain she would hide under a sheet and I would leave a note for my father in his office that the morgue delivered the body while he was in town doing his usual Friday afternoon run for supplies. Then Eddie and I would hide inside the closet and watch as Sue would sit up like the corpse of Mrs. Daniels had done. Knowing my father had a funny sense of humor I agreed to go along with the hoax.
Everything was going according to plan. My father pressed the play button and began flapping his hands in the air. He pulled back the sheet and both Eddie and I gasped. Sue lay stiff as a board on top of the table, her firm young breast reacting to the room’s temperature. My father simply said, “Oh Sue, not you. You’re too young. I will be sure to take tender care of you my child.”
My father turned to put on his gloves and Sue looked at the closet door and gave us her Mona Lisa smile. My heart raced with adrenaline. My father turned back around and without pausing drove the scalpel straight into Sue’s jugular. And just like Mrs. Daniels, Sue sat straight up, only she was able to scream.
Even in death, her long silken hair, the color of night, and her Mona Lisa smile captivated me.
Total word count: 985