Chapter 23

Dustin headed back in the direction the funeral home’s parking lot wondering about the kitten picture that had been mounted on the man’s grave. Why was it there and why had he never noticed it before? Thinking it over, he made sure to avoid walking close to Steve and Marcus and the despondent architect who was sitting down in the bottom of the hole that they were both watching over. Dustin was mad at them all. Seeing the image of the cute little feline clinging onto its branch on the man’s grave had done little to make him happy.

Juan was standing near the angel statue smoking a stubbed off cigar. Dustin stopped there next to him. "Aren’t you suppose to be with the clients in the parking lot?" He asked.

"They are very scary to me." Juan said. Puffing away on the stogie he eyed them from the statues base with visible uneasiness.

"I don’t care." Dustin shot back. Dropping Mr. Kennedy’s folder to his side he came around to face the man. "You need to be attending to their needs and making sure that they’re happy."

Juan shrugged. "I don’t know what they want." He explained. "They don’t ask for no water or food. None of them want chairs to sit in. They just want someone to tell them that everything is going to be okay."

Dustin sighed. "Look Juan," He said as he put a hand on the man’s shoulder. "I know that you’re a groundskeeper and not a funeral director. I know that this is way beyond what we hired you to do. I realize that there’s probably a cultural thing here where you’re not comfortable dealing with stuff on this level of intimacy but I really need you to step up to the plate man. We’re short staffed and I need to know that I can count on you."

Juan shook his head. "This thing," He said giving his head a little jerk back in the direction of the crack. "It is very strange and probably a little evil."

"It’s not evil." Dustin replied.

"No, it probably is." The groundskeeper argued. "I don’t know how, but something such as that is probably a little evil."

"Don’t be so superstitious!" Dustin scoffed. "It’s not evil. It’s just a mess that we have to deal with and I need your help right now in getting it fixed."

"It’s evil." Juan said again. "Un poco mal. Not good."

Dustin watched Juan as he puffed away on his cigar. The tiny groundskeeper eyed the crowd in the parking lot with an apprehensive eye.

"Can you load up a body in one of the hearses for me?" Dustin asked at last.

"One from around the back?" Juan asked. He pointed with his cigar in the general direction of the processing room.

"No." Dustin shook his head. "I need you to load up one from the crack."

Juan put out his hands. "Oh no Mister Dustin." He replied with visible agitation. "That is crazy. How old is the body?"

"Twenty years." Dustin replied as he opened the file on Mr. Kennedy and pointed back towards the direction from which he’d come. "He’s up towards the top of the crack. Actually, he’s the only male corpse that’s visible out there in the older lots."

"Que es una mala y horrible pensamiento!" Juan spat. "No puedo hacer eso!"

"His coffin is nearby." Dustin continued, ignoring the man’s protest. "For the purpose of transport, you could probably just put him back inside of the one that he was buried in. If that casket is too damaged then trust me, I understand. Feel free to take a cheap coffin from the display room and put him inside one of those. Trust me, it’s okay if you need to load him up in one of those. I don’t care about the extra expense."

"I no se preocupan por los gastos!" The diminutive groundskeeper argued. "Entiendes cómo desagradable lo que está pidiendo es?"

Dustin looked the man straight in the eyes. "I know that what I’m asking you to do is awful." He agreed. "Please understand that I’m just trying to help these families and that I need you to be my wingman here."

Juan looked in the direction of the crack. "I want a raise Mister Dustin." He said.

Dustin smiled. "I’ll talk it over with Steve and we’ll see what we can do."

"No." Juan replied, defiance in his tone. "I want this raise now and today. You sign it over to me."

"I can’t just sign you a raise." Dustin said. Letting his hand drop from the man’s shoulder he gave a little shrug. "There’s a process here Juan. Please try to understand."

Juan shook his head. "You don’t understand." He explained. "Usted y Steve son idiotas. I came here this morning because my family needs the money. My wife and children were terrified and they asked me when I left not to go to work. I told them that we needed the money. You pay me nothing and Mister Steve, he does not know how to grow grass. He cannot take care of this lawn. Para mí es hermoso el cementerio. Por qué siempre tan difícil cuando se trata de gente como yo que aman a sus familias."

Dustin looked him straight in the eye. "That’s low Juan." He groweled.

"It’s true." Juan quipped. "These people aren’t families to you. They are clients."

"Do you really want a raise?" Dustin asked growing increasingly confrontational. "Is it really going to take that for you to do this for me?"

"Si." Juan said.

"Is that how you want to play this?"

"Si." Juan said again. "Mis hijos necesitan este."

"Fine." Dustin spat.

Taking a twenty year old page from Mr. Kennedy’s folder he extracted the pen from his shirt pocket and wrote: ‘Juan Ibarra get’s a 20% raise to his current salary’ on it.

He handed it to the groundskeeper.

"Esto es más allá de mis expectativas." The man quipped looking at the sheet. "How are you going to pay for such a thing.:

Dustin shrugged. "I don’t really know." He replied. "Maybe I’ll just quit. Maybe I’ll disappear altogether."

Juan laughed. "Mister Steve!" He guffawed. "You and him are like a woman and her husband. He wouldn’t know what to do without you and you wouldn’t know what to do without killing him."

The small Mexican laughed. Dustin looked on. He wondered when the body would be ready to be loaded.

The End

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