The first dead body I picked up was a fat man lying on the floor in his underwear in a motel room, in which he seemed to be living. A few days ago I received a phone call from a friend of a friend. “Hey, this is Fransisco, I hear you need a job.” “I do,” I said. “Well I own a mortuary and I need someone to pick up stiffs.” I had never seen a dead body before and thought, why not…it would be an interesting experience. I started later that day. Fransisco gave me the keys to a blue mini van without rear windows and a solid handshake welcoming me aboard.
“The first thing I want you to do in the morning is come into the refrigerator and mop up all the goo,” Fransisco said. He took me into the refrigerator where the dead bodies were stored until they were buried or cremated. I saw stacks of bodies under white sheets with feet sticking out. Most of the feet were black. “Overnight they ooze and the stuff is stinky, so we got to get it up first thing in the morning.” “What do they ooze?” I asked. “They are roting, so their fat slowly falls off. It is usually the ones who ate a lot of meat and drank a lot of liquor that ooze the most,” Fransisco replied. He then showed me where the boxes were kept to put the “stiffs” in after I picked them up. He showed me how to label the boxes and where to place them in the fridge. “You okay with all this?” Fransisco asked me.
When I walked into the mortuary on my first day, there was a handsome man in his mid thirties lying nude on a stretcher. He had long hair and a woven hemp bracelet around his ankle. He looked as if he was in perfect physical condition, a hippie in the prime of his youth. The only disturbing thing was that he was dead. “What did he die of?” I asked Fransisco. “AIDS,” Fransisco replied while lighting some incense which was always burning in the mortuary. I had never imagined that someone could die of AIDS yet look so healthy. While I was staring at the body I was introduced to a lady with long black hair and a face that reminded me of Aphrodite. She wore a short mini skirt, and when she bent over to collect ash from the cremation machine- I noticed she was wearing a garter belt. Fransisco told me that she was finishing Mortician’s college, working as his assistant and that he was fucking her on a regular basis. It was more information than I needed, but Fransisco was an ego maniac and a sex addict who liked to brag about his conquests.
Bruce, who was training me that day, did not know how we could get the fat man onto the gurney. I had no clue either. This was the first dead person I had ever laid hands upon and I was hesitant. “Just grab the ankles,” Bruce said as a police officer who was on the scene helped us to lift the fat man up. The lady across the hall was crying and kept repeating that “he was such a nice man.” I could not help but notice that his motel room was filled with picture of Bob Dylan and Samuel Beckett. Once Bruce and myself finally got the fat man into the mini van we drove to Summit Hospital to pick up a second body. On the way to the hospital Bruce talked about his love for cocaine and prostitutes. He was a certified Mortician who was in his mid forties and lived with his mother due to financial problems. “There is a street near here where on a break, if the van is empty, you can pick up a prostitute and have a quicky,” Bruce said with a look that showed he meant what he was saying.
On the way to the hospital we got a call from Fransisco that we had to first go pick up a body on the corner of Claremont and College Ave that had been run over by a cement roller. “A cement roller?” I said. “Just your luck man, on your first day you get to see blood,” Bruce said with a giggle. I was apprehensive. Deep down I did not know if this was going to be the job for me. Seeing death so up close instilled a fear in my bones that I knew I would never be able to set free.
The scene at the accident was not as gruesome as we expected. The woman who was run over by a cement roller was not flattened out as one would imagine. She was badly bruised and battered but otherwise- everything on her body was in its right place. We were told that she was a local Architect who was walking to get into her car when the cement roller came around a corner too quickly and ran her over as she was getting into the drivers seat. We stuck the body which was nicely dressed in a modern black suit- into a white body bag, lifted her up onto the gurney and then placed her in the mini van besides the fat man. I also took her black leather suitcase which I found beside the trunk of her car.
With two dead bodies in the back of the van, Bruce decided that we should stop and have lunch. I was not feeling hungry but I had a beer while he ate a burrito. We talked about the job and he let me know that it got easier as the days went by. He also told me that Fransisco was the craziest man I would ever come across. When we arrived back at the mortuary Fransisco was waiting for us besides the back door through which we took the dead bodies. While smoking a joint, Fransisco showed me how to stick the bodies in cardboard boxes and then load them into the refrigerator. I wrote both their names on the side of the boxes and then we stacked the Architect and the fat man together in the fridge. Fransisco then handed me a mop and said “Here kid…it’s starting to stink in here.” It was only 12:30 p.m.