Putting My Feet in the Dirt: Exits and Endings
I was a teenager
I had a summer job at a Funeral Home.
I spent the summer cleaning out the old care taker’s cottage
with Aldo and Hartley, the Home’s Grave Diggers/ Groundskeepers.
The Cottage, which hadn’t been used for over twenty years was going
to become a storage space for things like display coffins and tombstones
that had been broken by vandals or the weather and time and they needed somewhere
to go when their replacements showed up. Putting them in the trash was not an option.
My job was to clean and dust a the smaller of the cottage’s, two bedrooms and after I
had dusted and swept it, I was supposed to wrap
what Aldo and Hartley left in the hallway with plastic and stack it neat rows with room
between the stacks to walk.
The first thing I saw when I walked into the cottage was a little white child’s coffin
sitting lengthwise on two sawhorses, it had delicate silver handles and the casket
smelled like vanilla.
Just as I was about to pick it up, Aldo called from the living room to put it nearest the
door on a table, so that that it would be easy to get too.
The baby coffins, he said weren’t kept in the display room in ‘ The Big House ‘.
So I brought the baby coffin in and when I went back out into the hallway
I saw the lectern leaning against the far wall with a hymn book open top of it.
The wooden lectern and the gray book were both covered with dust and mold.
I got a rag and started to wipe the lectern down to get it ready to store and then I got
curious and opened the book up. The pages were stuck together and crumbling. Some
of the pages had dead bugs pressed near the binding.
I took the book to the window- which was opened because the glass was going to be
taken out and the empty frame walled up.
I reached out the window and shook the book
and freed the corpses of the insects and dead mold spores and when I was done I
opened it back up and tried read the lyrics, but most of the words were gone.
Instead I hummed the notes and as I worked my way through one of the songs
Hartley stopped in the doorway and said, ” do I know that song? ”
” I don’t know, do you? ”
“Here let me see that.”
I handed him the hymnal and he shook his head. He riffed through the pages” Huh. All
the words are gone. I found it and the lectern in the living room, maybe it belonged to
the caretaker.” Hartley said.
Then Hartley asked me ” Hey. Do you like scary stories? ”
” Who doesn’t? ” I mean. What a question to ask a kid who took a job in cemetery when
all of her friends got jobs in shopping malls.
” Well. Bastian Carter was the Caretaker – this was his place before the Home got
gobbled up by the company that owns it now- and they were a modern outfit with
security teams and the like. Needless to say, Bastian was out of a job, but before they
could let him go, he disappeared and he stayed disappeared until the Godfrey Family
tomb on Sunset Rise got broken into and when we went in to check the damage we
found him in one of the empty wall crypts.
He had crawled into one of the spaces for the coffins and offed himself. ”
” The hell you say. ”
” It’s a fact. He slashed his wrists.”
I said that was a sad way to go.
” Well. You know. Some people think Bastian didn’t go anywhere. Some of the Staff
think he’s still around and let me tell you. Funeral staff are a jaded lot. They don’t scare
Aldo called for Hartley and after he left me in the little room I opened the book back up
and written across one of the pages was, ” You have a very pretty voice. ”
I closed the book, wiped it down and wrapped it in plastic and set it back on top of the
I told myself that note could have been written years ago, it was a weird coincidence
On the other hand, I haven’t sang a note since that day because I just don’t know who
might be listening.