Photo of $5 and $10 notes. Caption reads: Managine money from my side gig has its challenges."

Money short story by Iris Carden

I grew up in the funeral industry. I mean that literally.

This business belonged to my father. When I was about two, my mother decided death wasn’t a way of life that appealed to her and she left. No-one knew where she went. No-one really cared.

By the time I was ten I could give someone their final manicure. Some ladies had a favourite nail polish shade, and that’s what used. Otherwise it was just buffing natural nails to a shine. The main part was cleaning.

At that teenage stage when other girls were overdoing make-up because they were inexperienced, I did mine perfectly every time because I’d been practicing for years, helping my father prepare bodies for funerals.

The first funeral I did on my own was my father’s. Oh he’s not dead, he went to Tasmania with a new name and a million dollars from the side-gig. When he passed over the Bass Strait, I inherited both the legit funeral business and the side business of unofficial body disposals. He inherited both from his father in a similar manner. Yes, your friendly local funeral parlour has been in the same family for three generations.

I don’t hear from my father, but I know he’s still alive because I occasionally get a postcard from Tasmania, saying, “All good here, Audrey.” He knows I’m still alive because of social media. I don’t have personal social media, but I do have professional accounts where I post funeral notices.

The tightening of laws about the movement of money made it harder to deal with all the cash from the side gig, but Dad found a solution. He had a banker. The banker was a local bank manager in his legit career. On the side, he banked for people like us. I don’t know how he managed it. Just as I don’t answer clients’ questions about how I do my business, he didn’t answer questions about how he managed his.

When Dad was ready to retire, he bought his new identity and went to the banker, who issued him a bank account for the new identity with all of his deposits, less a ten percent service fee.

I was putting a side gig body in the false bottom of Mr Morton’s deluxe teak coffin when I received a call on my side gig phone. A voice I recognised as a frequent client, a cleaner, said, “I thought you’d want to know: the banker’s retired.”

“Retired? Has someone taken over? What about our investments?”

“Investments are gone. Banker’s gone.”

I’m not going to lie to you. I was furious. The banker had at least a quarter of a million of my money.

I went to call the banker, to check. No answer.

At that point I had two problems: there was the unofficial cash sitting in my safe that somehow needed to be processed into something that seemed legit, and there was my missing money already invested.

If I had a different skillset, I might have hunted him down myself. Instead, I counted on the skills of others, and the honour of people working in the unofficial economy.

I called my frequent client back. “The banker’s got a quarter mil of my money. I’ll add half of that to whatever reward is going.”

I don’t know how big the reward got. I do know I got a call for the pick-up a week later.

The client gave me my standard fee, even though I would have done this one for free.

It was a level of overkill I haven’t seen before or since. I practically had to scoop him into the body bag. I guessed whoever caught the banker had money of their own invested with him, but whatever. That bit was not my business. The cleaner had a massive job ahead of him with the rest of the crime scene, but that wasn’t my business either.

After I’d finished sluicing the remains into the bag the cleaner helped me load it on to the gurney. I can lift a lot, but when it was all running to different corners of the bag while I tried to move it, it was more challenging than normal.

The cleaner told me, “The new banker’s got your money, less your share of the reward. She’s got your number. She’ll call you in the next couple of days.”

The new banker was a woman. We were making inroads into this patriarchal system all the time.

I was a hundred and twenty five thousand further from my own retirement, but as I added the latest fee to the pile in my safe, I realised people would always need someone to dispose of inconvenient bodies. I would make my money back.

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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