Marvin managed a funeral home. Jack dug graves. Sometimes Jack jerked coffins around. Marvin told Jack off.
“You know what happened to Jenkins, the guy who stole gold fillings from corpse teeth,” warned Marvin, “You better be careful, or you’re liable to end up locked away in a different kind of hole.”
“What a suggestion,” ejaculated Jack, “I’m a holy man, dedicated to digging worm and bug mansions. Rest in peace!”
Marvin wasn’t convinced. He took his grave concern to Rev. Nick Sartan, who conducted many of the funerals for Happy Acres House of Eternity and Mausoleum. Rev. Nick Sartan stroked his pointed beard. He grinned and told Marvin not to worry. He’d take Jack in hand to make sure skeletons stayed in the closet.
In the early days, Jack got off on seeing corpses. To contemplate death underlined the dreamlike transparency of life. It shocked him enough to pierce momentary holes in the stream of mental chatter and daydream. He felt something vast and spacious. Then someone would tell him to get to work. The daily grind took over.
Jack stopped sweating the small stuff. He realized it was foolish to knock himself out to ensure perfect dimensions. Most customers were too grief stricken to notice imperfections of an earthen hole. Jack enjoyed the serious atmosphere and tense emotions surrounding ceremonies to honor the dead and to console the living. One day, he too would be a corpse. His whole life would be forgotten. It would be as if he never even existed. The handful of memories surrounding his time on earth would fade, or be distorted. Even while alive, most of his life was forgotten. He couldn’t remember how he felt at the age of six, sixteen or twenty six and he knew it didn’t matter. He couldn’t care less. So what exactly would be remembered? Was it worth making a fuss about? The most pathetic joke was the joke of ego, trying to impress somebody, or to leave a trace. Jack shook his head and laughed at the idea of wanting to be remembered.
Marvin the manager told Rev. Nick Sartan how Jack’s mind was elsewhere. Jack Graves wasn’t focused on the job, not since his no-fault divorce from Elsa Spring. Jack Graves denied the divorce had anything to do with it. Rev. Nick wasn’t convinced. Some men went berserk and committed suicide when their vanity was wounded, routine disrupted or bank account pillaged during a divorce. Of course, Jack’s divorce was a smooth, no-fault deal. There were no children involved. Jack had been unable to stand up and be a man. It infuriated Elsa when she insisted they needed to communicate and Jack would burst out laughing. The more she got angry, the harder he laughed. She had no alternative. He said sure, go for it. And so ended their marriage of six years, six months and six days. Rev. Nick said Jack’s laughter meant he was cut off from his emotions, that he hadn’t grieved properly or dealt with things.
Marvin nodded his head in difference to Rev. Sartan, but begged to differ. He believed Jack’s reaction was a healthy one. Sometimes a man has to bury the past. Leave the dead to bury the dead. Nobody knows what goes on inside a marriage. Maybe Jack was happy to be divorced. In any case, there was no point talking about it, since both parties parted on amicable terms.
Marvin the manager had enough issues of his own to worry about what was going on with Jack Graves. Marvin was on the verge of a spiritual awakening. He began to understand the importance of sin and the need to avoid it. Sin could land a man or woman into a lot of costly hot water. Even if a person didn’t get caught for his or her financial misdeeds or tax evasion, there would be many a sleepless night, loss of appetite, lower back pain and migraines to pay. He became a firm believer in the Almighty Dollar.
Talk all you like, money is what keeps things afloat. If a man or woman wants to prosper, let the person go into business. Create your own job. The days of being employed are over. In the future, every man or woman would be self-made. And if a person failed, it was because that person was lured by sin into not trying hard enough.
Rev. Nick Sartan shrugged his shoulders. He paused on the way out and offered his card to Jack Graves and went home to a bottle or two of red wine.