Well, that’s what I used to think. Now, thanks to the recession, it’s cutbacks and streamlining, even in the business of death. But death hasn’t taken a holiday; the bodies still come trundling in. Trouble is, with burial plots a scarce commodity people are opting for cremations and no-one wants to pay for fancy coffins anymore if they’re just going to end up in the furnace, know what I mean?
Take the boss, for instance. He has this all-in package, with a premium-grade coffin. He says it's just oak veneer but really it's prime stock and he charges a bit more than the cheap pine models, but a lot less than the top notch stuff. Even the ‘mock’ brass handles looks ‘real’. If it feels and looks that good the punters are happy to stump up for it, anything to impress the neighbours. They wouldn’t want to be seen sending Grandma on her way in a cheap-looking imitation.
What they they don’t know is that Grandma wouldn’t be the first and only occupant. Once the coffin had gone through the curtains Grandma would be re-housed in a cheap ply crate and despatched to the furnace while the Boss, ever into ‘recycling’, would have the oak masterpiece spirited away back to the showrooms. A quick spray of Febreeze and Bob’s your uncle, no more essence of Grandma!
He’s been making money hand over fist but I haven’t seen much of it. My mortician’s fees are disappearing fast and with no pall-bearer's revenue to top it up times are lean, I can tell you. But he has a top of the range casket sorted out for himself and a burial plot all marked out and paid for when it’s his turn, mind. And a bloody great headstone, too!
Today was the last straw. He walked in and had the brass nerve to say I was going to be laid off. His daughter, Gemma, has been doing a beautician’s course down at the local college and she’s going to take over. So he’ll be charging the punters for the full works, but she’ll only be doing the bits that show - you know, hands and facials.
So, I’m just finishing up here. One last ‘client’ and then I’m off. Of course, it’s a rush job but I’m giving him the works; not every day you lay out your boss. Oh, did you want to see? Come on through to the back room, then – don’t suppose anyone will mind. I’ve managed to hide the evidence. When I say I ‘laid him out’ it took a hefty swipe on the back of the head, I can tell you. Three or four more, before he’d lay down and play dead, as well!
Shame about that fancy coffin but I think he looks OK in this old crate. I can fiddle the paperwork and mark it down as a pauper cremation, no one will know; after all there is a recession on!
What’s that? You saw him blink? Nah, trust me, just the muscles relaxing. Well, once I start pumping the embalming fluid in you’ll never know. It’s not a pretty sight, so perhaps you’d better leave and let me get on with it. OK? Tarrah!
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Right, boss, let’s wrap this up shall we? That mortician’s wax has put a real bloom on your complexion - you look almost human. You didn’t realise all the work that went into a good send-off did you? Now, don’t look at me like that – it has to be done. Right, here we go – ready for a dose of formaldehyde?
Sue Harding has been married for 31 years and a mother for 27 of them. A former library assistant now 'retired' to the ranks of 'kept woman' - plotting dastardly deeds during the ironing or weaving stories as she knits; the biggest dilemma is the choice between red wine or real ale. Sue's writing has appeared at Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Angel Zapata's 5x5 and at her own blog, I Refuse To Go Quietly, where she hosts her Thursday@3 segment.