Episode 5: A Most Unexpected Turn of Events
As I’d mentioned last time, I have a poor circadian cycle; that’s the wakefulness and sleep cycles MOST creatures have built into their bodies…a body clock. Chester, like most cats, has practically no body clock, therefore can be on the prowl at any given time. But, for myself, the same can also be true. I must always be on my guard here in this expansive house because Chester could be anywhere. As a mouse, my vision is low, and this means I travel along the baseboards most of the time. I awoke in the wee hours, to a commotion in another room. I must have slept the entire day away. OH NO! Cousin Sid was to come for a visit yesterday! Where must he be? Oh my…must be on my feet and try to see if he ever arrived, I panicked.
I popped out of the hole in the brick through which I entered and ran the length of the walls from the main parlor, down the hallway, to the basement stair. I could see the light coming through the space under the door down at the bottom. The commotion was coming from there, in the basement, also known as the “Prep-Room” or embalming room. I made my way to the bottom, squeezing easily through the familiar space where the door jamb meets the baseboard. This is the place I mostly live. CJ must be working on a fresh case.
CJ is the embalmer in her second year with this funeral home. It is quite common here for her to be called from her sleep in the middle of the night, to go out to a nursing home, a hospital, or even a private residence to pick up a deceased person and bring them back to be embalmed or bathed and made presentable before placing into the cooler.
Mr. Becker is the owner of this place. Been in business almost 50 years. He is ‘old-school’ in that he expects ’round-the-clock availability of his staff during their five-day weeks here. CJ says that is really old-fashioned ethic, and that modern, “big-city” funeral homes are conglomerated by huge companies that do not work their staffs this way. But this is NOT a corporate place. And Mr. B is the Boss. CJ never seems to mind the odd hours, though. Or that on some days, business is such that she is literally on the clock twenty or more hours. This is her dream — to be a licensed funeral director and embalmer. To most, it is more of a nightmare, in their minds, that anybody in their right mind would ever dare to ‘dream’ of this work. Or hanging out with dead folks.
CJ says someone should be called to do this special work. Like one is called to the priesthood.
I think I would have called a doctor, first.
I timidly make my way towards the table, where she is carefully massaging the rigor mortis out of the limbs of the old soul lying on the table. CJ sees me and immediately I know what is going to come out of her mouth: “MORGUIE!! I hope you know that Mr. B is really PISSED OFF at me! I told you about making extra sure not to be seen, by ANYONE or ANYTHING! Chester was after you in the parlor and I got into big trouble!”
I curled into myself and winced as she yelled. I know that she lied to Mr. B and told him she succeeded in killing me in a trap. Of course, we ARE located just across the road from a field, which is just on the edge of the main town. I mean, there are others like me out there. It is possible that others might be within these walls. But, she doesn’t talk back or argue when Mr. Becker tells her to do something. He expects results, today, or really five minutes ago, more preferably. I give her my most pathetic face, to gain her mercy. She stares sternly down at me and I can see she is not falling for my pitiful look. She goes back to her work at the table, when I give up and begin to head to my nest.
I am nearly asleep, when suddenly, CJ exclaims loudly, “CHESTER! Oh God, WHAT IS THAT?” I run to see through the crack in the wall what it is that is horrifying her. And what I see horrifies me more…
…poor Cousin Sid, whose lifeless body Chester promptly releases and drops onto the tile floor.