Touching Memory

A Macabre Tale by Edward Ahern

“We’ll use the skin from his back for the book’s cover.”

Janice waved away his patter and interrupted. “I think I’ve got it. You’re going to grind up Sam’s body parts and make a memorial book.”

Bosworth was a seasoned undertaker, but his expression flickered into annoyance before settling back into unction. “Yes. As I was saying, the hair and bones provide the fiber substitutes for the pages and the cover boards, the body fluids and soft organs provide paper binders and glue, and the best skin provides the cover vellum. Does Sam have any tattoos you’d like us to incorporate into the cover design?”

Janice leaned forward in the leather chair, wondering if Bosworth had used excess skin to upholster the funeral parlor furniture. “No, no tattoos, just aberrations. How does the cost compare to old-fashioned cremation?”

“Surprisingly, not that much more. We use a digital printer and automated binding. The additional cost is in the preparatory work—”

“Hacking up his body.”

“Um, we refer to it as funeral surgery. So, consider that instead of a nondescript urn with ashes you have a luxuriant coffee table book commemorating Sam’s life and your love together. And there’s the positive environmental impact. Instead of a polluting incineration we recycle Sam for future generations. It’s become quite popular.”

Janice flipped through the book Bosworth had handed her. “The pages are kind of gray.”

“We refer to that as antique vellum. Only the finest paper and our own timeless organic material achieve that shade. Notice how sharp the color reproductions are- you could have portrait quality pictures of Sam in your book.”

She snapped the book shut. “Sam’s ugly. Out of focus would be better.”

“Ah. The paper takes ink extremely well, the result of its complex proteins. You could write a beautiful tribute or dedication by hand.”

Janice nodded. “That is a thought. For sure I’d want to write something.”

Bosworth interlocked his fingers.”If you’re concerned about having to write up a biography, we have several templates available, targeted at various ethnicities and social stratum. You just fill in a questionnaire and add some anecdotes, the computer does the rest.”

Janice stared at him. “Tell me, Bosworth, do I have client privilege?”

He stared in turn. “Um, so long as it’s nothing illegal, I think I can assure you that whatever we discuss does not go beyond this room.”

“Good. Sam’s a jerk. I’ve kept a diary on the son of a bitch, and that’s what would go in your book. Some of it has to do with deviant behavior. Do you have a problem with that?”

“Oh. I see. Um, in speaking ill of the dead, there’s little chance of a suit for defamation unless family members bring it. Do you have children by Sam?”

“No, thank God.”

Bosworth had begun to sweat. “Um, we would probably ask you to sign a disclaimer that you would not sue us for any repercussions.”

“No problem. So, how much extra for an embossed cover title?”

“That would depend on the number of letters.”

“It would read ‘Good Riddance’. There’s also some rather explicit pictures I’d like to incorporate in the book.”

“That would be approximately a hundred and fifty dollars for the embossing, perhaps another two hundred for the pictures. Um, Mrs. Stiltworth, I wonder if you might not want to also evaluate other funeral houses, just to get comparative quotes—”

Janice waved her hand again. “No, no, Bosworth. You need to go on a monster diet, but other than that I like you. Just prepare the quote for me.”

Bosworth pulled an estimate sheet from a tablet on his right and took out a pen. “We should get the larger items decided first, the number of wake times, religious services, choir and organist, and so forth.”

She laughed. “He’s lucky he’s getting time on your slab. Just the butchery and the book, please.”

“Oh.” Bosworth did some calculations.”With the tax, fourteen thousand five. I’ve included the cost of up to ten pictures.”

“And how long is your quotation valid?”

“Um, thirty days. But I don’t understand. Didn’t your husband pass on yesterday?”

“Hell no. But thirty days ought to be enough time for me to make arrangements.”

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over a hundred twenty stories and poems published so far, and two books.



This entry was posted in All, short story and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Touching Memory

  1. ljmcdowall says:

    Absolutely horrific. Deeply shocking. It’s a good job we don’t give a shit here.

    Liked by 1 person

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