Words of a world, strange though wonderful.

The Mortician

     The sun had reigned throughout summer’s dusking day. Windy it was as it raked through the grass needles carpeting the graves, save one with the scent of fresh turned earth. The occasional clouds dancing with the sun had shown a mosaic of shadows, crossing the graveyard all day. A Blue Jay had come to rest upon a tilted tombstone coated in moss. Its carvings faded; the name of its entombed cadaver still legible. Our Mother …can be made out. The songbird with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; calling to its young fledglings to feed them. Its beak darting east then west then north… others came to its call… a melody declaring peace throughout the cemetery. Silence…

     Something’s wrong. The Blue Jay observes a patch of grass undimmed from clouds. Suddenly its coat of the warming sun eclipsed by something massive rushing in…. no time… the Blue Jay rocketed into the woods. Upon the moss-ridden tombstone landed a bulky Crow. Its vulturism profound, its black eyes scan the blotchy grass. Pecking at the moss-ridden stone, its black eyes discovered a gathering of slimy worms within the freshly turned soil. In an instants dash onto the earth, its beak gored a slime-ridden worm trying to burrow itself desperately to no avail. One by one they’re gutted and slurped. At the massacres end, the crow proudly boasts its bulky self; the spread of its wings eclipsing Winifred’s headstone.

     A few miles away, just outside of Monson Center, an organ piano’s tune radiated through the parted windows of the Lombardi Funeral Home. A crowd adorned in black attire assembled on the front grounds of the colonial building. Bridge Street was lined with cars with orange flags attached to their antennas reading: Funeral. A billboard in front of the building with the picture of a woman of elder years, bordered with bouquets of pink and white flowers.

     As the sun began creeping behind the mountain, the crowd filed within. The first observation of anyone setting foot in the vestibule would be the lighting’s dimming mood. Oak tables ornamented with black doles, glass vases holding bouquets of purple flowers, some photographs of the deceased and a man in a black sports jacket, white shirt and jeans; greeting mourners. Just beyond that, the privacy room where most congregated before making the paralyzing walk down the aisle to the open casket pose of the deceased. The lights set dim with two shaded windows present on either side of the room. Here and there, everyone takes their turn to covertly glimpse at the Wake Room. Some already sitting in a catatonic stare in its pews. Sports jackets and jeans are the apparel of the staff counselors. Some within the mourning crowd dressed somewhat modestly. To the left of the Wake Room are two dark wooden doors in a shadowed corner. At the bottom of one door; a sliver of light…

     Strange odors fought back under the door by the perfumed scents of the congregation room, fought back into another world of preservative chemicals, shiny metallic tables and trays, needles and razor-edged scalpels. There in a small white-washed room, aluminum cabinets and shelving aligning the lime-green and white walls with a large sink tub and large faucet at the other end of the room, a stained white tile floor with missing and chipped pieces, adorned in the center with a large stainless steel slab with draining grooves, a nude female cadaver of middle years presented, its audience the lone undertaker of the establishment. A tall man adorned in green scrubs, gloves and hairnet with a face mask, had this cadaver been able to see, the eyes of the mortician alone would make the cut!

     Repetitive muffled sounds of the cooler and ceiling fan radiated through the room as did a smooth, deep but calm breath from the mortician. Approaching the corpse, he reached to grab it by the wrist and bicep. Stiff like a burned piece of toast.

     The mortician lifted the arm as it lifted the torso as well… rigor mortis… He rested the arm back down, turned to a cabinet and returned to the body with disinfectant chemicals and a bright yellow sponge. Unclean… unclean. Scrubbing, scrubbing and more scrubbing. Her skin’s smooth and glossy …beautiful.

     Now washed, rigor mortis must be eased. He took his time and massaged the rigor mortis of each muscle, articulating the limbs… so stiff.  Any congealment or clots broken up, it’s time to set her face. In a slow and easy movement, his palms resting upon her cheeks, fingers over her temples, thumbs upon her eyelids; he lifts death’s curtains to reveal a pair of paling blue-irises embedded in a pair of eyes sunken into her head. He placed eye-cups over them to hide the sinking and proceeded to stitch the eyelids shut. I’ve sealed your pretty eyes forever.

“Two to three hours with me… that’s all we have.” The mortician mumbled as he stared into her stitched eyelids. Then silence… his eyes stitched to hers, he pulled his face mask under his chin and a rigid stare instigated his morbid desires. His eyes abandoned hers and shot to the door… of the “other world.” His eyes crawling back to the slab’s draining grooves and then to her mouth which is next to being sealed forever. Not yet. A warmed sting began to crawl beneath his eyes. Not yet! Back to a cabinet, he returned with scissors and proceeded to cut them back open. The stitches left, stuck out like barbs on the brim of the eyelids; he lifted them open, removing the eye-cups. The gaze, the long thousand yard gaze a thousand yards into her soulless eyes. I see you, I see you now. Positioning the palm of his left hand on her forehead; the thumb and index finger stretching the eyelids to the eyebrows; his right hand gripping her jaw open… You’re so beautiful in life… his body arching over it; his warmed glossed lips touched hers as he brushed his tongue over stiff, dry lips; nibbling them as hers too had once done. His eyes closed initially; now open as her paling blue irises embedded in yellowing eyes stared silently into his.

     The eyes and mouth sealed, her face is set. The embalming process is ready to be carried out. He made a cut at the main artery near the groin and drained her blood. Another slit made and three gallons of embalming fluid; formaldehyde, methanol and ethanol pumped into the veins pushing out any leftover blood. With another slit above her navel, a tube is inserted into the abdomen to pump out the contents of the stomach and intestines followed by aspiration of the abdominal cavity to dry her organs. Embalming fluid is once again pumped into the body; into the organs and abdomen.

     The body stitched completely, he proceeds to wash it again. Then shampoos her hair and applies makeup with a smile hidden behind the mask. He dressed her in attire a family member brought the day before… “It’s not you… I’ll get you something better after the funeral.” He whispered to her. Later that night, two counselors assisted the mortician in resting her within her casket. Beautiful casket …he thought.

     The calling hours of the next day came for the mourners. The Lombardi Funeral Home set and adorned with absolute precision to the family’s every request. Before the first mourner showed, the counselors stood at attention, the privacy room adorned with roses and photographs of the deceased. In the wake room, the pose of the deceased set with upmost professionalism. The empty front grounds of the colonial-era building along Bridge Street saw the first traffic of the mourners as they glided into the parking spots. The first few, dressed in black attire and black sunglasses, laid their eyes first on a billboard decorated with roses, with a photograph of the deceased in early years as a gorgeous young lady. “Near, far, wherever you are Madeline Scaifad.” The mourners attention then to a tall man still of young years, with a full black suit and an oddity of smiling more than necessary and hair that could be better groomed standing as a greeter at the entrance. The mourners thought him strange and proceeded inside without looking his way. The strange man looked at Madeline’s youthful photo and smiled. Soon…