Dixon meets the new secretary. He doesn't like her.
| My parents, Sandra and Tom Fowler, started Happy Endings Funeral Home in 1952. There is no escape from death so being a part of its plan is always profitable. They built the business in hopes that it would stay in the family, which it has. My dad thought I should learn the trade. I did.
“We have a new arrival,” she said.
“I wondered when he’d be stopping by.”
“The funeral is set for Tuesday. It’s looking like it’s going to be a closed casket service.”
“He’s damaged?” I wiped the blood from my scalpel.
“Car accident.” She held out the file. My hands were covered in blood. “I’ll leave the file in the office. Dad and I already unloaded the hearse. The body’s in the back. Don’t take too long.” She shut the door behind her, sealing the tomb.
“Alexander Mitchell. I will make you beautiful.”
I’ve worked in the morgue since I was sixteen. It’s home. I’ve spent many sleepless nights watching the bodies acclimate to their steel surroundings, growing pale in the 125 watt sun. They were so pure. What did they see while they lied there? What did they dream of?
“A car accident?” I thumbed through the file. A violent car accident at that. Drunk driving. “Alex, we can’t have you putting people in danger. How can I know that the others will be safe with you here?” I better not take any chances. After all, alcoholism is a disease.
“You’ll be comfortable in the bottom bunk until I find time to work with you. The others are sleeping so try not to fidget. They won’t be happy if you are making bumps in the night.” I veil his body in a clean sheet and lay him on the sliding table of the bottom cave. It is only fitting. It is his first day. He could be some psycho for all I know. Best he be put as far from the others as possible. Tomorrow I will know the truth.
“Dixon, can you come upstairs? I want you to meet someone.” My mother never had a problem with yelling through the house. I packed up my tools and headed for the stairs. I spend a lot of time in my morgue so the transition from morgue to parlor is sometimes jarring for me. I don’t like the light. I can’t understand why they feel that so much light is a good thing. I usually avoid the parlor. I don’t belong there.
“Dixon, this is Hannah. She will be the new receptionist.” My eyes squinted in the light. She had blond hair and smelled of cheap perfume that made my nose burn worse than the formaldehyde. Her perfect cuticles and professionally done nails were held out for me to touch. I don’t like shaking hands.
“It’s nice to meet you, Dixon. You mother tells me that you run the morgue.” She smiled as if she knew me, but that wasn’t possible. No one knew me. No one knew who I really was.
“I do.” Her hand was warm with apprehension. She was nervous.
“She’ll being handling all of the new clients while your father and I are out of town. If you have any questions, you can just ask her.”
“You’re going out of town?”
“Yes, to the mortuary convention in Pittsburg. We’re looking into the new equipment. Supposed to be state of the art.”
“Goodbye.” She is leaving the entire business in the hands of an infidel, and she expects me to approve. I don’t. I don’t approve of Hannah.
I open the door to the morgue and breathe in the familiar smell. I’ve been gone too long. There is something intoxicating about the dead. The door shuts behind me and my eyes acclimate to the darkness. I’m home. My children will be happy to see me.
“Is he ok?” Hannah asked, standing in the beams of sunlight.
“Yeah, he’s just dedicated.”
“No, I mean his eyes.” Her voice quivered a bit.
“He hasn’t spent much of his life in light.”
“What do you mean? He lives in the dark?”
“Dixon is my son, and we did our best with him, but he is a strange breed. He has locked himself in that morgue for the last ten years. He has no interaction with the outside world.”
“And that changed his eyes.”
“They weren’t always like that.”
They walked into the office, and Hannah clicked through the various computer programs and files. “Yep, I think I can handle. Seems pretty basic.”
“Great, we’ll get you started on Monday and introduce you to some of the local clientele.”
“I look forward to it.” Hannah opened the front door and waved to Sandra. This was the first job that Hannah had in a funeral home, but she was great with people, which is exactly what Happy Endings needed while Sandra and Tom were out of town.
She shut her car door and sat motionless in the hue of the tinted windows. She looked at her hands. Why were his hands so cold? What was wrong with his eyes? Her skin prickled and she zipped her sweater. She had become part of the family business.