Well, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning, especially since this is the second day in a row I start off by talking about sheets (see what I did there?). You see, I have a mildly unusual job, I deliver caskets for a living. Believe me, it took me a lot of getting used to as well. It is not unusual for me to have to set a casket next to a body in the Prep/embalming room for the funeral staff to move the body to prepare for the ceremony. And let me tell you, funeral directors and staff are a very rare breed. Most of which are so stiff (pun intended) you would rather talk to a wall than get stuck talking to one of them. Now, I’m sure one of your friends or partners has this occupation ,so, please don’t take offense.
I had been working this gig for about two years, but it takes a long time to get used to being around dead people, alone, and oftentimes with just the twilight as your guide, depending on your familiarity with the individual funeral home. That was the case at this specific home on Belmont ave in the City of Chicago. Just to give a little bore backstory about this place, It gives me the creeps like nonother. You can’t maneuver, see, unwrap, or do anything else easily in this joint. Coupled with the fact that there is a long, uphill corridor with two swinging doors at the end of it and two skylights which is all the illumination I get because I sure as hell am not going sticking my nose around looking for anything, I’m afraid of what I might run into. You might as well throw the two twins from The Shining at the end of the hall every morning because it creeps me out that much.
I start my shift at 5 a.m., so depending on the season, the sun might not be making its way out just yet and I have already made a few stops along my route. That was the case on this day. I sure as hell am not familiar with the ins and outs of this home’s embalming room this one random time they requested it in there instead of in the hallway, so I am completely in the dark.
As I walked into the room, the twilight from the skylight let me notice that there are two gurneys in the room, one immediately to the right which has a client, and another one straight ahead where I was instructed to place it. The gurneys are about ten feet away from each other. In this large, eerie, formaldehyde stench filled room. So, as I am maneuvering the casket through the doorway, I swear I noticed the sheet move out of my peripheral. At this point though, I pay no attention to it. When you first start visiting places like this, your mind can start to run away with you if you let it, besides, I’m just trying to get the casket next to the customer and get my happy ass back out to my coffee and Tom Petty Wildflowers CD.
After I get it perfectly aligned with the casket, I have to take off a blanket that we use to keep them from getting damaged. A casket can range anywhere from $150 to $30,000 and that’s before the funeral home gets their death grip on the pricing. These blankets are heavy and a pain in the ass to fold, especially when your ass is puckered as tight as a snare drum because you’re beyond just creeped a bit, you’re scared. It’s at this point I’m lifting one end of the blanket and folding it over to the other when I hear a moan. Not a possible moan, but a holy shit, am I really dead, i had so much on my to-do list moan. I grab the blanket and use it as if it were a kevlar vest and I’m in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, ready to use it as a shield so I don’t join the zombie apocalypse.
But alas, no movement, no noise, just high BP and cortisol coursing through my veins. As I turn back to finish and get out of there, I can do nothing but laugh at myself. I’m letting my mind play…SLAMMMMM goes the door and my only way out of this hell hole. I turn back and the body is completely erect with the sheet still on it, as its head slowly turns to me and says “join us,” in the creepiest voice I’ve ever heard, i involuntarily let out an “ah, f*ck” . As I dart towards the door like Usain Bolt to give it one last ditch effort to get out of there, I’m grabbed from behind as the lights flip on and a voice says, “you’re not scared yet, are you?” It’s the other body on the gurney, aka Mr. Bassi and his accomplice, the embalming lady as she is laughing hysterically. She says to me, You’ll have nerves of steel now, kid. I turned to her and said well, played . Well played you creepy bastards.
I finally got out into the fresh air, I let out the biggest sigh of my life. I had to chew ten baby aspirin and a couple xanax just to calm down.
I told you, they’re a rare breed.