The Dead’s Caretaker
A brisk wind was blowing, sending scores of dead leaves skittering across the pavement one late rainy afternoon. It was chilly and hinted with the brief smell of rain. As I trekked reluctantly to the funeral home, the wind tore at me from behind, cutting through the thin material of my shirt to my skin.
Black Funeral Home sat on the main road of Dominic Road. Neil Henry was not your conventional undertaker. There was nothing typical at all about the man; to say he was unorthodox would have been an understatement. Going around to the side, I walked in the open door.
Knowing the undertaker well, he was below somewhere in the basement. So I headed for the basement. The room I found myself in on entering was a dark area sectioned off from the rest of the basement by a cinderblock wall. There was a sink and a large basin opposite where I stood, and several ten-gallon buckets full of who-knew-what-the-heck on the adjacent wall. Could it be blood or organs? Or maybe severed hands? A sick sort of excitement washed over me, my heart skipped a few beats it has been a while. The smell of formaldehyde hit me suddenly, nearly flooring me. I shook his head, I had forgotten what that smell could do to a person, even as I took a deep breath and ventured further into the darkness.
"Didn't your grandmother ever tell you it’s impolite to stare at the dead?" A deep voice boomed out of the silent darkness at me, nearly frightening me out of my skin.
Apollon! I cried out, whirling on my heel, heart pounding, fear surging through my nerves--feeling immediately foolish the moment I did so. There in front of me stood Neil Henry, the undertaker--a man of imposing stature--arms crossed over his chest, one dark, eyebrow quirked in question. There was an expression of mild amusement on his face as he eyed me, looking down at me as if awaiting an explanation.
"Good grief, I gasped. Why every time I see you-you scare the life out of me?" Well over six feet tall he...