“I just have a few more questions, if that’s alright,” I said in my professional, sickeningly sweet voice. “This is information goes straight to the funeral home to speed along the death-certificate process,” I explained. The son nodded and stepped forward.
“Was your mother on hospice?” He nodded again and told me the provider and what she was being treated for.
“Did she pass today?” He said that she did, around three that afternoon.
“Are there any personal belongings of hers that I’m taking with me today, like jewelry, clothing, photographs?” He shook his head, lip trembling. I closed my binder. “Would you like any more time with her?” I asked as gently possible. The family glanced at one another, heads shaking.
I said okay, pulled the white sheet up over the decedent’s face, and finished zipping the cot cover over her head. I draped a pretty quilt over the ugly fabric, and slowly pushed the cot with the decedent out of their house to the back of my van. I opened it, and started to load her in. It was slow work because the trunk of the van was just a bit higher than the end of the cot, but I got it in as elegantly as I could.
I braced my hip against the gurney and gave a final shove, settling it into the grooves in the floor of the van. It was hard to gracefully grunt with effort with a grieving family watching me load their dead loved one into my van, but they thanked me again. I pulled off my sweaty latex gloves, shoved them in the pocket of my pants, and shook everyone’s hand one last time.
“You guys take care,” I said lamely before climbing into the driver’s seat of my van.
As soon as I drove around the corner, I shrugged out of my blazer and plugged the funeral home’s address into my GPS. The city at night was almost as bright as it is during daytime with all the lights from shops and cars and streetlights. I loved driving at night because of the traffic, and the beautiful views of the twinkling lights of the city like a night sky of yellow stars on the ground. I could never see the real night sky, so the city lights sufficed as stars as I sped down the highway. The city slowly shrank behind me and to my left, the stars becoming one big mass of yellow. Store fronts eventually gave way to barely lit farmland and sparse trees. The highway darkened and only the occasional oncoming car drove by to temporarily light up the road and blind me. Vast expanses of crops stretched out on either side further than I could see.
A muffled groaning sound pulled me from my daydreams. I let off the gas and felt the van immediately start slowing down and put my arm around the back of my seat to turn and look behind me. I glanced to the road ahead of me, and back to the gurney on the bed of the van. I felt my stomach flip inside out as a throaty, hoarse groan sounded again, but much louder. My heart skipped into double time as I slammed on the brakes and turned on my hazard lights. I got the van to a stop in the wide shoulder of the empty highway as soon as I could.
Frozen, heart pounding, I stared intently at the cot. Suddenly, the bag bulged and moved, rocking side to side as the deadly silence was broken by groaning that turned to bestial growling.
Bio: J. Davis is a journalism student at the University of Oregon. Her love of writing and editing began at a very early age and she has plans to write for fun no matter where her paths leads.
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