Brochures about tombstones cover the coffee table. I pick one up and read through prices of polished and rough granite. Clever epitaphs? Extra letters increase the cost of inscirption. When I put the prospectus back, I notice something . . . a copy of the King James Bible sits beneath glossy leaflets. For a moment I think about reading it. maybe skim through Ezekiel or Revelation? No, I got my fill of angelic encounters the last time I read Daniel. As an atheist, maybe I read too much scripture? I glance around the office of Evergreen Memorial Gardens. Nobody else is here. I’d wanted some help, because I spent two hours walking between headstones and couldn’t find Joe Swartz. He was an old pal I fell out of touch with. When a mutual friend told me he overdosed on Demerol, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Something always came up, and I never called when I wanted to. Still, now, at this moment, all I want to do is pour some old French merlot on his grave, say, “I’m sorry,” and leave a wreath of orchids. But that mutual friend didn’t know where Joe was buried.
So in the cemetery’s office, I walk to the lobby desk and look for something to write with—I’d like to leave my name and number. If a Joseph Warden Swartz is buried here, I want a phone call. However, I find nothing but spreadsheets detailing cost analysis and profit margins. Looking closer on the desk I find a sales memo saying ‘push burial, not cremation.” On the walls, I see nothing but bronze plaques imprinted with praying hands.
beside the wiindow
overlooking the graveyard
a vending machine