A Day in the Life of a Funeral Advisor

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A man hates his coffee.

Submitted: February 21, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 21, 2018



A Day in the Life of a Funeral Advisor

Eyes opening briefly before closing once more. This continues from 5 minutes to upwards of one hour. Morning. My head and body seem to split like binary fission. They briefly come back together as I step into the shower. The steam bellows like the stack on an old train. I float on upstairs past the hodgepodge of daily duties screaming me me me! Like little children unable to yet comprehend that the world is not all about me me me. Afterwards I postpone my responsibilities because I really feel like watching TV and having some tea. I I I am a contradiction, don’t doubt my self-awareness on the first page now.

After the time warp assisted by my car, I enter the large building full of self-obsessed people with faux epicurean views. Hello, with plastic smiles. I return with my own elastic smile. I swear I’m not usually this paranoid schizophrenic but perhaps I’m only saying that to save face.

Entering the cubicle it seems to get increasingly smaller as if a man was suffocating me but letting me breathe just enough to keep living. Ted moves in on the desk adjacent to me.

“You catch the game last night.”

“Which one.”

“The big football game you didn’t watch it!”

I did for like five minutes. “Oh yeah that game was intense.”

“I know [insert player’s name] had that catch the refs are so full of shit, it was a catch.”

“I know what were they thinking.” I did not see a catch.

We go on to do our work, conversation seems to drift in and out like a flickering light. The smell of hellfire fills mine and Ted’s nostrils. Samantha comes in eyes red and pointed tail wagging. She speaks, rawr, eeer, gwhnar, ooo, hisss, which translates to why haven’t you done more work in the exact fashion I wanted you too like a mindless automated machine. Why don’t they just make an automated machine for this, surely there can’t be people so mindless that they actually enjoy this. Actually it has nothing to do with intelligence even the most moronic person can’t find this fulfilling or amusing. Yet I do this every day I suppose then I’m… Wow works done already, well okay then.

Arriving home it smells of Welsh hills, sandalwood, bergamot, and cardamom. Lindsey is coming over. I wait patiently nothing really else to do. Vision disperses consumed by the sounds of a voice that is never heard. The door opens. Greeted by a big genuine smile. Unlike the plastic ones from earlier this one fills me with delight.

On the bed, cause you don’t want to hear about anything else right you salty seadog and or sexually repressed house wife, we sit and talk, yeah I know I’m a tease. As we get more personal I remove my face revealing pulsating muscles and bloody veins, Lindsey winces. “If I’m going to kiss you, you have to put that face back on.” I oblige for I would like to kiss, and it’s more comfortable with the face on honestly. Without it the wind stings a bit and there’s this coldness.

“You ever think about dying.”

Oh god here we go again, who doesn’t think about dying, she thinks she’s deep but this is such an uninteresting discussion.

“Yeah sometimes.” Why can’t we just lay in silence after we fuck, her naked body is far more vulnerable and revealing then anything she’s about to…

“So isn’t it crazy that everyone is going to die one day I mean think about it.”


“Doesn’t that just I don’t know..” she looks down. “What do you think happens after death?”


“You think that’s it? There has to be something I just know it I was raised Catholic I still kind of believe.”

“You know I’m not religious, in fact I’m actually not a fan of religion, and yeah I think after we die that’s it, like a light bulb going out.”

“You’re depressing, why are you not a fan of religion?”

“I don’t want to talk about it it’ll start a fight.”

“No it won’t I want to know.”

I refuse to tell her and there is some silence before we start to talk about even more banal things.

Off to get late night coffee, for some reason I don’t want to sleep tonight. The coffee from a generic place to get coffee is like burnt ash in my mouth. At least I get a caffeine buzz. The people look like ghosts wandering around this place, I coulda swore the girl in the corner disappeared for a minute. Exiting I decide to light up a cigarette first making sure no one was going to walk up to me and say hey that’s bad for you you know. I’m well aware that’s why I do it, the words of Lemmy “I don’t want to live forever.” An older gentleman with a grey beard that makes me think of a sailor, damn you social conditioning, approaches me and lights a cigarette. After lighting his fag, wait this is America highly offensive ahem, after lighting his cigarette he looks at me and smiles a crusty yet friendly smile.

“I’ve seen you before, you always seem like you hate drinking that coffee, you pucker your lips up and all.”

I begin to explain that I hate a lot of things not just this coffee, of course after first getting some of the basic formalities and niceties of having a conversation with a stranger out of the way.

The man sighs wisely. “So, you find your job unfulfilling, you abhor most people, don’t feel mentally stimulated by your girlfriend, and hate this coffee.”

“Yeah among other things.” Why am I being so honest with this man, he doesn’t even smell of the sea like I imagined.

“Well why don’t you just do things differently, why don’t you just do what makes you happy.”

“I can’t just do that reality isn’t that simple.”

“Why not, why hate everything?” We finish our second or was it third cigarette they burn so fast, and he bids me farewell.

Returning home and lying in bed I think about the man’s words. Why don’t I make a change? Why hate everything? I realize as I lie consumed by the black void that was once my room that I’m lazy and bitter. I complain and don’t try and actually find a new job or girlfriend, or even a new fucking coffee. Worse yet I put down all those around me who at least try to live their life, even if they are unhappy. Where does this sense of superiority stem from? Am I that much more interesting? Am I that much more intelligent? It’s completely possible for me to change my life. I should connect with more people instead of shunning them, I’m the one who is bringing negatives to the world.

Eyes opening briefly before closing once more. This continues from 5 minutes to upwards of one hour. Morning. I drive to work.

I feel lighter today, like a weight has been lifted off my heart. Walking into work people’s faces look less distorted. In fact they are crystal clear as if I’m seeing them for the first time. I smile at everyone I see, still feeling light. I move into my still suffocating cubicle (I don’t feel that good that this cubicle actually seems fitting for two people) and turn to Ted.

“You catch the game?” he asks.

“No I didn’t watch it.” I am shocked by my new found honesty. “How’s your family doing?”

“Oh, Johnny is enrolled in this rec soccer program, he’s been really into it.”

We continued to talk about Ted’s family, I think that is the first time I’ve had a personal conversation with him like that in…years maybe.

Out from work I go for a walk. The leaves rustling in the trees, the cool breeze washing over me, cleansing me. The smells in the air are surprisingly fresh, flowers, grass, but yes, with a hint of gasoline as well. The sky is clear the sun bright, its sun fingers coming down to give me an embrace.

Returning to my car I felt like I had just went on a religious journey, I imagine it must be what it feels like to travel to Mecca. The drive home was also pleasant, the radio spewed lively tunes that seemed to fill my body with movement and energy.

Walking inside I smelled bergamot, cardamom, sandalwood. My house always smelled nice that didn’t change today. Lindsey is coming over, I feel surprisingly excited and anxious. She arrives and god she looks attractive. We had sex that night like when we first started seeing each other. We actually both really wanted each other, or maybe she always wants me, but I really wanted her. Afterwards I stared into her eyes, we held each other close, and it didn’t matter to me what she was talking about nothing could ruin the moment.

Off to get my coffee, the thought dawned in my head that I was supposed to be breaking up with Lindsey. I quickly buried this, I don’t want to ruin this mood today. Arriving at the coffee shop I looked for my old crusty friend. He was disappointingly not around, I really wanted to thank him. Sipping my still vile coffee I notice two people sitting at one of the tables, a couple perhaps, they were older. The woman seemed to be choking back tears, the man was completely despondent. I sat there watching them, they barley spoke even though something was clearly wrong. Eventually they got up and left never addressing what was going on. They walked out in a semi daze.

This observance bothered me, how could they know each other and just sit there like that, not even attempting to fix what was going on. I understood couples fight, but there was no shouting no snarling no accusations. I also understand that sometimes the angry party will give the other the cold shoulder but it wasn’t like that. It was as if they were just ignoring what was going on. As if they were just waiting for it to go away. Of course I don’t know those people or what was plaguing them. I must just be projecting…

When I got home (with second coffee in hand) everything was still. It was a reassuring calmness toward the end of the day, and Lindsey and I curled up on the couch and watched a movie. I had convinced her to let me put on an old kung fu movie. I usually only watch art house films (which viewing from my new mindset seems incredibly pretentious) but there is something wonderfully beautiful about a man in such complete control of his body that he can do feats I couldn’t even imagine. The men on the screen contorted their bodies in impossible directions and moved at lighting speeds. Lindsey laid close to me…she felt nice..maybe we shouldn’t break up after all.

That night sleep came with a warm embrace and I arose the next morning feeling like summer dew. The hodgepodge of daily duties didn’t seem so intimidating today, and I didn’t procrastinate at all with getting the day started.

I am motivated. I am productive. I am a machine. Today I will type on this keyboard as no one has done before. Today I will make these productivity reports my bitch.

During my lunch break I decide to go to a nearby diner. I might take longer than I’m supposed to for my break here, but fuck it I doubt anyone will notice anyway.

I order some coffee. Upon putting it to my lips I remember what real coffee tastes like and a single tear streams down my cheek. That’s right I am a single tear guy. It’s got a nice bitterness and bold flavor but is still immensely drinkable. In fact I am enjoying it so much that when the waitress comes over I have to send her away for I haven’t even glanced at the menu.

My waitress comes back and takes my order. This time I am prepared. I get a big cheesy omelet. It’s lunchtime, but diners serve breakfast all day so why not take advantage of it.

Sitting there eating my omelet, I look over at my waitress taking an order. I notice that she is in her late 50s. I continue to watch her and notice that her face is somewhat bright when interacting with the customers, perfectly pleasant. However, as soon as she turned away I saw her face change. It suddenly became quite somber. Her face reminded me of the woman’s in the coffee shop the other day. This waitress and the woman (with what I’m assuming was her significant other) both appeared to be holding something back.

Arriving home after work I told Lindsey I needed to do some work in the other room, I didn’t I just needed to think. I kept thinking about the woman in the coffee shop and the waitress from today. What do they have in common? I know it’s something. They appeared close in age…And suddenly smacking me in the face was one word. Stuck. One seemed stuck in a relationship, one seemed stuck in a job. I could sense the misery underneath. I AM NOT PROJECTING. Or maybe I am…Still if it’s true why not leave the thing making you miserable. The old sea worthy man came popping into my head. Why not make a change? Why hate everything? So stupidly simple, yet the question perplexed me so much when looking at these people. When looking at myself.

All these people around me seem to be planning their lives but they’re not. They’re creating these traps, these routines that they will be trapped in, all their passion and ambition robbed of them, they are planning their funerals not their lives. I’m the same, I’m my own funeral advisor. Every day I rearrange my casket, try to make it look pretty to others by laying down flowers, but if you get close enough you can still smell the stench. Organizing our own deaths.

I lay in bed tossing and turning, my head is in a compressor the walls scream out bloody murder. I can still organize my life the way I want it to be though, the old man was right. I don’t have to end up like anyone else. The night drags on but I’m confident I’ll be okay, well wavering confidence.

I wake up a little earlier than usual today. The light through the window is so bright it sears out my eyes. Three birds sit on a branch outside my window. There is one in the middle, with another one on each side and slightly behind him. The front one is puffing out his chest as if trying to intimidate, they look like a small crew from the mob trying to rattle me.

I’m driving to work and head toward my old coffee shop when I decide to turn the wheel. Fuck this coffee. I go toward some trendy new shop that appears to be privately owned instead of being part of a chain.

Inside there’s a kid with a Mohawk ordering a coffee. He reminds me of one of those birds from this morning, but without the whole intimidating mob thing. I order a medium roast coffee. It comes piping hot, but I’m determined to drink it. I dawn my 700 Series Proximity Heat Suit and take a sip. Even with it scorching my tongue it’s delightful. Even better than the diner coffee from yesterday.

I look over and see a woman around my age, well maybe a little bit younger, drinking coffee by herself and reading something on her phone. She was pretty, but there was some other quality to her that I found attractive. One of those mysteries of why you are drawn to someone you don’t even know. Wonder if that will ever be explained beyond pheromones…

I walk over to her and ask what’s she’s reading. She says it’s a news article. Ooo not social media, maybe she’s a smart one. I ask if I can sit and she says ‘yeah sure’ with a slight smirk. We have some light small talk and even a little bit of political talk (yes I know don’t talk about politics or religion when trying to get into someone’s pants) and that’s about it. The interaction was a bit absent of that certain flirtatious vibe. I think I’m just not very good at this sort of thing anymore, maybe I never was. So I look at my watch and see that I need to get going to work and say it was nice talking to her and she agrees and says she must get going too. I don’t ask her for her number and I think about Lindsey, even long for her.

At work I sit down with a newspaper I snagged on the way there. I attempt to do work but just can’t stay focused. I start scrummaging through the paper looking through the job listings. I know no one does it like this anymore but for some reason I wanted to try and find a new job through the newspaper. Besides, it’s so easy to get distracted using your phone. Ted looks over at me curious about what I’m doing. I see his lips purse, ready to form words. Don’t Ted. Just don’t. Don’t say anything.

“So what are ya doing there?”

I sigh a little louder than intended. “Just looking through the job listings.”

“You’re thinking about leaving?” Ted says it as if it’s unheard of to switch jobs.

“Yeah well I’ve been working here awhile now and I think I might need a change.”

Ted pauses and looks down at his desk. “But it’s a good job, good pay.”

“I know that, but it’s not enough.”

“Not enough? How much do you want them to pay you?”

I laughed and looked up at Ted realizing that he’s content with his job, maybe even his life. “I don’t mean the pay isn’t enough. I’m just not fulfilled with the work.”

Ted is silent for awhile. Or is it ‘a while’ I always get confused by that. Anyway, he finally looks up at me again. “Well I understand. This certainly isn’t the most exciting or glamorous.” He lets out a nervous chuckle. “If you leave I just hope they don’t put me with one of the new guys with a thousand questions.”

“Ha ha me too, but I’m just browsing, it doesn’t mean I’m actually going to leave here for one of these jobs.”

Ted nodded and went back to work. I looked at him and realized that Ted would miss me if I left. Maybe that’s what he was trying to say but couldn’t. I felt like saying something to Ted. Something nice, something reassuring, but I didn’t.

Stepping into my home I felt restless. I wanted to go out, to do something. I didn’t want to sit and watch tv or play with my phone like I knew I would get sucked into doing. So I decided to take a walk over to a nearby park.

By the time I got to the park I was already tired and regretted not driving. However, upon looking at the trees and the grass and the lake I felt more at ease. I winced for a moment at all the people there walking dogs but then remembered that I’m supposed to be turning over a new leaf and so reticently accepted the swaths of suburbanites.

I was casually strolling around the park when I saw another man around my age sitting down on a bench by himself. I suddenly felt the urge to sit down and try and talk to him. I’m always so reticent to talk to people. I don’t want to hate everyone I want a connection, even with this random bench sitter.

I psyched myself up to talk to him and then my legs wouldn’t move. I tried to will them but there I stood, frozen in time just staring at him. He looked like a nice normal enough guy, but it didn’t matter. Why am I so afraid to talk to this guy? What is the matter with me?

Bench man turns and sees me standing there frozen and still like a glacier.

“You want to sit down?” He smiles nervous but friendly.

“Uh, uh.” I stammer like an imbencile. “Sure.” I nod my head in approval with my statement.

I sit there awkwardly for a moment trying to think of what to say but coming up with nothing.

The bench man turns to me. “So where are you from?”

“I’m uh, from just a few blocks away. Over on Hampton Street.” I point in the direction I walked from, like that would help pinpoint my location even in the slightest.

Bench guy nods his head. “Ah, yeah I’m from the town over. Birchville.”

“Oh, yeah that’s right there.”

The man nods and an awkward silence commences.

“Yeah I just really love coming to the park.” He says. Thankfully bench man is a lot less awkward than me with this stuff.

“I just love the peacefulness of it.” He looks around and breaths in the air. “You know after a long day’s work, or when the weekend comes around. There is nothing quite like being out in nature to calm the soul.” He lets out a slight chuckle. “Even if it is a small man made version of nature.”

I couldn’t really relate to the loving nature part, but I do enjoy some peace and quiet. Looking around though, I’m not so sure this place is that isolated…I do appreciate this guy moving on from the small talk though.

“You know?” He must have looked over and noticed my mind wandering.

“Uh, yeah I like to get away from it all too.”

“Yeah I go on hikes sometimes. I usually like to do some more advanced stuff. Mountain trails and such. But lately I’ve been doing some simpler trails…The park, well it’s good for when I want to relax a bit more. Not so physical you know?”

I hesitated for a moment. “Can’t say I do really. Uh, I kinda don’t hike much.”

“Oh that’s fine. You go to a lot of parks then?”

I rubbed the back of my neck. “Uh, can’t really say I do.” There was a short pause. “I just smoke really.”

Bench man looked at me and started laughing. “So you only go outside to smoke?”

“Yeah I guess.” And I started cracking up too, till we were giving out a good hearty laugh together.

Eventually we both got a hold of ourselves and the man stuck his hand out. “I’m Mark.”

I shook his hand. “Hey I’m _____.”

I think the laugh melted away a lot of the tension and me and Mark started to have genuine conversations, which for the most part weren’t very awkward.

After a little while of talking, Mark checked his cell phone for the time and said that he had to be going but it was nice talking to me. At first I felt really good. I had made a connection with a stranger and it felt great, but now I don’t know…It felt good while I was talking to him but now I’m just alone again. I didn’t make a new friend. I doubt I’ll see Mark again. It felt like kind of a waste. And so, I pull out my cigarette and light it up. The smoke drifting up into the trees.

The next few weeks were filled with many good days, at first. Soon though, good days, and average days, and bad days, all started to bleed into each other like wet paint.

Running late to work I stop at the good ole generic chain coffee shop. I pucker my lips and face as I guzzle it down on the way to work. I plop down into my desk and fidget feeling annoyed. I was just not in the mood to be here working today, all I wanted was to go home and I had just gotten here. I’m so bored I even look to Ted to chat but he seems somehow absorbed in this drivel the company calls work. I here a snarl and disgusting gurgle. Oh god is that Samantha? It’s her, I can hear her hoofs clacking down the hall toward us. Please don’t come in. Please don’t come in. She explodes into our room. Rawr grr hiissss, she says. Me and Ted snap our heads up to look at her. Yes, yes of course are the only things that come out of our mouths while talking to her. Both of us incessantly nod our heads in agreement no matter how nonsensical what she says may be. After she stomps away me and Ted shoot each other a meaningful look but don’t discuss the wraith of Samantha the Destroyer of Dreams.

Arriving home it smells of Welsh hills, sandalwood, bergamot, and cardamom. Lindsey is coming over tonight, but I’m kind of tired and don’t really feel like seeing her.

She walks through the door looking kind of down and tired. I ask how she’s doing and she says fine in a way that means anything but fine. After she hangs up her coat and gets situated, we sit on the coach together. After a few moments she starts telling me about how awful her day was. I nod and ruffle my brows to show I’m listening but as she drones on complaining my mind begins to drift away. I hope I still look like I’m listening, she’s still going on and on so I guess it seems like I am. Sometimes I just don’t care to listen about this bullshit. Sometimes I just don’t care how she is feeling, or whatever it is she’s upset about. Does that make me a bad person? My eyes grow weary as I watch her mouth move.

It’s late but I need some coffee. Good thing ye ole generic chain is still open. I walk through the door to see the dusty pale faces of those who stay up through the night yet do nothing with their time; I feel at one with them. I order a coffee, but get a little cream and sugar, black coffee is going to wake me up a little too much.

I walk outside and light my cigarette. As I puff I suddenly think about that old man I met here once. I look around but he’s nowhere to be seen. I start to reminisce on our conversation. I hold his words in my head replaying them. I start to view my life, am I living it the way I want, am I happy? It’s too much thinking right now, I take a drag on my cigarette and do a deep inhale, it feels nice.  

Lying in bed I can’t sleep. It’s not the coffee, it’s something else nagging at me. I think of the old man’s words…. Maybe he was wrong, maybe I was wrong... Maybe change was never the answer but acceptance. Maybe it’s ok that I drink shitty coffee cause I like the convenience. My job isn’t great but it pays well and Ted is a nice guy. Lindsey may not always mentally stimulate me but I love her, and maybe I’m just not trying hard enough with her. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough with anything I’m doing in life. I put in minimal effort and expect something more in return. I feel like I don’t exist in the darkness and these ideas loom over me as entities of their own.

Eyes opening briefly before closing once more. This continues from 5 minutes to upwards of one hour. Morning. The sky looks particularly grey today. I lurch to the car and slowly sit down. A sigh escapes my lips as I put the key in the ignition. I turn the key, the sound of another day.


© Copyright 2018 Kenneth C. Benko. All rights reserved.

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