Kids

Drawing of a coffin. On the floor beside it, blood is running into a drain. Caption reads: "The deluxe really is very big."

Kids short story by Iris Carden

Kids are the worst. Oh you thought your friendly neighbourhood funeral director doesn’t have feelings? Think again.

Kids are definitely the worst. Katie was only thirteen. She’d just started high school, and some waste of space bully had pushed her to the point where she cut her wrists. Her mother Clara was distraught. She had trouble even giving me the information I needed. I work alone, normally, but this day I had an assistant. Another kid, Lee. Lee was a goth kid whose dream was to become a funeral director. The counsellor at the local high school practically begged me to take him for a week for high school work experience. Apparently Lee wasn’t willing to try any other business. So Lee ended up shadowing me while I did a funeral for a kid from his own school. Sucked to be Lee that day. Sucked to be Clara.

Back in the work room I told Lee to go home for the day. He wanted to stay and see what happened next. I explained that what happened next was I had to undress and wash Katie. She might have been dead, but she still didn’t need an audience.

Lee got it, called his mother and told her he’d be on the next bus home. He seemed like a good kid, made sure his mother knew where he was. It must have saved her a lot of worry.

Just after he left, before I could start on Katie’s body, Clara called. She was distraught. She didn’t know who to turn to or what to do, but she had to tell someone. She’d killed somebody.

I went straight to her house. In the back yard, was a kid with a garden fork sticking out of his chest.

Clara explained this kid was Katie’s bully. She’d been digging a garden for Katie, somewhere beautiful to put her daughter’s cremains. This kid had just appeared in her back yard and was laughing at her, taunting her, telling her Katie was better off dead. Clara had surprised herself when she killed him.

I never want to know the stories of how the material for my side business comes about, but in this case it seemed appropriate.

I pulled a pair of gloves out of my pocket. Pro tip ladies: if you have to wear a suit for work, make sure you get one that has pockets in both the jacket and the skirt, pockets come in handy far more often than you expect.

I pulled the garden fork out of the kid’s chest and handed it to Clara.

“When’s your garbage day?” I asked.

“Tomorrow.”

“Excellent. Bleach that, cut the handle in two or three parts and dump it in the bin. When I’m done here, finish making your garden and water it well. I mean water it enough to soak the blood down well into the soil so there’s no chance any is visible. When the fuss starts about this missing kid, you are too overwhelmed grieving your own child, you don’t get involved in any way. Do you understand?”

She nodded.

“And you forget this happened.”

She nodded again. Then she asked: “How do I repay you for this?”

I was about to say, “Ten thousand dollars, cash.” That’s what I normally charge for unreported disposals. Then I thought about Katie. Kids always get me. “You don’t. This didn’t happen, so there’s nothing to repay.”

I bag the body, put it on the gurney and follow the path around the side of the house. As I was putting the remains in the hearse, a woman walked up to me.

“Is that Katie? How is her mother? I was just on my way to see her.”

“Clara’s a bit overwhelmed at the moment,” I said, quite honestly. “She needs a bit of space. I suggest you leave it until after the funeral tomorrow.”

I went back to work and continued preparing Katie.

Katie got an upgrade to the deluxe coffin. I put the bully in and had just placed the false bottom over him when Lee arrived for the day.

“That coffin seems really big when she’s so small,” he commented.

“It’s the deluxe,” I said. “It is bigger, but it’s got nicer fixtures, and lots more satin and frills. It looks better. It can hold extra large people, but there’s a false bottom here, that raises a smaller body so it doesn’t look like it’s at the bottom of a well. Appearances matter. Her mother hasn’t asked to see her before the funeral, but people change their minds.”

Lee was a curious kind of kid. He took a closer look at the false bottom, as I was about to cover it with a satin quilt. He noticed what I’d missed. It wasn’t flat. He pushed down the raised part and met resistance. I hadn’t placed that body properly. He lifted the corner of the false bottom and saw the body bag, with the definite shape of the dead kid. He looked at me in horror.

It happened in a second. Lee opened his mouth as if he was about to yell. I grabbed the screwdriver I used to attach the fixtures to the coffin and stabbed him directly in the heart.

Lee had been right. That deluxe coffin was huge. It could hold three kids.

I wiped fingerprints off Lee’s phone, set it on silent, and wrapped it in a paper towel.

Later, when I was helping an elderly mourner from a taxi, I surreptitiously slipped the phone under the front passenger seat.

It was a pity. I rather liked Lee. Kids. They’re the worst.

The Funeral Director Stories

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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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