The elevator stopped at the 97th floor and she got off. An arrow on the wall pointed the way to the regional office of the Undertakers Union so she strode towards it, stiletto heels clicking loudly on faux marble tiles. She hesitated a few seconds before turning the brass handle on the door, brushed imagined wrinkles from her dress, and smoothed her hair. When she entered, she was met by a stern-faced woman who radiated an aura of unchallengeable authority. The fact that she was ten minutes late for the interview was frostily noted. After apologizing, she took a seat by the woman’s desk and handed over her resume, nervousness increasing exponentially as the woman studied it intently. It seemed like an eternity before the woman cleared her throat and asked her why she wanted to be a mortician.
She explained that her friend Stephanie was always posting blurbs online about how fulfilling working with the survivors could be and her background in trauma therapy would come in handy in such situations. Yes, she understood that working with dead bodies could be disconcerting and wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but she wanted a career change that promised longevity since people died every day. The woman’s face showed that she had doubts but agreed to introduce her to the boss. They rose, then walked to a mahogany door that had Hiram J. Deepdigger–– Regional Director engraved on a gold metal placard. Just before knocking, the stern-faced woman looked her directly in the eye. “Are you sure you want this?” she whispered softly. “He hates having his time wasted.” Her nod of assent noted, they entered after a quiet rap on the door.
The office wasn’t what she expected, nor was the man. She expected someone in a severe suit with a somber disposition but Hiram, “call me Hiram” looked more like an old cowpoke in jeans and boots with a pink bandana around his neck. His office was littered with plastic coffins, rubber spiders, and a plethora of things suitable for a Halloween party. Hiram gave her a moment to take it all in before dismissing Ms. Dagger, then bidding her to take a seat after he removed a skeleton from it. They conversed about the job, its pitfalls, and rewards as he casually scanned her resume. He seemed more interested in her as a person than education and job experience, making it easy for her to laugh when he cracked wise about the patrons. When he agreed to her becoming an apprentice she was elated and promised to meet him at Wandering Hills Mortuary the next morning.
She arrived at the appointed time. Hiram met her at the door, wearing a black Stetson and a fancy western shirt with rhinestones on the lapels. “Come in. Come in.” He said as he pushed the door open. He gave her a tour of the chapel, waiting areas, and offices before offering to show her the working part of the facility. He watched her facial expressions as they neared a body lying in a casket that was to be buried later that day. She was nervous but determined to excel at her new job, so she looked at the person like one would any inanimate object. Embalming and prepping was something she’d have to learn to be certified but her position as bereavement councilor would only require “hands on” infrequently. When they went to the prep area, the floor was littered with food wrappers, paper cups and signs of a party. “Who made this mess?” Hiram asked himself. “Sorry boss” a voice said from under a sheet draped over what she’d thought was a body. When the person sat up, she nearly peed her pants. The woman who emerged was introduced as the head embalmer. She explained to Hiram that she’d worked late, ordered food, and invited her husband to stop by for dinner. After he left, she was too tired to drive home and sacked out on the table. The thought crossed her mind that this was a staged event to test her but neither face looked culpable so she said nothing. On her way home she stopped at Dollar Tree to buy some décor for her new office. Good thing Halloween was just two weeks away.