The Mortuary Attendant

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man is convinced that his lack of success with women is due to his job.

Submitted: July 27, 2014

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Submitted: July 27, 2014

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The Martuary Attendant_Booksie_large(1).

THE MORTUARY ATTENDANT

 “The family will be here to see the body in a couple of hour’s time, once the police have managed to get in contact with them,” Doctor Jason Mills said to Craig, his mortuary attendant.

Craig was washing down the slab after the autopsy that Doctor Mills had carried out on the motorcycle victim. There had been nothing to do for the poor soul. He had arrived dead at the hospital, and it had been a clear-cut case of getting him to the mortuary to see what injuries he had actually died from. The blood had been copious, and it had taken a lot of work to get him nicely cleaned-up for his parents to be able to recognise and identify. His name was Sean Sargent, and he had been walking along the high street when a drunken motorcyclist had mounted the pavement and pushed Sean into a plate-glass shop window. The driver was still alive although shaken up. The police had given him a breathalyser, and it had turned out to be well over the legal limit to be in charge of a vehicle. As the pathologists had nothing to do with the driver, they never saw him, the police had seen to that. Craig saw the remains of Sean as just another body cut down when far too young. Craig gave the dead more tender loving care than many other persons in the normal world would have. He had great respect for all those who passed through his hands. Sean’s body was well washed, and his hair too, which was combed back from his face. Craig had dried him gently, as if the young man was still able to feel. Then he covered the corpse with a thick white sheet, placed it on a trolley, and took it to the drawer where it would stay until the day it would be taken to the undertakers.

 

Craig’s parents had been shocked when he had told them he wanted to be a mortuary attendant. “Don’t you think that it’s rather a morbid job to do? You’re only a young man, and have all your life ahead of you. Why start off by working in the very place where we all end up sooner or later?” his father had said to him.

Craig had thought many times before informing them about his career plans, that his parents would find it hard to accept that he could work in such a miserable place. Craig had been eighteen years old when he knew how he wanted to earn his living. Craig had read all the brochures, and found out that the pay was quite good and that there were a lot of different things he was expected to do. The dark side of the job was that he had trouble in finding a girl friend. The girls, as soon as he confessed his profession, generally replied, “So, it’s death you smell of,” and that was the last he saw of them. In order to avoid running into some of those he had dated, Craig began to go farther afield for drinking and clubbing. At times, he could smell the cleaning fluids he used long after he had left work for the day. Working on nights was in fact a blessing, although he only had the dead for company, he was free from being aggravated by the living, especially the women. Death doesn’t have a timetable and Craig had no time to get bored, whether he was working days or nights. Natural deaths and violent ones were continuous, like the links in a chain that never broke. Craig only ever saw those bodies once their lives had expired, and to him it was the same as reading ‘The End’ without ever having started from the beginning.

There had been other moments in Craig’s life that had nothing to do with being inside the hospital. He had accompanied corpses to the undertakers to make sure that the body was correctly treated and respected. Craig was not alone in the mortuary, he had a female work companion, whose name was Stella. She was tall, slim, blonde, and blue eyed. She looked very fetching in the blue scrubs and the white Wellingtons, the uniform that they both wore. The blue accentuated her eyes. Craig liked her, and treated her as someone he worked with and not as a possible date. Stella had similar problems with men as Craig had with women. Stella’s hopeful boyfriends were incapable of associating such a pretty woman with the mortuary and didn’t just disappear, they literally walked out of pubs and restaurants before dinner had even been ordered. It could be asked what was wrong with Stella and Craig that they didn’t go out together. The reason was simple, how could they possibly date when the majority of their time was spent with people who had left the earthly realm behind?

Craig took measures to study for a higher post. As he saw it, in his present job he wasn’t going to get anywhere. Craig wasn’t really ambitious, but was realistic, and saw a better future ahead of him with higher exam certificates under his belt. “I think the more arrows you’ve got in your quiver, the better off you are. Just imagine if we got the sack. Goodness knows what kind of job we’d find, that is if we were employable,” Craig said to the lady with the lovely blue eyes.

Stella said, “I see what you’re aiming to do, but I’m not sure whether I’d want to start studying at this stage in my life.”

“There’s no time like the present, and it’s a healthy way to keep the brain alive. We have so much to do with death that we need to remind ourselves that we are still alive. We’ll get to the graveyard soon enough. In the end, Stella, it’s your choice. You have to make up your own mind.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Stella said, sighing at the same time, unwilling to commit herself in any way, for fear of upsetting Craig, who was a rôle model for her.

Some nights were too busy with bus accidents, women and men involved in domestic violence, drunks who managed to pour down their throats enough alcohol to sail a ship on. Those nights were the heaviest as far as work was concerned, but the hours went by in the blinking of an eye.

 

Craig took the studying seriously and went form hospital to home. He would get home after working all night, and take a shower, have breakfast, and then go to bed for three or four hours. On waking, he would make an effort to do some of the week’s studies and homework. He took his books to the hospital, so that in a quiet moment he could catch up. Stella saw Craig immersed in his studies and admired him for it, and then decided to do something about her own situation. Both Craig and Stella liked the job in the mortuary, but it had a disastrous effect on having a relationship with anyone, other than people who worked in the hospital.

 

Craig wanted to go on holiday to somewhere where there was no doubt that the sun would show itself every day. He went into his parents’ bathroom, undressed, and stared at his chalk-white body in the mirror. Craig had never had any illusions about his looks, he was so terribly average physically. His skin was deathly white, his hair an indeterminate colour. Craig shuddered at the horrible sight, and quickly put his clothes back on. He was not so young any more, just four months shy of forty.

His laptop was on the desk in his bedroom and he looked up the names and addresses of tanning salons. He wrote down the telephone numbers of those that were not too near his home, in order to avoid awkward questions from nosey neighbours that might see him entering and exiting such a place, and then report the sighting back to his mother.

The salon that had most appeal was called Mediterranean Gold, the name in itself was enough to attract the attention of the general public. Craig went one Sunday morning after coming off work. The young lady sitting behind the desk wearing a badge with Raine written on it, looked up, “Good morning. How can I help you?”

Craig said, “My name is Craig, and I rang for an appointment a couple of days ago.”

While Raine scrolled on her computer, Craig stared at the decoration. The walls were white, the curtains and the carpet were of a lovely shade of dark blue. The woodwork was painted gold. The air freshener was light and airy. Craig thought, ‘They must charge a fortune to have all this.’

Raine looked up from the computer screen to talk to Craig, when a door opened just to one side of her and a woman walked through it. She wore a huge silk headscarf wrapped around her head, and her sunglasses covered the better part of her face. She didn’t look at Craig, but gave a perfunctory “Bye” to the receptionist, and left. Craig watched her through the glass door as she got into a huge BMW. Craig was suitably impressed, and wondered whether he would be able to afford to pay for the suntan, if it catered for clientele like the expensive looking lady he had just seen.

The receptionist showed Craig into a changing room where there were clean towels lying on a chair. “When you’re ready I’ll show you to the cabin, you can go with your underpants on or not, depending on how much you want tanned. As this is your first session, we won’t let you stay too long and the temperature will be soft. You don’t want to get burned, do you?”

“Thanks a lot.” Craig had gone prepared, and took his swimwear with him, so that the white bit would look the same as if he had been on the beach. He was given a pair of strong sunglasses to wear, and he was quite happy to stretch out on the bed and glory in the warmth.

“I’ll be back every fifteen minutes to make sure you turn over, and then the tan will be even.”

Raine left the cabin.

Craig’s thoughts were quite crazy while he was making an effort to make himself more attractive for the girls and women. He didn’t know that the receptionist was in the room till he heard her voice say, “Craig, time to turn over.”

Craig, being obedient, did as he was told and turned over.

When the hour was up, he got off the bed, and went into the shower shown by the receptionist. He looked a bit yellow in the mirror, rather like a refugee from ‘The Simpsons’. He hoped it would turn golden after more sessions. He signed on for more sessions, which obviously pleased the receptionist. “Well then, how do you feel after your first time here?”

Craig said, “I feel fantastic, and hope to feel even more fantastic after each visit. Thank you.”

They said their goodbyes at the door.

 

Stella was the one to notice a difference from Craig’s usual pale face to a slightly tanned one.

“How long did you stay on the bed under the lamp?” Stella asked him.

“An hour, and to be honest, I feel it was quite enough. My ambitions don’t run to looking orange but to having a healthier colour than I normally do,” Craig told her.

“I go to the suntan parlour before going on holiday. Are you planning a holiday soon?”

“I’m at the stage of working out where my money will take me. I don’t see the point in overrunning my budget just to go on a beach and make an effort to meet a girl or two.”

 

A young man was taken to the hospital, dead from bullet wounds. The detective who arrived with the cadaver was a woman, who prided herself on doing her job well. Her name was Donna Crisp, and she lived up to her name. Donna asked Doctor Mills how long it would be before he would get the autopsy over and done with and give her the details. Craig saw Donna in the room where the bodies were placed to be identified. She said to him, “May I see the body, please. We aren’t sure who it is.”

Craig felt in awe of her, and pulled back the sheet covering the victim’s face. Donna stared down at the dead face, and said, “All right, I’ve seen enough. Where are his belongings?”

Craig returned the corpse to its rightful place in the freezer drawer, and went with Donna to get his possessions. Stella put a watch, a driving licence, pens, a diary, and tissues inside a plastic bag.

“This is all we found on the body of the young man,” Stella told Donna.

“Thank you. Maybe we’ll get some facts from the diary,” Donna said, walking out of the room.

 

Craig fancied Donna, simply because she was a detective and not a member of a medical group. He found her telephone number in a list that the hospital had, and rang her up.

“Hello, Donna. I’m Craig from the hospital mortuary. We met the other day when you came to get some docs from a dead young man” Craig said.

“Hello, Craig. What is it you want exactly?”

“Would you like to come with me for a drink or a meal?”

. “Sorry, Craig, but I don’t fancy being with a man who smells of death. I hope you have better luck with your next date.”

“Perhaps you’d prefer a fishmonger. I’ve never heard of their smell being complained about.” Craig wasn’t fazed by Donna’s attitude. He had received so much of it from other females that he took it for granted that they would react in the same way.

 

Craig went to the tanning salon on a regular basis, and found that his skin was becoming a very attractive brown. His parents, especially his mother, thought he had a healthier appearance, and had less of the deathly pale look that his face had worn before. Craig still had hopes of passing his exams and getting a less smelly job. He had also seen other women and men who coincided with him at the tanning salon. The mysterious woman with the BMW had shown up a few times. Her presence intimidated Craig, and he was only capable of muttering, “Morning,” to her “Good morning.” She was only interested in getting her tan topped up, and leaving. Craig knew as much about her as on the first day he had gone to the tanning salon.

 

A deceased middle-aged man arrived at the mortuary. The information was, that he had died on the operating table to the consternation of the theatre staff. The dead man’s name was Quentin Troy, and he had suffered from a bad heart for many years, but had gone into the operating theatre with the hope that he would leave it a sprightlier man. He hadn’t. Instead he had never woken up from the anaesthetic.

“Craig, there’s a lady here to see the dead man’s body. She says she’s his sister,” Stella told him.

Craig took the cadaver, now cleaned and washed, to the identity room. He saw that there was Doctor Mills, and an unidentifiable man, and a woman whom he knew by sight but not by name or number. The woman stared at Craig, and then took off her sunglasses. He uncovered the face and watched her as she stared down at her brother. She then looked up at Craig, and said, “Thank you.”

The little group left the room and Craig saw that the mystery lady was upset at seeing her late brother lying there dead. He removed the corpse, and placed it back in the refrigerated drawer.

 

Craig fantasized about the lady even though he didn’t know her name. He guessed she had to be married, and well off too. Meanwhile, he had to leave visits to the tanning salon and get down to some serious studying. Apart from dead bodies to attend to, Craig and Stella had to make sure that all the instruments were sterilized and in their correct places.

Craig’s life was so taken up with the hospital and the exams, that he had no notion of time, but one day, when all the turmoil was over, he realized that he hadn’t booked a holiday. Then he noticed that his tan was fading, and he felt he had let himself down. The first thing he did was to book a holiday in Cancun. From the brochures it looked the kind of place where getting a tan and enjoying oneself was to be counted on. Craig’s parents went away on their holiday, leaving him alone at home. Craig took to going to the gym in the evenings to tone up his body and to the tanning salon two or three times a week. Craig had the idea that if he did his best, he’d be compensated by meeting up with someone on the beach or in a bar.

 

Craig went on his holiday and enjoyed himself, although he didn’t meet the woman of his dreams. Anyway, his tan got deeper. He had passed his exams, and he was told he would get a better post in the hospital, if he so desired. Craig decided to think about what he really wanted. Stella was going out with a young man she had met on her holiday in Scandinavia – so, there went one happy person! Craig was content that someone had got something out of the summer. He went to the gym, but he didn’t have his heart in doing all the work on weights or other machines.

 

On a day when there was nothing special happening at the mortuary, Craig went for a walk in the park. It wasn’t a thing that formed part of his life. He heard some scurrying at his feet and saw a long-haired dachshund trotting behind him. He raised his eyes and saw the owner of the BMW staring at him. “Hello, do you remember me? We met at the tanning salon, and then in the hospital when my brother died,” and removed her sunglasses, showing her to be at least ten years older than him -  but still lovely.

Craig said nothing for a moment, but a great surge of joy leaped up inside him. “My name is Craig, and yes, I remember you very well. Is that your dog?”

“Yes it is. His name is Bruno as he’s brown. My name, by the way, is Winsome,” and she held her hand out. “Are you going in any particular direction?” she asked.

“No, I was just out for a stroll. In fact, I haven’t been here for ages.”

Winsome said, “We come here every day. Shall we walk together? I’d like some company. I always seem to be on my own, that’s why I got Bruno, to help me get out of the house.”

Craig was more than happy to walk with the enigmatic lady and her pretty little dog. Winsome was also delighted with Craig for company, and approved of the fact that he tried to make the most of his appearance.

 

She had the image in her mind, of them, tanning together on a faraway beach.

 

With Bruno running around on the beach and barking at the waves.


© Copyright 2018 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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