The Morgue Attendant

I was at my first day of work at the morgue at St. Hope’s,

when my supervisor, Mr. Scrawn, started my instruction.

“Robert, my lad “, he said, he had breath like a coffee maker

and the touch of spoiled bananas,

“I’m going to show you the place and give you the in’s and out’s

(He chuckled a little at that), and what essentially we do…

we are in the transport and logistics business.”, he said,

“We don’t get personal–can’t abide that–but we do get things right”.

He meant that part.

In 27 years, Scrawn had never lost a deceased person

not had a problem with getting the body back to their loved ones.

He took pride in “Human Logistics” as he called it.

“Now….the first thing to remember is, these folks are shipping boxes…

that’s the deal. They come in; The come out.”, he said..

“That’s all. We don’t park ’em unless they don’t belong to nobody”

“What do we do then, ” I asked.

“We move ’em on down the line”, he said.

‘What does that mean?” I replied, “Do they go somewhere special?”

After a pause, Scrawn smiled to himself and, measuring his words

like a careful pawnbroker, he said “You can say that”. And he smiled.

It was shift change and we were going to tour the hospital.

Brad came in, he was the relief worker,

and started sizing up the night’s load.

He never said anything..just kind of ..staggered in place;

a little unstable actually,

but then started over to the nearest “Delivery” and started to work.

The next few hours were made up of me following

Scrawn around and watchig him hit on nurses and pink-ladies;

(which was revolting both to me and them alike),

and, when we had covered the whole hospital;

we returned again to the cold, quiet silence of the morgue.

Brad was still there, but he was just standing, facing the corner

by the vaults, and very still. the “carts” were all empty.

“It’s Ok Brad, ” said Scrawn, “you can got back to the 4th”

Brad staggered around to face us and I noticed then

the blank stare and almost emotionless gaze

as he stumbled off to the 4th floor.

“Wait a minute Brad, ” said Scrawn.

“We need to clear something up”.

He said, “I see you look at ol’ Brad here like he’s…odd”;

“There’s a reason for that you see..”

He went on “You see? Ol’ Brad here was homeless…

and now he’s got purpose; a new lease on life so to speak.”

I said “Well, that’s great!–how did he accomplish that?

it must have taken a lot of work and dedication..”

“Nah, “said Scrawn…he gestured to Brad and said,

“Brad, show Robert your “dedication”, he said.

Brad turned almost drunkenly around

and lifted up his shirt…

there was a huge T-shaped scar that ran

from his abdomen to his nexk and that showed

the undeniable marks of old stiches being inserted at one time–now closed.

I recoiled and let out an audible gasp and threw myself backwards,

falling over a table and scattering tools all over the place..

“It’s OK, It’s OK Robert” yelled Scrawn.. After all, he was homeless,

and there was no ID on him when they brought him, and

we always need “fresh talent” so…,

we moved him down the line.

“They took him on four and he met The Master..and, now

he works here for us and he’s a model employee.”

He smiled again, “That’s what they do on four;

they and The Master; they recycle people.”

I didn’t wait. I ran from the room; I was headed out the door

when two huge orderlies caught me. and held me tightly

while one of them readied a syringe…

They said “Look kid, we can’t afford you to go blabbin’

so let’s take a ride…how about the 4th floor–you’ll like it there”

“Yeah..”they sighed “Let’s get him moved on down the line I guess..

as he felt the syringe go in and then, going on the elevator,

his head swimming with warm, happy, thoughts of smiling men

with white coats and the hum of power tools..

and, a dark figure wearing a white lab coat with piercing eyes…

and he soon found himself not caring anymore–

except for doing the work; for helping Mr. Scrawn.

For taking cae of the “deliveries”.

He smiled and gazed and drooled and then looked down

at his shiny new name tag. It was nice.

It read “Brad”

And he moved on down the line.

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