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Human Decency

Baba has it all figured out. Her cremated remains will join Jiji’s and their mingling ashes will be divided between two desktop sphinxes formerly filled with cheap whiskey and presented to my grandfather for being a damn fine Mason. There’s already fake gold nameplates glued to the bases, no muss no fuss. My mom would get one, Lindy will get one, and Sugie… Well, Sugie didn’t make it to the family Christmas gathering this year so she’s shit out of luck.

Not everyone has their final resting place sorted out, but this is America and we’re a nation of innovative entrepreneurs. Convenient Pre-Purchase is a company that specializes in mail-order burial real estate, except when they’re specializing in ‘Pre-Pruchase’ as stated in the introductory paragraph of the letter. Which immediately follows my landlord’s misspelled name.

What locations! Convenient Pre-Purchase is partnered with over 250 franchise boneyards across half of the country. Gleaming mausoleum or eternal rest beneath a row of maples? Ordering your space today avoids the cost of inflation tomorrow and spares your idiot children from overspending to compensate for taking advantage of you their entire ungrateful lives. Everyone is pre-approved for a payment plan and you’ll never have to meet with a cemetery representative, unless you choose to. Twelve months of interest free financing will get the ball rolling. Perpetual Care Grounds Maintenance! Happy families beam at the camera, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be forced to make difficult decisions when Granny kicks the bucket.

‘If you are prepared in advance, you are not at the mercy of strangers during a difficult period in your life’ says Wendy B. from beyond the grave!

There’s checkboxes for veterans and folks who have family planted in the local grounds—no mention of a discount but no harm in asking. Unfortunately they don’t offer a 30-Day money-back guarantee (mail back the unused portion of your grave and keep the digital egg-beater as our gift to you), just their absolutely no obligation, free Cemetery Space Pre-Planning Information Kit.

We sincerely apologize if this mailing has come during a time of bereavement.

* * *

Rheumatism had taken its toll, eating away the pride and chivalry of a fading generation. Death was sharpening the scythe but he old man would drag her suitcases to the house regardless. Shoulders screamed. The back screamed. Knuckles screamed. I could stop and offer to help. Years of hard work, of doing what must be done—you’ve earned respite from daily toil. But burning cheeks, that reminder of spent muscles and blown joints, a stranger walking down the street grabbing her bags, entering your house? Unthinkable. Best for everyone if I just keep concentrating on the sidewalk ahead of me.

Change scattered, chased by credit cards and bobby pins and cough drops encrusted with lint. Gravity wins and god laughs—she kneels to arrest the escaping fragments of her life. There are many. The silence of overhead fluorescents triggers impulses. I want to help her collect everything but I know the primal response to the sight of a stranger’s hand grabbing at your money. Thank-you, that’s okay, I’ve got it, embarrassment and nerves. I step back to give her more room while Mr. Yong and I avoid making eye contact with one another.

White car hanging out of a parking spot and into the street. Just picking someone up, just waiting a minute. The driver hung her head, occupied by something in her lap. A book? A phone? Or a stroke, a seizure, a sudden death? The motor was off. The car hadn’t hopped the curb. Someone please leave one of these houses and get into the car, please conjure life from this misplaced corpse before I get much closer. She did not look up. I was even with the driver’s door and she remained focused on her lap. The movie played in my head, of knocking on the window and startling her, the assurances that everything’s fine except these palpitations from being surprised by some idiot walking down the street. Her head was not crushed against the steering wheel, the horn was not wailing beneath the weight of her skull. I continued on my way and hoped the sound of ambulances would stay away.

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