Drawing of a coffin in a crematorium. Caption reads: "I do disposals."

Disposal short story by Iris Carden

I was helping Mrs Oswin into her formal dress. It smelled like camphor and was at least two sizes too big. She obviously hadn’t worn it in a few years.

My side gig phone rang.

A husky male voice asked: “Are you the disposals guy?”

I answered: “I’m not a guy, but I do disposals. Cost is ten thousand dollars cash.”

“That’s too much.”

“Not my problem. It’s ten thousand, cash on pick-up, or I don’t pick up.”

“OK. I’ll get it. Do I have to bring it to you?”

“No, just give me the address and have the cash ready when I arrive.”

The hearse isn’t marked with the name of the funeral parlour or the logo. It’s just a big, anonymous, black vehicle. Perfect for my legit business, and for the side gig.

I arrived, and a scruffy-looking man handed me the money. I could see through his torn, bloody, shirt that he’d been cut badly across his chest. “For an extra hundred, I can stitch that for you,” I said. “Of course, I don’t usually work on live patients, so I can’t guarantee results.”

He turned down my offer and showed me where the body was. It was a middle aged man, well muscled for his age, with his throat cut. The room was a mess, but that was none of my business.

I opened up a body bag beside him, crossed his arms to move him more easily, and rolled him into the bag. I went back to the hearse for the gurney, lowered it to floor level, and dragged the body on to it.

“What do you do with the…?” the client asked.

“I take care of my business. You take care of yours.”

Back at the office, I upgraded Mrs Oswin from the standard walnut coffin, to the deluxe walnut for free, because I’m your friendly local funeral director and I do kind things like that for grieving families.

Quite apart from that, my deluxe coffins don’t just have extra satin and frills inside. They also have a false bottom, with a gap underneath so I can squeeze in a second body. Mrs Oswin was down for a cremation, so there wouldn’t be pallbearers to notice that this tiny frail old lady had gained 80 to 90 kilograms in death.

I transferred the side-gig body to the coffin, placed the false bottom in, adjusted all of the satin furnishings, and placed Mrs Oswin on top. I’d done a pretty good job with her. I had pinned and tucked the oversized dress enough that it almost looked like it fit her. Her two sons were coming for a viewing in the morning, so I arranged her hair carefully on her satin pillow, and touched up that slight bit of make-up I used to take away the pallor of death. She looked pretty good for a dead 95 year old.

After the viewing and the funeral, I loaded the coffin into the oven, and turned it on.

Normally, the oven runs its cycle, I haul out the leftovers, put them through the grinder and place the cremains in a container for the family. If family don’t want the cremains, or when I have excess because of my side-gig, that goes in the rose garden. Everything’s done in-house.

Today wasn’t normal. An unexpected noise came from the oven. I hit the emergency stop, and opened the door as soon as it was cool enough.

The middle-aged man, who had absolutely been dead when I loaded him into the bag, who had definitely still been dead when I loaded him into the coffin, and who I expected to be just as dead when I put him in the oven, was very much alive. He’d broken out of the coffin, and as soon as the door was open, launched himself out at me. While he did that he made a sound more like a roar than a yell. He grabbed me and threw me against the wall, then ripped the back door of the crematorium off its hinges as he ran out, growling.

When I was finally able to pull myself together, I saw bits of smashed coffin, and bits of Mrs Oswin all over the oven.

I closed the oven door and restarted the cycle.

I’ve worked with the dead for years, and I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff, but I’ve never seen one of them come back to life before.

Since I didn’t fully dispose of the body, I probably owe the scruffy guy a refund. On the other hand, that undead guy seems to have unfinished business, so my client probably won’t be around to complain. Not my problem. I look after my business and they look after theirs.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this story. There’s definitely more stories with this character coming.

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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