A true story?
Twenty-one, so broken-hearted he barely passed his college finals. His dream girl Lori broke up without a reason the week before. Forlorn, he wandered the old paths through the woods of his hometown until his father put him on a plane to Florida to spend the summer with his mother’s brother, the mortician.
The first night as he worked cleaning up, the corpse on the slab sat up and moaned. He ran outside, crossed the street to the phone booth and called his uncle who told him to calm down, it was natural, sometimes gas and muscle contractions made them do that. He finally went back inside and finished.
The weeks passed. He stayed away from the beaches, didn’t know anyone his age anyway, concentrated on learning the business of death. Against the law he traded human blood to charter boat captains for free fishing trips. Sloshing out buckets of maroon grume to chum the Atlantic for frowning sharks. Nothing better, death becomes life becomes death becomes life for him. Feeling stronger with each shark head he clubbed. Learn a lot about life on a fishing boat.
Learn a lot about death in a mortuary. He grew accustomed to the occasional corpse that moved under the tarps like they were not ready to be immobile, as well as the invisible ghosts that prowled the mortuary night. Learned how to sternly but without fear or anger dismiss them if they grew too pesky with their skin-chilling presences.
The last night before he was to fly back to Illinois, his uncle called and told him there had been a fiery automobile crash; a car full of out-of-state college kids driving drunk had ended up dead. Could he handle the prep for the burned up victims? Sure. The five charred bodies arrived an hour later. The second body bag contained a face he recognized. A face he had loved and shared life with for over a year. Lori. He started but couldn’t bleed her. Her essence was too strong, right beside him, almost touching his hand with icicle fingers. He walked away but didn’t cry.