“Oh Dennis, you are too much!” I shout with elation. I thread a button, which is attached to a soft fabric, which touches the skin of my companion. I like to think about the holistic universe sometimes, in my spare time. There is no response, but I see a slight smile on Dennis’ face. What a nice fellow. Dennis isn’t a person of many words, but then again, in my profession, not many people who I encounter are. That’s okay though, people are better when they listen. I like to think I’m good at conversation, but I am best at my job. Many people think that being a mortician is a depressing job, but I like to think it is a cheerful lifestyle. And the dialogue! That is my favorite part. Talking to my clients is like talking to the key holders of new worlds. People are so interesting. I finish threading the button. It’s made out of brown turtle shell, and it goes pretty well with the brown vest it’s attached to. I straighten Dennis’ suit jacket. “There you go, old pal.” My hand carefully moves from the shoulder of his suit jacket to his cold hands. My gaze follows my hand to his fingertips. “Oh Dennis! You bite your nails. Tsk tsk. Here, let me fix that.” I pull out nail filers and work at his nails. We don’t want them to look uneven for his big day. Dennis’ smile never fades, which makes sense: I put it like that when I received him. They all look better with a smile.
Dennis was a mailman, in his life. He wore a blue uniform with torn fabric at the leg, where dogs would bite it. He was a skeptical one; every time I was talking to one of my clients, he would glare at me. He thought that my way of working was uncanny, I heard him talking to his buddy when I was shopping for suits.
“It’s not right, talking to dead people like that,” he said. “It’s just creepy.”
“Oh, that Maurice fellow? You think he’s there … mentally?” the other man said.
“Definitely not. You think I could report him, like to some sort of protective services—not Child Protective Services—but like Adult Protective Services or something?”
“Probably. I mean, you don’t know what he does with those dead bodies.”
“That’s gross, dude. He dressed my Grandma. She actually looked pretty good for the funeral. She looked more alive than she did in life.”
“Wonder what she had to say to him.” The man raised his eyebrows as he said this.
“Yeah, I guess I’ll report him after I finish my afternoon rounds.” Dennis started this sentence sounding unsure, but his voice sounded firm by the time he was done saying it.
“Don’t speed through it Denny, you don’t want another ticket. You’ll lose your mailing license. How many DUIs have you had again?”
“Jeez Tommy, I get it, you care about my well-being. Yeah, yeah. I’ll be careful. So how’s Dorothy doing these days?”
I was a little flustered when I heard what Dennis was going to do. I talk to my clients. It’s perfectly normal; Dentists, Physicians, and Therapists all do it. But my clients are the most understanding.
They listen to what I have to say, and sometimes they put in a word or two. They were never judgmental either, every one of them had something encouraging or reassuring to say. I have the best job, and I am the best at my job.
I returned to the building where I took residence, and set the suits I bought, all different colors and sizes, onto a chair in the entryway. I took an apple in my hand, went outside, sat on a lawn chair, and I waited patiently for my mail.
I set an apple 112 yards away from my mailbox. The time was 3:14, the elementary school down the street had just got out, and little lively tots would ride their bikes down the street. Little Daniel, a kid who lives two houses down from mine, swerved his way towards my house. He was 7 and just learned how to ride his bike, and had a tendency to not look where he was going. Poor Daniel, he would run into anything. At 3:18, he was 115 yards away from my mailbox. I went back into my abode, closing the door firmly behind me as I went.
I heard that at 3:19, Dennis came speeding down the street, like he always does. Little Daniel was also speeding out of control towards the middle of the road, due to the apple that was strategically placed, or so they told me. The mail truck swerved to avoid the wailing kid, and he ran into a corner of a house. The windshield shattered from the impact, and a shard of glass impaled Dennis in his lower right abdomen. This caused internal bleeding, which, at 3:49, was the cause of his demise. I like to think about the interconnectedness of things sometimes. A few days later, he was mine.
I find that people are much more understanding when they cease to breathe. It was true for Dennis, and Martha, Sorren, and a few other people who tried to stop me from doing my job. I finish giving Dennis his manicure and step back to assess my work, the way a painter might. All done. The suit I chose for him fits perfectly over his sealed, cold wound.
“Well, Dennis, it looks like our time here has come to an end. I have enjoyed every moment of it. I feel like we’ve settled our differences, in the end.”
Dennis smiles up at me.
Come Thursday, the police will come and question me about events pertaining to the death of Dennis, and the apple that neighbors saw me mysteriously set on the ground.
“Not to worry,” I tell Dennis. “After all, I am the best at my job.”