A Knife And A Quill Presents: Getting Rid of Murray

Author: J.B. Dane

L. Vera’s Notes: I once thought that eventually I would run out of things to write about. I had some successful pieces, not anything that had brought me any money but things that brought me praise from my readers. I thought I could never do better. Now I’ve written over 40 different stories since then and I say to myself looking at the mess and gems, “When will it stop?”. There are millions of possible stories and if you really, for one minute, think you can’t make another, then you’re not trying. J. B. Dane’s  “Getting Rid of Murray” is one of those stories. A situation that’s out there. A situation that could happen. A situation I wish I had thought of. Nonetheless, here’s “Getting Rid of Murray”, a fine edition to “The Wall”. 

Getting Rid of Murray

“Who’s this?”

Leo Tilbury didn’t bother to look up from his desk but continued to fuss with the topmost sheet of paper in the file folder, adjusting it neatly—some might say meticulously, some might say fanatically—until it aligned precisely with those sheets beneath it.  “Who’s who?” he asked.

“Whadda ya mean ‘who’s who’?” Albert Pepperidge demanded.

At the irritation in Pepperidge’s voice, Leo decided he’d better look up.

When there were no grieving customers in sight, the funeral director shed his professional skin and reverted to the louse his employees knew best.  At the moment, Pepperidge was gesturing wildly, his arms wind milling as he pointed into the crematorium.  “Who’s this?  It had better not be Mrs. Farquharson.”

Leo sincerely hoped it wasn’t either.  He reached for the lid of the ornate urn on the credenza next to his chair.  A peep inside told him Agnes Farquharson was where she was supposed to be.  “Nope, she’s here, boss.  All ready to perch on her granddaughter’s mantle next to the mister.”

Pepperidge took a deep breath.  From the color his face was turning, Leo thought his boss would need more than a single gulp of the mortuary’s mechanically cleaned, temperature controlled air to calm down.
“I hate to sound redundant,” Pepperidge said, his voice seemingly under control.  “But who the Sam Hill is this then?” he ended in a thunder.

“Search me,” Leo admitted.  “No idea.  Agnes was the last client we toasted.”

Pepperidge cringed at the last word.  Leo liked to call them as he saw them.  As long as the paperwork was done properly, he was a happy man.  He didn’t have to deal with the bereaved, but merely processed the dearly departed whether the required service be pump ‘em and plant ‘em or send them off like a Viking champ, sans the boat.  At least he’d heard the Vikings had used a boat as a pyre.  Earliest case of trying to take it with you that Leo had ever heard.

Pepperidge took a moment to pull himself together.  “Take another look,” he urged.  “Perhaps something about this…”  He gestured toward what the uninitiated would have taken for the collected contents of a dustpan.  “…will jog one of those atrophied cells you call a brain.  Do you, for instance, have the required forms to file?”

The mention of the documents in question chilled Leo to the bone.  The “IN” box on the desk was tellingly vacant.  Just in case he’d automatically put the sheets in his top drawer the evening before, Leo pulled it open.  A plain white envelope lay within, its bulging sides an all too familiar reminder of his less than straight and narrow life prior to that with Pepperidge Funereal Services.

“Maybe someone wandered in,” Leo offered.

Pepperidge didn’t look like he was going to buy that lame idea.

“I’ll ask around,” Leo said.

Pepperidge nodded briefly.  “You do that, Leo.  And ask the right people, hmm?”

Leo made a call.

***

The Dude looked like he could do serious damage to a body—any body—but in truth he left the physical side of business to his associates.  Three of them, and a woman who dressed like she was auditioning for a part in a heavy metal video, flanked Dude as he unfolded his lanky form from a well crushed, crushed velvet sofa.

Leo forced himself not to wipe away the sweat beading on his forehead as he sidled inside the dilapidated storefront that served as Dude’s office.

“M’ man,” Dude greeted and began the intricate handshake ritual that never actually involved either of them shaking hands.  Dude dropped his fist down on Leo’s.  Leo reciprocated.  Dude smashed his clenched hands together, knuckles to knuckles, and then went knuckles to knuckles with Leo.

Except Leo missed and rammed his fist into Dude’s bicep.

A collective gasp went up from Dude’s associates.

“Sorry.”  Leo tried to brush the blow from the gangsta’s arm.  “I’m a bit dyslexic.”

“It’s cool,” Dude assured, although Leo bet his chances of living to an old age would diminish quickly if he ever repeated the error.

“You should eat prunes,” Dude’s girl friend suggested.  “They really work.”

“On what?” Dude asked, sounding honestly curious.

“You know.  On his ‘little problem.’”

Leo fancied he could see the two words floating in the air above him with garish neon quotation marks bracketing them.

“What problem?” Dude demanded.

She rolled heavily made up eyes.  “You know.  Being dyslexic and all.”  She turned to Leo, eager to help.  “My granny’s got the same thing and she swears by prunes.”

“Go get Leo some prunes,” Dude ordered indiscriminately to the men behind him.

“I don’t think we got any,” one of the minions said.

Dude frowned.  “So get some,” he snapped.  “I got business to do.”

With Dude’s dark eyes turned on him once more, Leo didn’t think he was going to need any prunes, even if he did suddenly come down with whatever Granny had.

“About the envelope,” Leo began.

“It ain’t enough?” Dude demanded.

“It’s plenty,” Leo hastily assured.  “It’s just that you should have taken him—or her—with you.”

Dude chuckled.

Leo didn’t think it was a pleasant sound.

“Hey, Cosh,” Dude called to one of his men.

“He thinks we should have taken Murray with us.”

Cosh, who in size could have easily doubled for an NFL linebacker, snickered.  “Couldn’t, Dude.  He was too hot.” Everyone but Leo laughed.

“I can’t keep him,” Leo said.  “There might be something the cops could match to something.  DNA maybe.  I don’t know, but they’d say I was an accessory to the crime.”

“You are an accessory, man.  You took the money.”

Leo shook his head.  They didn’t understand the situation.  “Okay, sure, but someone still has to get rid of him.”

“Yeah.”  Dude rammed his fist against Leo’s chest.  “And that someone is you.”

***

Back in the sanctuary of his office, Leo pulled open the bottom desk drawer and looked at the cremains now carefully horded in an empty coffee can.  Murray had been a big man, he decided.  There was a lot of him to dispose of.  But how?  It didn’t seem right to toss him in the Dumpster out back.  Besides, if found, the bits of bone that lingered were as incriminating as the pointing finger of an eagle-eyed victim picking out a perp in a police lineup.  He didn’t need Murray fingering him when all he’d done was take a bit of cash.

The unexpected jangle of the phone made him flinch and hastily shove the drawer closed.  “The gentleman is here to take Mrs. Farquharson to her memorial service,” the receptionist said.  “Should I send him back, Leo?”

“No!” Leo gasped.  “I mean, there’s no reason for him to come down here.  I was just on my way upstairs.  I’ll bring her up.”

He had to get control of himself, of the situation, Leo told himself.  If he looked guilty, someone would figure he was guilty.  It had happened before.  Of course, he had been guilty, but never of something as heinous as murder.  Not that he’d had a hand in the unfortunate Murray’s demise, but who would believe him if he jumped at every shadow?

There were a lot of shadows to be found at Pepperidge Funereal Services.  Bodies arrived from three counties so that the tastefully decorated rooms at various funeral homes no longer need worry about the distasteful scents that went with preparation of the dead.  Pepperidge handled it all: preservation and cremation.  In fact, the schedule that lay on his desk showed that there were a number of cremations on the schedule already.  Not all would have as carefully chosen urns as the late Agnes Farquharson.  And not all the living felt it necessary to reclaim their toasted relatives since doing so required payment of Pepperidge’s bill.  There were a number of urns and boxes on the utility shelves that lined Leo’s office, all waiting for forgetful kin to show up.

Leo reached for Mrs. Farquharson’s delicately decorated container and froze.  Who would know? he asked himself.  Answer: no one.  Agnes certainly would not be telling anyone, and he doubted if Murray, whoever he’d been, cared either way.

Just in case, Leo did a quick check down the hall outside the office door, then ducked back inside.  The lid of Mrs. Farquharson’s urn opened quickly.  He added a couple pinches of Murray to her remains.  Then, hastily wiping any residue of ash from his hand, Leo was on his way up the stairs, Agnes Farquharson and guest held reverently before him.

***

“Did you find who was responsible for that unknown’s pile of ashes?” Al Pepperidge asked a week later.

Leo nodded without looking up, busy once more arranging paperwork for the files.  It had taken a full dozen of the cremations stored on the shelves to clear Murray from the coffee can, but dispersed Murray had been.

“And who is this guest with now?” Pepperidge pursued.

Leo aligned his last document.  “With friends,” he murmured.  “With a few new friends.”

 

Find more from J.B. Dane here.

Author’s Duties

Author: George Geisinger

L. Vera’s Notes: Here’s a piece by a friend who I have a great admiration for. Below is a story about a man who has once been in a metal institution and how it feels to be out. It’s not a work of fiction because this story is about the author, who deals with his world with a scramble of words, which we read, thinking it to be a great story but in fact is completely true. This is not a work of fiction, this is a blog post from the mind of George Geisinger and is a good example of what we are looking for on “The Wall”.

Author’s Duties

The window blinds are pulled in my suite. Reaching the controls would be a difficult task for me. The stretch across the debris on the floor would be more trouble than it’s worth. The AC is just the right temperature for the way the weather is outside.

It’s gotten awfully dark out, all too soon for this early in the evening, for this time of year. It’s been threatening to rain around here all day.  Rain has been the talk of the house. I’ve gotten all the lights turned on in the room, earlier than one might think would be necessary.

I was out-of-doors earlier, sitting in our courtyard. The springtime weather was just heavenly, but I think that by this time, it’s finally doing a little bit of that raining outside that everyone’s been talking about. I think I’ll just sit here and surmise about it. I’ve got some work to do, and don’t really care all that much for what the weather’s doing. It’s just a conversation piece.

I’m secure enough right here in the big building. There’s nothing like the little showers of springtime, to brighten things up out-of-doors a bit. I live in a home for seniors, and my trip to go look out the door, would be quite the Odyssey, from my point of view. I might encounter the ancient siren’s or Medusa’s along the way, like the fabled Odysseus did.

The grass might be a little greener tomorrow, and the flowers might be a little more perky a little later on. One might wonder whether I ever actually go to the beach, living just a few miles away from a very popular one, but the answer just happens to be, no, I don’t bother. I happen to have an artificial hip now, and for me to be doing any amount of walking is a challenge for me. I really don’t feel any compulsion to try walking on sand, either. I’m just old enough now that I don’t dare fall again. A fall could be disastrous to my hip replacement.

I’ve been trying to focus on writing some more fiction, after having finished one story, but I’m having considerable difficulty fleshing out the second work for a full five thousand words. I don’t want anyone to feel cheated by the brevity of my work. I’ll be back to scraping the barrel trying to get some more substance for that story, whenever I’m done here. But it’s early, and I have some latitude.

There’s nothing to much going on in Assisted Living. We’ve had our supper, however filling it was or was not. There’s very little to complain about around here, from my point of view, but I refuse to join the ranks of those who perpetually complain about the food. It’s such a useless complaint.

All the new chefs are sent packing, almost by the end of day one, and we cannot seem to get anyone with sufficient credentials to manage our kitchen for us, because everyone who lives here is way too picky. Everyone is so impressed with how much money we pay to live here. The residents all want a five star chef to take care of us, but they don’t consider all the implications of such a situation.

A five star chef would demand a five star wage, and our very expensive residence would either have to become more expensive, or settle for a cook who knows what they’re doing. Our situation has reverted to the latter scenario, since we’ve dumped a host of chefs in the year or so that I’ve been here. I lived in a senior living facility up home, before I moved down to Dixieland, and all of our meals were superb, but there were those even there, who disagreed with me, too.

There is a semi-darkness outside, but there is no sound of any wind or rain out.

The day refuses to fold, though. It’s only a little after supper, and one gets to thinking about what more one can consume to feel a little more filled up, when one eats as sparingly as I do. No matter what I eat, I still gain weight. I can’t figure that out.

You might be interested to know that I fired my therapist today. I feel good about it, too. She had it coming. She was wasting my time, not listening to the issues I’ve gone there to talk about. Keeping me in the listener’s seat, while she marvels at such silly things as the origins of certain semantic expressions. She gave my writing a good little put me down the other day when I was there to see her, too.  I don’t have to pay money for that. I can get that for free anywhere anyone feels like being unkind. Besides all that, she was condemning my work, sight unseen. I’ve known some pretty uncouth therapists in my time.  Some were great, but some, like this last one, turned out to be down right disappointing.

You can find more of George’s Stories on Amazon and his blog.

You can also find an interview I did with him about the book we are both in called Burning Bridges: A Renegade Fiction Anthology.