Monday, November 24, 2003

After the last few guests left the auditorium Jeffery got to work. First he picked up all the trash left in chairs, and items left behind on accident he put on the table in the back. Afterwards he started to sweep between the pews and underneath them. Three maybe four gum wrappers, probably from some of the kids, most of the adults were too close to tears. About an hour later all the wood had been polished and he was finished for the day.

Jeff walked to the open casket and looked down at the face fo the deceased. Made to look like he was only sleeping, his head resting on a pillow so soft that the living could only envy it. You couldn't tell by looking but Jeff knew that the head would bend in directions that would make you ill to look at because the neck was so cleanly broken. It had happened because of a skiing accident. He had no wife, no kids. Suddenly Jeff's nostrils stung and flared as fresh smoke wafted up into them.

He spun around startled as much by the smell as though he had been alerted to the other's presence by a punch to the back of his head. David stood there and took another drag on his cigarrette without even batting an eye as Jeff jumped. While Jeff caught his breath, David pulled the cigarrette from his mouth, the red smouldering tip leaving tracers of smoke as he moved his hand to his side and opened his mouth like a spector and a great billowing cloud of smoke poured out as he exhaled darkening his features before disipating into nothing.

" Jittery little guy, aren't you? " he said with his blue eyes leveled at Jeff.

" No... well... yeah... I mean no, I'm, " Jeff stammered as he tried to force out his sentence, " I was just thinking to myself and I didn't hear you behind me. " Then, to recover his ground he added, " How is the reception going? "

David took another drag on his cigarrette, the motion finally irritating Jeff conciously but not enough for him to mention it. " I've hosted more entertaining crowds, but I suppose there isn't anything really wrong with that. What were you thinking about? "

" I don't really know, " he answered, " mostly something along the lines of how bad a card this guy drew from the deck. I mean, he had everything that I wanted. A life of sorts, a job he probably loved, and nice little sports car, and he get's cut off on a ski trip. It's a crying shame is what my sister would say. " Jeff said as he looked back down at the guy in the casket trying to ignore the nagging feeling that Jeff should be taking care of the guests at the reception. Trying to listen to that little voice that told him he was the outsider here. That the guy in the casket was dead and the smoke wouldn't bother him.

" Cry me a river. "

" What? "

" Go ahead and cry me a river with that crying shame bullshit. If the guy had a good life what does it matter when he bites the big one? " David's eyes sparkle as he let the words burn and smoulder and mingle with the smoke wisping from his mouth and nostrils after every drag from the ever shortening cigarrette. " Everyone's got to go sometime, but what does it matter how much fun you had when your dead? You know what the crying shame is? The real irony? "

Jeff only stared.

" This fucker had a good life and he's dead, " David spit the words from his mouth, " and it doesn't make a difference cause he wouldn't have appreciated that extra week if he'd had it. It would have just been another good week. My life is a great big hole of shit and I'm still alive. If I could die a week before I'm supposed to I could appreciate that it was one less week I'd have to come to terms with. That's the real fucking shame "

He turned on his heals in a single smooth motion and walked out of the room his feet tapping on the hardwood floor. Each step resounding clearly in the silent room, each tap of a heal as clear and crisp as every word he said right before he left. When he was out of sight Jeff turned back down and took one last look at the man in the casket. He decided that he couldn't look anymore without feeling sick and he left the room as well.

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