As Dustin headed backing into the parking lot a man approached him. “My daughter…” He said looking very sad.
He was about Dustin’s age wearing a pair of blue jeans with holes at the knees and an untucked blue work shirt. His hair was long and blond, tied back into a ponytail. He was skinny and frail looking.
“Yes?” Dustin asked expectantly.
The man frowned self-consciously. “Well, can you see to it that she’ll be reburied?”
Dustin sighed. “Everyone up there is going to be reburied.” He replied, frustration edging the tone of his voice.
“She was only five.” The man said. “I just want to know that she’s going to be okay.”
“She’ll be okay.” Dustin spat easing past him. Stopping at the steps he turned to face the crowd. “Everyone!” He called out. “We’re going to see to it that your loved ones are put back in their proper resting places. If you want another service for the re-internment then call back and talk to my partner Steve. He’ll make whatever arrangements that you’d like.”
A large, squat woman wearing thick oversized glasses stepped forward. “So we just leave?” She asked.
Dustin shrugged. “I can’t do anything for you guys today.” He shot back in exasperation. “I don’t even know why you people came out.”
The man with the pony-tail raised his hand.
Dustin looked at him.
“She was hit by a car, my daughter.” He continued. “Worst thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else in the world. My wife killed herself a year later. They’re buried together.”
Dustin cocked his head to the side, listening.
“I just want you’re assurance that you’re going to take care of them.” The man said solemnly. “Mainly, I want you to tell me that you’re going to put my little girl back where she belongs.”
“I doubt if I’m going to do any of that.” Dustin answered. “My partner Steve will be the one that you’re going to have to talk to from here on out. I don’t think I’m going to be around to help anyone out after today.”
The man regarded him helplessly.
Dustin turned, leaving them all to head back inside the funeral home. There he found Leon eating a sandwich in the break room. The mortician sat at the round Formica table pushed into a corner across from the refrigerator taking huge bites while thumbing through some paperwork.
“Is there anything left to eat?” Dustin asked.
“Just bread and potato chips.” The embalmer muttered. “I wanted to finish off the meat before it went bad.”
Dustin sighed. “You know, I haven’t eaten today.”
“This is the paperwork on the old man.” Leon said, changing the subject as he pointed down at the stack of forms he had been reading. “There’s a local number here for some guy that’s related to this old man. I think you should call him and let him know what’s going on.”
Dustin shook his head. “I’m not calling anyone.” He said as he opened the refrigerator and took out the bag of bread. “I’m not even sure if I’m going to be back tomorrow. I think Steve’s becoming too reliant on me. I’m just not comfortable working with him. It’s starting to make me angry just to be around him.”
Leon chuckled to himself. “Steve’s always been too reliant on you.” He replied. “It’s just the stress of today that’s getting to you. Don’t do anything you’ll regret. Besides, you sort of have to call this guys family. You’re the reason he’s here.”
Dustin sat the bread on the counter suddenly having lost his appetite. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked.
The mortician sat down his sandwich and gently wiped him hands on a napkin. “You’re the one who sold him a burial plot just a few moments before he killed himself so, in a way you’re the only one who would have really known what he was thinking.”
“Are you saying that I caused him to kill himself?” Dustin shot back. “That suggestion is getting really old.”
Leon put his hands out in a defensive gesture. “Now I’m not trying to say that Dustin.” He coughed. “I’m just saying that you’re the one who sold him his final resting place and that you need to see this through.”
Dustin walked over to the table, snatching the papers off its surface. “Where’s the name?” He asked as he rifled through the stack.
“At the bottom on the second to last page.” The mortician said as he picked his sandwich back up. “You know that.”
Dustin folded the pages back looked at what was written there. It was indeed a family member; same last name. “This address is just down the street from my house.” Dustin said.
Leon had just taken another bite from his lunch so his reply came as he chewed. “Then it’s probably some relative who lived with the old man and his wife. Maybe a son.”
Dustin shook his head. “I didn’t get that impression from talking to him.” He said as he withdrew his cell phone and began typing in the number. “I was sure that it was just his wife and him who lived in the area.”
Leon made an offhand gesture.
The phone was ringing. Dustin took a few steps out into the hall for privacy. The answer came in the form of voice mail.
“You’ve reached Lance Aldrich’s personal phone. If this is in regards to customer inquiries regarding Aldrich Grocery then please call back using the store number. If this is a delivery company then leave your scheduled delivery time. If it’s anything else, leave a message.”
Dustin left a message. “Mr. Aldrich.” He said throwing most of the pretense of his funeral directors voice out the window. “I’m calling from the Shady Acres funeral home in Redwood, California. We have the bodies of your relatives. You can come by and claim them anytime.”
Dustin hung up.
“Is that all you’re going to say?” The mortician called out to him.
“Yes.” Dustin said.