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Graveless in South Cynica

by Bob Friedman

part 2 of 3

Waldo Wilden’s final repose is disturbed by Huqabooloo Penntonian, a collection agent from Grimreaperco. Waldo’s descendants have defaulted on Waldo’s gravesite rental. Worse, they seem to have become Scrooge-type capitalists. What’s an old union organizer to do?

Part of him wished he had remained a virgin. That concept was, for the rest of him, simply too laughable. Perhaps a teenage vasectomy. Even more laughable even if the procedure was available back then. Plumbing alterations to his body? No chance. He knew part of why he was where he had been for thirty-seven years was his loathing of the entire medical profession.

Haunting his descendants? The option became more attractive the more he considered it. Haunting, he realized, might convince them to restore funding for his resting in peace in the manner to which he had become accustomed. It might even force them to respect him a little. Waldo relished the idea of making them think he was going to be their permanent roommate, though the concept of sharing their space in perpetuity was, for him, a fate worse than exhumation.

He told himself it might be good to air out his bones on a post-midnight constitutional through the North Cynica neighborhoods of his youth. Considering visitation to the snooty side of Cynica, where Waldo imagined his grandson Marshall lived, made him cringe. He expected snobbery incarnate surrounded by a moat of metastasized money.

“Spoiled brat. Only remembers me on Yom Kippur and Yartzeit. But I’m sure he ignores everything I stand for during the rest of the year.” It’s supposition, he told himself. Waldo still believed this exhumation business was all a big mix-up. The argument raged within him. Would they realize their error and rectify it? Did they really intend for him to become part of the Cynica Valley Thruway renovation?

Waldo recalled how quickly buried items degrade when re-exposed to the atmosphere. He pictured himself losing bone dust until nothing remained. Disintegration in front of relatives? That was a big-time no-no according to Dead Etiquette magazine and always a disqualification on The Newly Dead game.

Still he thought it was worth the risk. The idea of scaring the living expletives out of his grandbrat and spoiled bratlets amused him. If the situation were reversed, he assumed grandbrat and bratlets would hire a contract ghost to carry out their haunting. Even if he had the money, Waldo knew he could never hire some freelance stranger ghost to do his haunting for him.

He wondered what sort of nightmares Marshall had. Maybe they were scarier than any haunting Waldo could provide. Maybe a professional would do a more effective job, but that was never Waldo’s style. He tried not to think about it. He wanted to enjoy his grave for every remaining nanosecond.

“It’s true,” he told Janice Raynor, the ex-model actress buried to his immediate left. He briefly fantasized about sharing her grave.

“I’m not a bit surprised. My son got behind on his payments once and they sent him an exhumation warning. Do you have a place to stay?”

Waldo rolled his skull from side to side. “No clue. Huqabooloo said something about recycling.”

Janice’s bones rattled at the mention of that name. “I heard they grind the remains and mix them with recycled concrete.”

“Charming,” said Waldo.

“Maybe they’ll make you part of some new road or building.”

Waldo groaned. “I hate urban sprawl.” He laughed. “With my luck they’ll use me to contain nuclear waste or put me into part of a government building that collapses into a sinkhole.” Part of him wished a sinkhole would swallow him up before the backhoe arrived. Better yet, let the sinkholes swallow all the company backhoes.

“Keep your sense of humor, honey. A laugh may not help, but it sure can’t hurt.”

“Yeah.” Waldo lamented no longer having a belly that quivered with each laugh. He knew that living humans spent far too much time avoiding laughter.

“You’ve been a good neighbor. We’re all going to miss you.”

Waldo’s skull managed a dislocated mandible smile. He always considered himself lucky. Having such understanding neighbors made decomposition that much more bearable.

“Son,” said a mature male voice on Waldo’s right side. “Is there anything we can do for you?” asked General Thomas Williams, U.S. Army, Deceased. The general’s initial hostility towards Waldo had over the years mellowed into a close friendship.

“Got tomorrow’s Powerball numbers?”

The general could not help laughing in spite of his total disapproval of gambling. “Best of luck to you son.” His wife, Martha echoed her husband’s words of encouragement.

Powerball? Even if he had the current winning numbers and could get to lottery headquarters, he assumed being deceased was a disqualifying factor.

“And may God curse the grave repo man,” said Martha. General Williams seconded that opinion. Janice thirded.

Waldo worried about how they would get along with their new neighbor. Ground water seemed to seep out of Waldo’s eye sockets as he said his final goodbyes. He could not tell for sure because of fungus growth, but it appeared that Martha, Janice and even the General also had water seeping from their eye sockets.

“Be sure to get a good night’s sleep,” said Martha.

“I’ll try.” Waldo only managed one and a half hours between midnight and four. He finally fell sound asleep at a few minutes after four only to be rudely awakened at three minutes after six. As he awoke he could not repress his scream when intruders penetrated his grave liner. If he still had innards, he would have surely outed them. When the Grimreaperco workers placed a harness around his casket his neighbors joined his unharmonic protest.

The workers paid even less attention to them.

Loudly cursing, his skull rolled from side to side and end to end as the semi-functional winch extracted his casket. Waldo still felt an urge to blow guts that had long ago turned into tree food. Had he been more of a sailor in life, perhaps he would be used to motion sickness. Somehow he doubted it. He tried waving to his old neighbors but could not fully locate his fingers.

“Witless morons,” yelled Waldo when his casket ruptured. Eyeless sockets squinted as he spilled skull over phalanges onto the dew-soaked grass. He had always had an aversion to bright lights. Amazing how life-long instincts remain with you so many years after death.

Waldo recalled doting on Marshall when he was little. He must have done something right because it brought him more than his share of grief from Sharon and from his eldest son, Randall. “I’m entitled to spoil the kid a little. What else are grandpas for?” he told them. He could not blame them for being such an unsympathetic audience. What goes around comes around.

The ground felt ten degrees cooler at the thought of Sharon. Even when they agreed, she almost invariably found fault with him. On those rare occasions when he did please her, she complained because she had nothing to bitch about. Eternity with her? A fate worse than recycling, even if it meant becoming part of a non-union dominated industrial park; even if it meant being trod upon by exploited employees too frightened to organize.

Waldo knew his feelings about Marshall were not based on verifiable fact. They were in fact freely admitted prejudice. Still, being exhumed was a telling indicator.

“I’m dead. Cut me a little slack,” he said to nobody in particular. Maybe that’s what he ought to tell his grandson on his very first haunt.

What if he organized the others into some kind of haunting party? He liked that idea. Waldo watched a group of people wearing black and red HAZMAT suits with the white Grimreaperco logo on their breasts approaching him. Each worker wore a name on his or her logo. Waldo figured odds were better than even that the workers and the names they wore did not match up. He could not help doubting that most of us are truly who we claim to be.

He could not suppress agony as they tossed several shovelfuls of mostly-him into the bed of a beat-up Ford pick-up truck. His fellow exhumees seemed to Waldo far too resigned to their fate, but he hoped that was mere perception on his part. Maybe, just maybe he could convince them they could fight back.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2008 by Bob Friedman

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