Chapter 20

As Dustin walked back into the parking lot he began to realize just how tired that he was.  He hadn’t slept since the earthquake had woken him up and he hadn’t eaten since the night before.  All he’d had by way of food or drink since leaving his apartment was a cup of coffee that he’d gulped down cold from the pot.  He’d barely had time to do much more as he was waiting for Steve to start sending people to his office.

He wondered if that was the reason that he seemed to be growing more and more irritable.  Steve had a way of getting under his skin but it was rare for the two of them to argue.  Their banter was usually barbed but friendly.  Dustin felt badly for what he’d said to him at the crack.

“Dustin!”  Leon called as Dustin came into sight from where the mortician stood on the porch.  “Could you come to the back processing room for a second?”

Dustin held up his hand to shield his eyes from the sun that was streaming in from behind the building.  “Why?”  He asked.  Almost immediately he’d been annoyed by the request.  “Can’t you see that I’ve got people out here waiting to meet with me?”

“The EMT’s want to have a word with you about that self-destruct brain-blaster that they brought in.”  The embalmer answered calling out loudly across the parking lot.  “They’ve got to fill out some paperwork for the cops and since you’re the last one who spoke to him before he zombied himself then you’re the one that they want a statement from.”

Dustin sighed.  He knew that it was too much to ask but he honestly wished that Leon would have come down through the crowd and whispered the information to him rather than scream it out for everyone to hear.  If he was going to be so socially awkward as to refuse to make person to person contact with the families then why couldn’t he at least use respectable language while referring to their dead?  The whole thing was a self-perpetuating problem just like so many other issues at the cemetery concerning its employees.

“I’m sorry Miss Kennedy.”  Dustin said walking past the woman and raising an apologetic hand towards the spot where she was seated underneath the canopy.  “I’ll just be a moment.”

“Don’t sweat it.”  She replied.  “I’m not going anywhere so long as my dad is still here.”

Wondering what she meant, Dustin jogged up the steps towards the funeral homes front door.  “What do they want?”  He asked Leon as he neared.

“They just want to find out if he was crazy or not.”  The mortician said. Walking briskly they both headed back towards the processing room.  “They may want you to identify the body as well.”

“But I didn’t know him.”  Dustin replied.  “Shouldn’t that go to next of kin?”

“Look boss,”  Leon said looking up at him as they stopped at the doorway leading into the mortuary.  “These guys want to get out of here and get their meat wagon loaded up with more fresh chops.  It’s what they do and they love it.  They’re good people.  They just need you to answer two or three questions for the paperwork that they’ll have to give to the police and then they can get back on the road.”

Dustin nodded.  “Let’s just get it over with.”

As Leon swung open the door Dustin saw the four EMT’s standing around a gurney.  They seemed to be engaged in a heated argument.  One of them was demonstrating some sort of CPR technique on the corpse which sat on top of it while the rest watched and bickered.  Each time that the man pressed down on the bodies chest cavity, blood spilled out of its head and onto the floor.

“I can’t believe you, you really are freaking stupid Donaldson.”  One of them said pushing the man aside and hovering over the corpse to perform a similar action.  “You don’t press up, you press down.  That’s why everyone that you pick up dies.”

Another EMT pointed at the one who was currently pressing down on the bodies chest.  “You haven’t been doing this as long as I have.”  He chided.  “Pressing down doesn’t do anything.  You have to press up.”

“Then why does everyone that we pick up live long enough to get to the hospital?”  The forth one asked.

The man that they called Donaldson jabbed a finger in his chest.  “Dumb luck!”  He spat.  “That’s what it is, pure and simple dumb luck!”

Before they had a chance to get any further in the conversation, Dustin interrupted them.  “You guys needed to see me?”  He asked.

Donaldson turned lowering his finger in Dustin’s direction.  “You the guy who gave this guy your card?”  He asked jerking his thumb back in the direction of the body.

Dustin walked over to the corpse.  The EMT’s stepped back so he could get a better look at it.  Sure enough it was the old man who had hit him earlier on in the morning.  That same old man had just told him that he didn’t want to be buried out East.  Now, here he was sitting in Dustin’s funeral home dead and with a gaping hole in his head.

Dustin nodded.

“What the heck did you say to him?”  The EMT who’d pushed Donaldson aside asked. 

“I just told him that I could handle his wife’s funeral.”  Dustin replied.  He was overcome with an extreme feeling of sadness as he watched the man’s blood dripping on the floor.

“Well, it must have been one heck of a good sell.”  Donaldson said with a smirk.  Suddenly, all of the EMT’s were consumed with laughter.  Leon joined them.  Dustin did not.

“What do you want me to do?”  Dustin asked interrupting their cackles. 

Donaldson turned towards the embalmers table taking a clipboard from his surface.  “Did this guy seem depressed to you?”  He asked as he unclipped a pen from its side and prepared to write.

Dustin shrugged.  “His wife had just died.”  He said refusing to take his eyes off the pool of blood beneath the man’s skull.  “Of course he was depressed.”

“I think old Sauder’s over there would be happy as a lark if his old lady died on him.”  Donaldson quipped jabbing the pen in the direction of the EMT that he’d poked in the chest.  There was another burst of laughter from them all.  “Did you and him argue?”  He asked shouting over the uproar.

“Yes.”  Dustin answered.  The EMT’s got suddenly very quiet.

“What about?”  Donaldson asked, his eyes narrowing on Dustin.

“He didn’t want me to sell him a burial plot for his wife.”  Dustin replied.  “I think he was upset and didn’t want to accept her death at the time.”

Donaldson made a note.  “So let me get this straight.”  He said looking up from the clipboard.  “This guy didn’t want you to offer him a place to bury his wife?”

“Yes.”  Dustin answered.

“And you did anyway?”

“Yes.”

“And then he decides to fill out the paperwork for both him and his wife to be interred in your graveyard and then he kills himself afterward?”  The man finished.

“I guess.”  Dustin shrugged.  “I thought that I’d helped him to move on.”

“You helped him move on alright.”  The one named Saunders quipped.  “Move on past this earth.” 

Everyone but Dustin gave a light chuckle.

“Am I in trouble?”  Dustin asked abruptly.  “Does anyone think that I had something to do with this guy killing himself?”

Donaldson shook his head.  “To be honest with you sir I really don’t give a damn.”

“But what about the police?”  Dustin asked.

Saunders spat on the floor.  “The police!”  He said sounding as if hearing the word might cause him to become physically ill.

“Screw them.”  Another one of the EMT’s interjected.

“Yeah, they suck.”  Another said.

Dustin’s brows knitted in confusion.  “Then what’s this all about?”  He asked.

Donaldson dropped the clipboard to his side.  “Those lazy bastards asked us to conduct an official interview with you.  They want one for the record.”  He said bitterly.  “They aren’t going to do anything about this.  Without an investigation they don’t care even if you did drive this old man to blow his brains out with the things that you said to him.”

“But I didn’t”  Dustin shot back sounding overly defensive.

“Whatever.”  Donaldson said throwing a hand out as if to cast his words aside.  “They’re just going to stick this in their files as a CYA incase any one of the family members asks for a review.”

“Why would there be a review?”  Dustin asked.

“I don’t know,”  Donaldson answered.  “You might inspire everyone that this guy knows to kill themselves.  I mean, when they see what an awesome funeral salesman that you are they’ll probably all kill themselves just to be buried here.”

Once more, the room erupted with laughter.

The End

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