Iain Bates Has Been Murdered. Again.

Sandman’s Writing Challenge #6-Iain Bates has been murdered. Again. 

Iain Bates has been murdered.


Some people collect coins, other people collect art,  back in the day my Grandma used to collect recipes that she clipped from magazines and kept in a pink hat box with flowers artfully embossed on its sides. I think there were cupids flying around the lid. I honestly don’t remember.

Let me tell you about the oddest- not the strangest- but the oddest collector I have ever known.

His name is Iain Bates.

Iain Bates collects death the way a few people kill and mount butterflies.  but Iain Bates is for the most part the nice guy who will let you walk through the doorway first even if he has to stand out in the rain with no umbrella and you are carrying one which means he has to stand there getting soaking wet while you put your stuff away.  He is the kind of guy you could trust to feed your cat when you go on vacation-  Iain would never collect anyone else’s death.

That would be bad manners, so  Iain collects his own deaths.

Among his many murders, Iain has been shot by a three year old who found a gun under the seat of his parent’s car as Iain was walking by with his dog,  Scooter. He has been eaten by the notorious cannibal / serial killer Julian Frick and once he was shoved in front of a train by persons unknown.

With each of his murders, with each of his deaths Iain Bates always ends up at the same funeral home, he is always put back together by the same funeral director and he is always buried by the same grave diggers.

I know all of this because I am the receptionist and  Leaning Birches Funeral Home and Cemetery and nothing goes on here without my knowing about it.

Yesterday Sunny Longyear, whose family owns the Home,  was at her desk that faces a blank pale beige wall.  All she had to stare at was her phone and she  trying to pretend she wasn’t staring at her phone when I looked over at her.

” It’s about that time, isn’t it?” I said.

” For what Mavis?” Sunny asked.

I’ll have to hand it to her. She’s pretty good at throwing on the ‘ huh what are you talking about face’ on cue. On the other hand, she’s been a Funeral Director for over half of her life so mastering the art of facial expressions comes natural to her.

” For our appointment with Mr Bates. ”

” You mean my appointment with Mr. Bates.” She said darkly.

” Why don’t you pass him off to that  our new Apprentice who is it, oh yes. Your cousin Hamish. Or maybe your Aunt will take care of him.”

” I went through the roster last time. All eight of them said no. No. They all said they’d rather eat rat poison sprinkled  over  a sautéed batch of Destroying Angels nestled on top of a steak riddled with mad cow disease  then work with Mr. Bates. They mean it too. They would. And they told me I’d be all alone at Christmas eating a frozen turkey meal for one that  you microwave and the stuffing always dries out around the edges no matter how carefully you stand there and watch it.”

” Wow. They’re serious. ”

Sunny poked at her phone with her finger. ” Go on. Ring.  Yeah. I can’t believe they’d curse me with a rotten microwave meal at Christmas.”

” That is pretty low.”

Sunny sighed.

” Do you ever wonder how he does it? ” I asked Sunny.

” Don’t care.” she said

She had pushed her chair back from her desk and began twirling herself in slow circles. ” I mean, would you want to know how to get murdered and come back over and over again? What kind of messed up photo gallery does he have on his phone? It’s probably full of pictures before of him at the beach with his dog before  got run over by that woman who thought he was her husband, or there’s probably some of him at a birthday party  before Mr. Cranfield  killed him for his eyes. And think about it.  Can you ever get rid of the taste of embalming fluid out of your mouth?”

” I suppose I hadn’t thought of that but I do wonder about one thing. You’re there with him after he’s died. So  what does it look like. That thing he collects. His death.”

Sunny stopped twirling. She pushed herself over to my desk and looked around the room to make sure no one else was around. ” You know those prizes that you get in Cracker Jack Boxes from the old days? Those little plastic toys?”

I wanted to nod but I couldn’t.

” They look like that, only not as well made.”

” So, when  you die your death turns out to look like a cheap toy from a box of mummified caramel corn?”

I was stunned. I don’t do stunned. Ever.

” Mr, Bates made a deal with heaven knows what so each time he is murdered, he gets a little plastic toy. His favorite one is a little dog with a compass stuck to it’s side. But he thinks they’re  all great. He keeps them in a Tupperware containers.

” He goes through so much for so little.” I said with more regret in my voice then I intended to express.

Sunny who is probably the only one of us to see Iain Bates Tupperware container full of plastic charms and toys- and has not only seen, but touched what he’s  gone through to get them did not agree with me.

The phone rang, Sunny slid herself to her desk and she went to work.




Reaper Etiquette

Dear World

It’s not customary to list the shortcomings, legal issues or less then savory personality traits of the recently deceased when referencing their lives in print- I mean it would be pretty funny to let an ex spouse or a disinherited child write the obituaries after slamming back a few celebratory margaritas but that is

simply not how it’s done.

So  when you are on social media, have a little class for a day or two after someone passes.

With a little common sense and decency you too can master the finer points of

Reaper Etiquette


I’ll Be Home Late Tonight

I have learned over the last few days, that when I get a text from the Sounder that says, ” Medical Emergency ” it probably means someone was on the tracks and got hit by a train.

That’s what happened on Wednesday.

I was on my way home when someone sitting across from me said he just got a text from his friend that was riding on the train ahead of us and his friend had texted  that the train they were on hit someone.

Almost right after that we pulled into our first stop and then  we got word about the fatality and that we were looking at a two hour wait minimum.

Considering I was going to get to go home and my family wasn’t going to have to claim me at the morgue, I decided that I may as well not stress, stay with the train instead if racing for a bus or calling for an Uber  and that I would eventually get to where I needed to be.

Once we got going, we eventually got to the place on the tracks where the accident happened.

There were law enforcement cars, there was a Medical Examiner’s truck and then I saw a gurney. I was surprised that it was there, considering.

Our train was moving slowly   as we moved through the intersection, I looked out my window and I saw a leg, a little further down I saw part of a torso and then I saw the people who have to take care of situations like this one kneeling in a circle and working.

And that’s when some jackass who rides the train shouted out ‘ Oh my GOD.”

But she wasn’t crying out in horror, she sounded like she was at the movies or at a concert- she sounded  thrilled.

I write about death, I have worked in a Funeral Home, I have been there when my loved ones have passed away and I explore and study death and it’s influence in art and music an literature.

But here is the thing- when I am in the presence of Death I show it respect.

I respect the deceased, I respect the process, I respect the impact death has on what it touches.

I think that the passengers on my train, for the most part respected that- Not everyone looked and some people made it a point to NOT look.

If you were going to be a part of that moment, if you wanted to witness what death did on the tracks that day- then don’t act like that person lived and then died to give you a cheap thrill.

If there is  on thing I’ve learned about Death over the years, I’ve learned it has a way of catching those little moments where people did not respect the process  and it stores them away for the future.

For. Your. Future.


A Little Lesson In Life


Sometimes we plan our trips and vacations and our moves from one home to another- and sometimes they are planned and executed by someone else for us- or more specifically  to us.

Sometimes we have to take a little time out to reflect on our lives and what it all meant and sometimes other people do it for us:

Photo A.M. Moscoso

But when it comes right down to it, Life is Cruel and so is Death and life is funny and dramatic and so is Death- in my opinion though Death seems to enjoy it’s job so much more.

I wonder why that it so.

Knee High By The Fourth of July

RDP Thursday – Farm

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
‘Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?”
T.S. Eliot

When you write tales of the macabre, when your interests involve forensics, when you are fascinated by the terrible things people do to each other because it’s not the act but the justification that actually captures your imagination then in your research and travels and the strange places to learn about these things,  you end up meeting some unique people and you are bound to learn about places like The Body Farm.

The Body farm is a place where corpses are planted and set out in various stages of being and they are left there to let nature takes it’s course and while nature and the corpse are working together to return the body to the Earth people who study forensic science study them.

It doesn’t smell great, bugs are involved and what was once inside of us finds a way to briefly, to have  their  moment in the Sun.

Odd imagery aside- Body Farms are important places of learning and study; they’re not amusement parks.

Body Farms, like morgues and embalming rooms are sad places and they are lonely places but in the end, one corpse is willing to go through this experience to help the living understand what has happened to another corpse under much more tragic circumstances.

Noble as that is, it doesn’t make their situation any less sad or any less lonely and unlike their brothers and sisters, sleeping in cemeteries under neatly trimmed lawns and their resting places marked by tombstones and flowers- for a brief time the corpses at the Body Farms have some unglamorous  work to do.

 After their work is done, they are taken away to meet their  new neighbors in  their quiet gated community with the flowers and the green grass and shady trees  where they are free to  join them  in their  interrupted slumber.

But in the end, I think we can agree, it is a very well deserved rest.




Down At Last She Lies

Na/GloPoWriMo Prompt# 18 : Write an elegy of your own, one in which the abstraction of sadness is communicated not through abstract words, but physical detail. This may not be a “fun” prompt, but loss is one of the most universal and human experiences, and some of the world’s most moving art is an effort to understand and deal with it.

Vilhelm Hammershøi,

On a table next to her bed

three unread books

their spines turned towards the wall

on top of the books is box of Kleenex  stamped with birds and flowers

holding  them down, keeping them from running away, forgotten but not forgotten.


In the kitchen  behind a bag of flour

is a red box full of heart shaped chocolates

tied shut with a wilted silver ribbon

untasted , forgotten but not forgotten


Down in the basement piled inside of plastic crate with a light green lid


behind bags of fertilizer,  rusted file cabinets and children’s bicycles


photograph albums full of smiling people,  sunshine, dogs and cats and Christmas trees


Boxes of Well Dressed Bones

What if abandoned houses

are just homes

that nobody lives in anymore


What if cemeteries

are empty of

almost everything

except boxes of well dressed bones


What if the world

is alone

in a void full of dimming stars

warming nothing

but lifeless  space

and boxes of well dressed bones.


 Day four of Na/GloPoWriMo– The challenge! Write your own sad poem