This is the third part of the story Wisp. The parts in order are Grace, Pearl, Frank, Wash and Luz. The links will open in a new window. This story contains extreme language, graphic sexuality, disturbing behavior. As always, feedback is welcome.
Frank had worked at the crematorium for three years. The work wasn’t difficult, and it allowed him plenty of time to study. And perhaps most importantly, it meant he was alone. He didn’t have to endure the taunts from the other boys — football player sized — in the locker room. He didn’t have to be the target of unwanted food in the cafeteria or of balls in the gym. He didn’t have to hear the derision and snickers as he went by, particularly from her. He couldn’t ever be sure what she said, but he had no doubt that she was talking about him, whispering behind her hand to her ultra-blonde, megatanned friends.
And he wanted her. She was a goddess floating through the halls, flipping a sleek lock of hair out of her way as she brought her phone to her ear, her pastel pink lips pouting in some cellular flirtation, and he wondered not for the first time what those lips could do to him.
That was why it had seemed so opportune, so goddamned fortuitous, when she had landed on the slab in the Henry and Green Mortuary and Crematorium.
She had been in a car accident. Tad, her boyfriend of the week, had been drunk and had bounced across a grass median to say hello to the cars on the other side. It wasn’t a friendly meeting. Both had been killed.
Frank was sorry that Tad’s lifeless body had been taken to another funeral home. Tad had been the one in the locker room to lead the jeers, calling Frank “stick dick.” Frank would have liked to pull the sheet down to reveal Tad’s shriveled and ultimately useless penis. Then he would have flicked it with his thumb and forefinger. Not such a big dick now, is it?
But she was here, and that was enough.
No one was around when his shift started; there never was. All he had to do was babysit the bodies and wait for three o’clock in the morning on Tuesdays and Fridays. That was when he took the coffins and put them in the furnace for cremation. It couldn’t be done during the day. No, no, no. As Mr. Henry had patiently explained to him, “We treat all our customers, the living and the dead, with dignity and respect. That means we don’t burn them during the day. The smoke would rise from the smoke stacks and cause distress. No, no, no,” he had said in his whispery quiet, little girl lisp, “We don’t want to cause distress.”
The stupid little prick. Did he have any idea the amount of distress they had caused him? Of course not. He cared nothing for those whose blood hadn’t pooled into lividity. All Mr. Henry’s compassion, all his fussy, prissy attention — his hands fluttering over the bodies like plump birds — was given to those who had passed beyond all caring. What did soulless flesh care what was done to it? Did Lt. Col. Daniel Anderson, 89, heart attack, career army, care that he and Willie had stuck a flag in his dick and saluted it every time they passed by until his burial? No. Did Mrs. Lillian Barton, 72, lung cancer, substitute teacher, care that he and Willie had drawn arched eye brows over her nipples, giving her chest a look of surprise that she would carry into eternity? No.
But Mr. Henry had cared. Or would if he found out. He had fired Willie a month ago for something so heinous that he couldn’t even speak of it to Frank and the other employees. Frank found out later that Willie had sold the rendered fat — what Frank’s mother had called “drippings” — to a paramilitary group who was making its own soap. Frank didn’t see what the harm was. It was just fat. Did Mr. Dean Bradbury, 54, prostate cancer, accountant, care that he was now softening the skin of a group of second amendment crazies? No.
And would Miss Kelli Crawford, 20, internal bleeding, student, care if he touched her breast? No.
And that first night, that was all it had been. He had gone trembling into the room, starting at each noise. Others might be afraid of the dead bodies collected here; he was more afraid of the living.
She lay in the middle of the room, a white sheet covering but not concealing the breasts that jutted toward the ceiling like two perfect upended ice cream cones. Frank knew she was naked beneath the sheet. Tomorrow, the cosmetician would work on her face, hiding any bruises that remained, making her look as lifelike as she had looked pre-accident. She would remain naked, though, until the morning of the viewing when Mr. Henry would clothe her in the dress her mother had picked out.
He grasped the edge of the sheet and pulled it toward him. It slipped off her as though she were a smooth piece of glass. He gazed upon her, the object of his lust for the last six years, since freshman year in high school.
Her tanned skin, already losing its rich color, was flawless with the exception of a few scattered freckles on her shoulders and across her chest. Tan lines, though, revealed how white her skin was, as white as milk and as creamy as butter. Against the whiteness, her pink nipples rose. His mouth went dry at the thought of biting one, rolling it between his lips, flicking it with his tongue. It was hard to imagine that she wouldn’t respond with her back arched or a moan escaping her throat.
His gaze continued down over the fine fuzz of her tight stomach and the deeply dimpled navel. He lightly touched that depression and felt himself grow hard. Her skin was cool, and though she was firm, it felt in some ways like bread dough. His pants felt too tight, the material rubbing uncomfortably against his penis. He left his finger in her navel and with his other hand unzipped his jeans.
Then he let himself look at her pubic region. It had inflamed his imagination during football games as he watched from the stands as she flashed her panties in that legitimized pornography called cheerleading. For one second, he wished she were in her uniform so that he could lift her skirt. Her pubic hair was darker than the super-blonde hair on her head, but it looked just as silky. It wouldn’t take much pressure — much less than when she was alive — to spread her legs just a little to see the secret place the hair concealed.
He took in a shuddering breath. Breathe, he told himself. Just breathe. She was the first live woman he had ever seen. Well, except she wasn’t alive. But she wasn’t a slick and glossy photo, covered with a thousand desperate fingerprints.
He reached out and placed his hand over her breast. Don’t, Frank, he imagined her saying as she struggled away from his hand. He gripped her breast tighter. “It’s my turn, bitch,” he whispered. He came as soon as he touched his penis.
He left her that way, uncovered and humiliated with his semen trickling down her side, while he drove home, grabbed his digital camera, and drove back.
He took five pictures of her from different angles, but he didn’t touch her again except to clean his dried come from her skin and the shiny metal table. He spent the next day masturbating over the pictures after he uploaded them onto his computer, remembering the feel of her breast and, surprisingly, the smell of the chemicals in the room.
Two nights later, the last night she would be in the mortuary, he fully consummated their relationship. He had ignored the pictures all day so that he would be ready for her. He slipped his pants off so they wouldn’t leave any marks on her body. He removed the sheet and climbed on top of her. He whispered, “I’m going to fuck you, and there isn’t anything you can do about it,” into her soft, whitish flesh. The thought and the sound of his voice brought on a rush of blood so intense that for a moment he couldn’t see, and when he came, the ejaculate surprising and sticky between his warm thighs and her much cooler ones, the release of pressure on his testicles pained him.
He waited an hour and then attempted it again. “Try making fun of me now,” he said out loud. “Can’t do it, can you?” He enjoyed the feeling of pumping himself inside her, and his ejaculation was strong and bittersweet. There would never be another as good as her.
He cleaned her up but only minimally. He liked the thought of his come remaining inside her until she had decayed into dust.
There had been a few since her. His next had been a 40-year-old mother of two who had died from a botched liposuction. Her flesh wasn’t firm as Kelli’s had been, but it was cold, and that was enough. He had enjoyed its pillowy-ness. She in some ways reminded him of his mother, and that added to his excitement as he brutalized her. Once again, he left his ejaculate inside her, and this became his ritual. On the first night, he would take pictures — and the five pictures became ten, thirty, two disks, three. He would take them from different angles and position the body. He liked the control he had over them, these women who said no. Well, they couldn’t say no now. The next day he would upload the pictures and masturbate over them. That night he would have sex with the woman several times. The oldest woman he had been with was sixty-four; the youngest was eighteen. It got so that even the smell of the chemicals in the prep room could give him a hard-on. He liked to think that he had inseminated the entire cemetery.
His last woman, the woman Mr. Henry caught him with, was young, about nineteen. She had o.d.’d on ecstasy. She reminded him of Kelli, and that caused him to become sloppy. He had four dozen pictures of her, completely submissive to him; she would do whatever he wanted.
But he wasn’t scheduled to work that night. When he found a few moments to spare, he took advantage of it. On the rare occasion that that happened, when he had been scheduled in the afternoon instead of the night shift, he generally found a few minutes to spend with the corpse. He would turn the table around so that he could lie on top of the woman and still see the door. He wouldn’t undress on those occasions but would keep himself ready to spring away from the body if he saw someone approaching the door.
But this one reminded him of Kelli. The need to recreate his first experience outweighed every risk.
He was on top of her, his penis rock hard, when he heard the door swing open behind him.
“Get off that woman!” Mr. Henry’s girlish voice bounced off the tiled walls.
But Frank was beyond caring. It was Kelli underneath him, receiving his thrusts. He threw a snarl over his shoulder to Mr. Henry and grabbed the girl’s breast. He saw Mr. Henry advance upon him, the janitor Carl close behind.
He wanted to come before they pulled him off, but the distraction was too much for him. He could feel his penis wilting, withering within the woman. He tried to summon up images again of Kelli and of his domination of her, but it was no use. He slid out of her at the same moment that Carl grabbed his shoulder and wrenched him away.
He fell to the floor, landing on his backside, his chest heaving as he glared at the two men. Mr. Henry’s hand shook as he pointed a finger at him. “Clean out your things from your desk, and then come to my office.”
Mr. Henry fled the prep room then as though phantoms would pursue him.
Carl, whose brain was as wooly as his chest, watched Mr. Henry and then turned back to Frank. He unzipped and unfastened his pants and removed his penis. It was long and thick, even uncut, even soft. Frank’s illusion of power, the one he had so carefully created with each successive woman, shriveled.
“You don’t have to settle for dead ones when you have one of these,” Carl said, hefting his penis. He zipped up then, careful not to catch his bigness, his very munificence, in the teeth of the zipper. He snickered once and left.
The derisive sound followed Frank as he dressed, a ghostly presence he could never exorcise.
Mr. Henry sat behind his mammoth desk when he entered. The desk had been cleared of all items except one. Frank’s final paycheck floated in the middle like an iceberg.
Frank strode over, trying to keep the tatters of his illusion close by. He glanced at the check. It looked exact, to the penny. No bonus, no buy off for his silence, no severance package. The signature looked as though it had been written with a shaky hand.
“I have reported your behavior to the MFHA.”
Frank knew that with his name turned in to the Mortuary and Funeral Home Association, he would never be able to get a job in another mortuary.
“I have considered whether to turn you over to the police or not. Your actions are not only objectionable but also illegal. I have decided, however, not to press the matter. It would cause undue distress to our clientele. If, however, I hear that you are working at another mortuary or crematorium, I will take action. Be assured of that, Mr. Lester.”
He spun around in his chair to look out at the reflecting pond in the courtyard. Frank burned to say something. He wanted to walk around the massive desk to the small man on the other side and throttle him as though he were a chicken meant for Sunday dinner. He wanted to strip him and make fun of his penis size. He wanted to watch and laugh when he couldn’t perform with a woman. He would show him the meaning of distress.
He did none of these things, however. He crumpled his check, shoved it into his back pocket and left.
On his way out, he saw the two coffins waiting for Tuesday’s early morning burning. The old woman and the baby girl. They sat on the conveyor belt that led to the furnace. Like bridesmaids at the processional, they waited for the main event.
I’ll show the little prick the meaning of distress, he thought and flipped the switch. The belt was slow, but he knew it wouldn’t be caught in time. The furnace door opened, its roaring womb eager to accept his final bequest. He watched the coffins descend into the flames.
He left the building and looked up at the smoke stack. It wouldn’t be long before smoke would billow from it into the late afternoon sky. He smiled.
* * *