The Funeral DirectorbyMendonFishers©
©2012 Mendon Fishers
I wheeled my patient from the cooler in to my "work room."She was a 74 year old female who had died of natural causes. I had three days to prepare her so that the family could have a viewing before committing her to a plot next to her predeceased husband.
She was joining him after a separation of almost 10 years.
I had plenty of time to do my usual excellent job. I am a very skilled undertaker. I, Thomas Steel, didn't start out life wanting to embalm corpses. I graduated from my high school, third in my class. I wanted to be a rich and famous doctor.
So, I went on to college and studied all the courses I needed to attend medical school. After graduating from college, with a 3.7, I took my MCATS and was accepted in a better than average medical school.
It was in my fourth year there that life bit me on the ass. My parents were killed in an automobile accident. It was the typical type caused by a drunk, only in this case the drunk was my father and the innocent victim was my mother. I was an only child as were my mother and father. All of a sudden I was all alone in the world.
Having been raised a spoiled kid, I was devastated. I had no idea how to proceed with my life. My parents always made all the decisions for me. And I always went along.
For my first decision on my own, I dropped out of Medical School. Yeah, I know , that was really stupid seeing as I had only 7 months to go before receiving my degree. But like I said, it was the first decision I had made on my own.
My next questionable decision was to leave after the burial service and turn into the first bar I came across.
About a year later I sobered up one night. I found myself in an alley, behind a bar, in a questionable part of a city that I didn't recognize. In other words, I didn't know where the fuck I was. I sat there in a filthy alley, leaning up against an old brick wall.
I was trying to get myself together when the door in the wall opened and out came a very large gentleman. He looked up and down the alley and then turned back to speak into the building,
"That asshole Tony is not back with the car yet, Boss."
My foggy brain realized that he was not a gentleman. Actually he sounded like a thug. To my dismay, he saw me sitting there.
"Who the fuck are you Asshole?" he not so politely asked.
Before I could formulate an answer, a voice called out the door, "Angelo, what did you find? Is he dangerous?"
"No Boss, just some drunken loser laying here in his own piss and puke."
I started to protest, "I'm a medical student!" Now I really don't know why I said that. It just sort of came out.
Angelo reached down as if to hit me when that commanding voice said, "Leave him alone. When Tony gets the car here, put him in the trunk. I might have use for this 'doctor' "
And that's how I met Gino DiTucci, local crime boss and his lieutenant Angelo Pulmere .
I snapped out of my reverie and got back to work. The first thing I needed to do was finish undressing my patient. The nursing home had her dressed in a nice nightgown, appropriate for little old ladies to sleep in. I really don't know who they were trying to impress. I worked on my patients in the nude. Not me ...Them.
She looked peaceful in her sleep, except that her eyes were staring sightlessly at the ceiling tiles.
"Well," I thought, "I hope no one expects to get her PJs back," as I picked up a pair scissors.
As soon as she was naked, I'd give her one last sponge bath. The cleaning served a couple of purposes, the first is cleanliness, the second is odor control, and lastly to add a moisturizing cream to prevent the skin from drying out and decomposing too soon.
The object of embalming is to slow the deceased's decomposition, not prevent it. Only in Hollywood Zombie movies can decay prevention happen.
While I was washing and drying her, I examined her for any areas that might present problems while I was embalming her. Her body was in good shape from an undertaker's point of view..
I could use the single point procedure. One line in to her via the carotid artery and the line out attached to her jugular vein.
The exchange process would take about two hours if I didn't run into any problems. I would need to massage her body repeatedly to prevent clots from forming and interfering with the flow of the embalming fluid, and to keep rigor mortis from setting in too soon.
I walked over to my stereo system and inserted a classical music CD. I looked at her toe tag, "Mrs. Williams, I hope you like my selection of music. If you don't, just mention it, I'll be glad to play something else." Although I always asked, I had never had any objections.
Talking to your patients is something they drilled into us in med school. I just carried forward the same logic here,
I was about an hour into exchange when I heard my double doors open. I looked up and saw Angelo pushing a casket on a trolley into my work room. He stopped and looked around the room.
Even the really tough guys didn't like "my" work room, and his nervousness showed.
I couldn't resist the temptation, I lifted Mrs. William's hand and waved it while saying, "Hi Angelo, want to play gin while Tommy works?"
"You asshole!" he exclaimed, "Gino wants you to use this coffin to bury her in."
I looked at him. This was not an unusual request. They used my services once or twice a year to dispose of embarrassing leftovers. Only this time there was a problem. Mrs. Williams was not being cremated.
"Angelo, does Gino know that this is a burial?"
"Yeah, he knows. But there is a rush on this one. He says, 'Do it.' "
"OK, but this is an open casket. There might be an odor problem."
"There have been special steps taken so that the extra cargo will not smell."
"What about the added weight? Won't the pall bearers notice?"
"Naw the extra is a small one. No one will notice."
I knew better than to ask, "How small?"
"Ok Angelo. Put the box in the cooler. It will be at least another few hours before I'm ready to put her into it."
As I watched his back as he walked through the refrigerator door, I thought back to how this all began.
A black limo pulled into the alley. The driver stopped so that the rear door aligned opposite the open hallway entry. Tony hopped out and started to open the car's rear door.
"Hold it!" shouted Angelo, "Open the trunk first, and then give me a hand."
Tony reached in the car and I heard the lock on the trunk lid click. The next thing I knew two men were tossing me into the trunk and closing the lid. I remember being tossed around by the car's motion until I hit my head, hard. The next thing I remember, I was being hosed down with cold water and my clothes were being cut off.
It must have been a month before I rejoined the land of the living. I wasn't unconscious the entire time; I was drying out and was one very sick guy. I vomited out most of my insides, suffered through the DTs, and fought off a few pink elephants along the way.
When I was finally dried out, I knew I'd never touch alcohol again. Mr. DiTucci visited me a few times. While he had a few encouraging words for me, his eyes were never what might be called friendly and caring. Actually they were damn scary.
In the back of my mind I formed the feeling, "Paying him back is going to be a bitch".
My next few months were spent eating "healthy" food, exercising, and generally regaining my health. They were tough months, but I started to feel human again. I was never a "jock" type of guy. My claim to fame was academic not via sports. On the plus side I never had to go to those 12 step AA meetings. I never had to say my name is Thomas Steel and I'm a drunk.
My trainers worked on my mental acuity. My mind was exercised. They had me working all types of puzzles. There were card games, Sudoku puzzles, spelling quizzes, and good old cross word puzzles. They also played logic games with me.
When they were starting to make progress, I innocently asked if I could continue my education and start my application for a residency. My head rang from the hit they put on it. I had to learn to keep my mouth shut.
That night after my evening meal in my room, Mr. DiTucci paid me a visit.
"You belong to me. My plans for you do not include completing your medical education. I already have all the 'doctors' I need in my organization. You are destined for greater things. But first you will complete your training and apprenticeship under a master."
"You will be our mortician."
"Shit! I didn't like anatomy in med school. And those corpses wanted to be there." was my first thought.
"But before we expand on 'our' plans, you need to complete your training."
"And get my, license." was my comeback.
"We can get you a license, but first you need to learn the trade, and be evaluated."
Somehow from the way he spoke I knew that the license presented no problem getting. I had the feeling I would never take the tests.
Mr. DiTucci was watching my face much closer than I realized when he said, "The right funeral director/embalmer makes more per year than the average doctor. And they don't need Malpractice Insurance."
Then he grinned. It was a truly evil grin.
He continued, "I will provide everything you need to start the business. You will not need to pay me back any of the monies I place into your business. All you will need to do is provide me an occasional favor and some crematorium time."
I began to wake up.
This man's organization produced a waste disposal problem that could not be solved by putting the trash out by the curb. I also realized that I might become one of these disposal problems if I refused his offer.
"Yes Sir. I'll be the best mortician you ever saw." and so began my training.
The cooler door open and closed again. Angelo was back. I glanced at him long enough to determine that he wasn't a happy camper. My next "customer" was on a gurney in there. Angelo would have had to move him before he could put his load in there.
Angelo might be a tough guy, but like most wise guys, he couldn't quite stomach a victim he didn't create.
The adrenalin, the excitement, or the endorphins created by the commission of a crime over came the natural human's aversion to a corpse. Angelo was no exception.
"Did Mr. Denney need any attention?"
Angelo covered his mouth and ran from my work shop. I hoped he made it to the sink. I hated cleaning up.
I went back to work on Mrs. Williams. I had to keep up the massage. I didn't want any blood clots to form and interfere with the flow of the formaldehyde. Creating additional ports in a body to facilitate the exchange was just extra work.
As I listened to Angelo heave, I remembered one delivery man from a while back.
I tried to pull my dead body trick on him only it backfired. The man quickly realized what I was doing. Without a word he walked over to the woman I was working on. She was a middle aged suicide.
Because it was an "other than normal" death, the medical examiner performed an autopsy on her.
I had her on my table lying on her back with her head resting on a block. I had opened up the "Y" incision the coroner had put in her chest and removed the visceral bag they had returned to her chest.I had filled the plastic bag with a special mixture of embalming fluids designed to completely protect the contents. I was in the process of sewing her back up when Mr. DiTucci's delivery arrived.
He tossed her modesty cloth on the floor and bent over her crotch. He looked up at me and took a big bite out of her vulva. He walked out of my work room, chewing.
I didn't make it too the sink.
Later I found out that guy was a special breed of wise guy. Mr. DiTucci used his skills as an interrogator. He could cut his victim up slowly while preventing the person's immediate death. He would question the poor soul as he did the deed.
He had been known to be able to keep his subject alive for up to a week and he always got the information requested. It was said that the victim was usually begging to be killed many days before he was actually put down.
From that point on, I only messed with Angelo and the other wise guys I knew.
I still had another hour left to massage Mrs. Williams before I could dress her and start on her makeup and hair.
So I let my mind wander, again.
I was back to my early years with Mr. DiTucci. I had finished my apprenticeship and said license appeared in the mail one day, just like magic!
I was now Thomas Steel, Undertaker.
One day Angelo and Mr. DiTucci drove me across town to an upscale neighborhood. There I was given the keys to my funeral home. After the grand tour and introduction to my staff, I was taken into one of the private rooms and explained the facts are of life.
As I had suspected, Mr. DiTucci had a disposal problem. My job was to solve it.
Actually, this was a little more complicated than at first glance. The authorities monitored funeral homes closely, even closer if the home had its own crematorium. I couldn't just fire up the burners and toss in a body. I had to keep records! And boy were they a bitch. Besides the "disposal" body, I needed a legitimate corporse. With that legitimate customer I had to keep a death certificate, a permission for cremation from the relatives, a "Certificate of Weight" before cremation and another of the weight of the ashes after.
I also needed to provide description of the disposal of the ashes, ie, burial, presented to and signed for by relatives, or else I'd better have them in a box on a shelf in the back room.
The State showed up at random intervals and inspected my records. But as with any system designed by beauocrats, there were holes. And we exploited the holes. I remember how nervous I was the first time a "customer" left my business a little heavy.
I worried about the State Police walking in my door and dragging me away in handcuffs.
Eventually, I got so bold as to have a 97 lbs customer's ashes leave with the extra weight of a 300 lbs disposal's ashes.
"Grandma, must have put on a little weight, these last month's." was the most common comment I heard
Mrs. Williams was going to be one of those, but she was going in the ground, not the oven. That way if she is ever exhumed, I'd have a shit load of explaining to do to the authorities, if Mr. Gino DiTucci let me live long enough to try and explain.
That's right Mr. DiTucci is an equal opportunity employer and I'm an employee.
My classical music CD ended so I decided now would be a nice time for a break. Besides, I needed the picture of Mrs Williams that her daughter had dropped off along with the old ladies make up. The picture is so that I know what she should look like when I'm done with the makeup and hair that will provide her relatives with the familiar look and smell of their beloved.
Let's face it, no one can make a dead person look like they did when they were alive. The mortician aims to trigger those familiar sights so that relatives will say, "She looks so natural," or something akin to that. That's the mark of a good mortician.
And I'm a good mortician.
When I got upstairs, I called for my wife. It is around 9:00 PM and she should be home by now. Amy doesn't like it when there is a corpse in the house. She says it gives her creeps. She likes it even less when I work on a corpse. Rest assured I never get any sex on those nights.
Tonight will be one of those nights.
Hearing no answering greeting from Amy, I guess she's not back yet. She told me at dinner that she was going out shopping with her friend Marilyn. Well it was 9:00 and the mall should be closing. I expect her back soon.
As I opened Mrs. Williams file, I ruminate how a woman can spend so much time shopping and still have nothing to show for it.
I grabbed the picture and return to my basement work room.
It was close to 11:30 PM when I'd finished with Mrs Williams. She was dressed in her church clothes and residing in her casket, with her new roommate. She was all ready for the viewings.
Sick bastard that I am, as I climbed the stairs, I wondered if her husband was going to complain at the pearly gates about her new traveling partner"?.
I went up to the master bedroom in the residential quarters to take a shower. While I couldn't smell anything Amy always complained I smelled of death when I worked in the basement. I spent an extra long time washing with the fancy french soaps Amy kept in the shower.
As I was drying, I heard my wife walk into the bedroom. She bumped into the closet door, her dresser, the end of the bed, and one of the night tables.
I guess they must have stopped for a drink or three.
I walked out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. Amy pushed past me and got on her knees to worship the porcelain goddess. I turned around and walked back into the bathroom to hold her hair out of the mess she was making in the toilet.
Amy had long dirty blond hair and would be really impossible to live with if her vomit happened to get on it. She wouldn't care if it was her fault or not. I should have prevented it.
Husbands have such a crutch to bear.
As I walked around behind her to hold her head, I noticed she had a very short skirt on. But what stopped me was the fact that I was looking at her bare butt. "What the happened to her underwater?" was the first thought that ran skipping across my big brain.
My little brain just said, "Whoopee!!!!"
Listening to Amy wretch, I wondered why my little head was reacting. Then I remembered it had been a little over a month since I had paid her treasure pit a visit.
My little guy was demanding his due.
I was holding her hair from the back when I noticed that the right inside of her thigh was shiny. I looked closer. It was a thick white fluid running out of her vagina. I hadn't put any "thick white fluids" in her recently.
I almost pushed her head into the toilet with the object of holding it there until she stopped moving. But then she heaved again and the sound broke my concentration.
She stopped emptying out her stomach and sat back up. She tried to cuddle with me, but I was having no part of her. She assumed it was the smell of her vomit, and asked me to help her get in the shower.
I hit the control for all eight of the shower heads and pushed her in. Since we had instant on hot water, there was no temperature problem. But she got drenched and she hated getting drenched. It not only soaked all her clothes, but her carefully coiffed hairdo. She was planning on that hair style for tomorrow nights dance at the country club.
I left her in the shower and went back into the bedroom to redress in my "work" clothes. I was too pissed to sleep and I needed the quiet my work shop afforded me to think out my actions.
I sat in my desk chair and ran over all the options open to me:
1) Divorce her? No too costly and I had no real proof.
2) I would lose all the hard earned respect that I had earned within my "extended family". If I couldn't control my own wife, what good was I too them.
3) And besides I had no proof of any specific miss deeds. Now only strong suspicions.
Those were the thoughts that kept me awake most of the night.
At 8:00 am I walked back into the bedroom to make myself presentable for Mrs. William's 2:00 PM viewing. Amy was sprawled across the bed spread sound asleep. She was still dressed in the wet clothes she was wearing when I tossed her in the shower last night. Her carefully styled hair was a rat's nest of tangles, and she was sleeping with her mouth open gently snoring.
She really did not look her best.
I wasn't very quiet as I shaved showered, and dressed in my dark blue suit. When I left the bedroom, I looked every part the funeral director. I walked into the garage and climbed into my black Cadillac.