by Charles C. Cole
Mindy Fiskars waved pleasantly at the earth-mover descending off the flatbed. Clyde, her husband, still weak from recent surgery, caught his breath at the sight of another man working in his cemetery.
“Levi’s an atheist,” he hissed.
“An atheist with a fleet of excavators,” countered Mindy. “Look around you, Clyde. People pay us good money to care for their loved ones, to create the illusion of a final resting place in a garden of dead bodies.”
“Peace incarnate. We did that. So why open the gates to Levi Smutch? He smokes like a chemical plant and has the manners of a drug lord. He’ll use his backhoe to dig up the grass and mound the violated soil like some giant elephant turd! What about Mr. Harriman?”
“Harriman was unavailable.”
“How rude of me to have a heart attack! I was planning it for the off-season, but we don’t have an off-season!”
“It’s not your fault, but we had to have a backup plan. I realize Harriman was your mentor and you don’t like Levi, but Harriman wanted four times what Levi was willing to take.”
“But Levi likes you, doesn’t he?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t discuss it with you,” she answered. “He hasn’t started digging. You could stop him.”
“Levi has no sense of personal boundaries. He never considered my things off-limits. He might as well be a dog hiding a bone. He has no heart for the grieving, no respect for death. There’s no reverence in his actions.”
“He was a means to an end.”
“Okay,” Clyde conceded. “You had no choice. I wasn’t there when you needed me. Still, Levi puts things where they should never go! He’s not a good man. If my wife of fourteen years can’t see that, can’t appreciate the moral muck ahead of us, then we might as well close shop. Or, better yet, we’ll create the big-box discount store of cemeteries. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, one big pit and you can toss your loved ones in, with drive-through convenience! You can even come by later and continue to pay your respects, face to rotting face, because we won’t bury them until the pit is full’.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mindy. “It won’t happen again. But the interment is this afternoon. The Van Hautens are expecting closure for Grandma Dolores today. They’re a big, wealthy, influential family. And they’re all going to die eventually. That’s the important thing. Wouldn’t it be great if they all came here? We could be the elephant graveyard for the Van Hauten family. How cool is that?”
“Levi’s a mass murderer.”
“I’m amazed,” Mindy said, “at the lengths you’ll go, the things you’ll say, just to win an argument. Levi told me. He was seven. He stepped in front of a school bus to save his dog. How could he know the driver was going to swerve and go into the river?”
“He was almost eight.”
“I couldn’t use you,” she explained. “You’re convalescing. What was I supposed to do?”
“Ask me for help.”
“But you can’t help.”
“Then ask me for advice,” he said. “I’m not dead yet. I’m still your partner, Mindy, in business and marriage, in health and post-surgical obsolescence.”
“There’s still time to stop him. Is that what you want? What do you think I should do? I’m listening.”
“I’m sorry for everybody’s loss, but Mrs. Van Hauten picked a damn inconvenient time to abandon her mortal coil. Next time somebody dies, if I’m still out of commission, we’re using Harriman. I don’t care about the cost. We can afford it for a little while.”
“When Levi’s done,” Mindy responded, “I’ll tell him his services are no longer welcome.”
“Did you sleep with him?”
“Of course not! Give me a little credit. Just because I let you fool around on our first date, does not mean I’m easy. It means I knew you were the one. There’s a difference.”
“I’ll understand if you turn to him after I die. He knows the business. You’d need to survive. It’s my fault: I need to be less controlling. You’re more than a pretty face. You need to see the books, the expenses. I can show you that.”
“I get it: the sanctity of the cemetery comes first. I knew that when I married you. Followed by the sanctity of our marriage. So should we stop him? It’s now or never.”
“We can’t afford to turn business away,” said Clyde.
“Then we’re okay?” asked Mindy.
“It’s the best option on the table,” he admitted.
“I’d never sleep with him, not even if you were gone. As for being business partners, maybe, but only if I have majority interest.” She squeezed his hand.
“I apologize,” he said, “for putting you in the circumstance you found yourself in. I didn’t appreciate every choice you made, but I can see how scary the situation was.”
“You’re the only man for me, Clyde. I know this cemetery is your church and the dead are your flock. You want to be a righteous man before them, married to a saintly woman. How about I give you a faithful woman instead? Someone resourceful and levelheaded and pretty good in the romance department.”
“I wouldn’t be much of a businessman if I turned down an offer like that,” said Clyde.
“Good. Since we’re okay, can you say a few manly words to Levi? I’ll go write him his check. Then when he leaves, he’s got no reason for coming back.”
“None?” he asked.
“Unless he wants to be buried here when the time comes,” said Mindy. “We don’t turn anyone away.”
Copyright © 2014 by Charles C. Cole