Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Undertaker's Assistant

Corny Kelleher closed his long daybook and glanced with his drooping eye at a pine coffinlid sentried in a corner. A harrowing figure, the height and breadth of some unfortunate man, furnished to be filled by an empty body. Perhaps a lumberjack. Large, burly, have to stuff him tight like to make it work. So full then, and heavy, filled with the empty body. The bearer of the soulless. Furnished to bear the soulless. And I, a keeper of such furniture. What’s that?

He pulled himself erect. Water clouded his eye. The cursed eye. Mal from birth. Ay, a nuisance, he mutterd. The droop. The flaw. All have their burden. All have their strength. All will come to me in the end. He laid is long daybook at his side, each entry filled, each order satisfied. Gossip? Not now. They will tell me all later. He returned his gaze to the corner. Ah yes, the lid.

He went to it, spinning it on its axle, viewed its shape and brass furnishings. Cordially, he caressed its cornered crevices with candored care. Proportions acceptable, delectable even. Heaven forbid an imperfection in the doorway to hell. The eye moved, a perpetual intake of distortion, blurring deaths door in shades of brown and gold. His cloudy vision caught a certain glare off the coffin’s fittings, and the waft aroma of evergreen petted his nostrils, calling him to the forests of the lumberjack. The orders, the circling, the hacking, the slamming, the sawing, jamming, wedging, hammering, slating, grinding, TIMBER!

Crack and Thud. Brothers Grimm weaving a tale to end all tales. It fell the wrong way. Should have known better! Everyone accounted for? No. Found him, dead. They’ll be coming any moment now with the news. Need a coffin? Made from the pine that killed him. The fruits of his labors will harbor him. And I, the harborer of the harbor will guide him.

Chewing his blade of hay he laid the coffinlid by and came to the doorway. Perhaps a word with a constable. Perhaps some news of life without death. Perhaps. The taste of grass provokes his saliva. Inedible. At least by me. Cows eat it. I eat the cows, the cows eat the grass. Primitive circle. Need a coffin? No. The grass eats me. Sustained then devoured, prolonged then covered then decayed. Lid. Or no lid. Wood, brass, body, emptiness, all. I am the grass. I cover all. Let me work.

There he tilted his hatbrim to give shade to his eyes and leaned against the doorcase, looking idly out.