Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In the Pipeline - by Kyle Heger

For all the warmth she exuded, the
young woman with long lashes
could just as easily have been selling
fruit smoothies or cell phones as
burial services while we discussed
what to do with your remains, sitting
in an office that reminded me far too
much of the one where I had been
suckered into making my first and last
time-share condominium purchase
after a three-margarita sales pitch.

But at least she represented something
individually human: a voice, a pair of
eyes, a customized name tag. So, when,
on the day on which the interment had
been scheduled, I discovered that she
was not on the premises, that she had
broken her commitment to accompany
me through the process, that she had,
instead, without telling me, foisted me
off on a salesman I’d never met, I was
dismayed. Behind their counter, staff
members broke away from a spirited
conversation about football long enough
to greet with equal parts surprise, contempt
and amusement my request that your ashes
be treated a bit more gingerly than a sack
of dirty laundry. Was I one of those party-
pooper consumer activists they’d been
warned against? Did I need Sherlene to
hold my hand during what was, after all,
a pretty cut-and-dried process? Who was
I to blow the whistle on somebody who
always brings such great cheesecakes to
company potlucks? When they passed me
off on the manager, he was careful not to
admit that any wrongdoing had occurred,
in case I had a lawsuit up my sleeve, but,
wanting to keep on the good side of the
Better Business Bureau, he grudgingly set
another date and gave me the cold comfort
of an assurance that he himself would be
there to assist me.

But as I stand here now, watching a little
concrete box lowered into the open earth
on a hillside overlooking the San Francisco
Bay, I realize that it would be easier for a
disgruntled funeral-home employee to
desecrate your ashes than it would be for
an unhappy fast-food worker to spit in the
milk shake, and I can’t help wondering what
is really being covered up with soil (maybe
just a bundle of unopened junk mail) while
your remains are swirling toward the bay
in the sewers. 


 Kyle Heger, former managing editor of “Communication World” magazine, lives in Albany, CA. His writing has appeared in “The Binnacle,” “eFiction,” “Five Poetry,” “Foliate Oak,” “Milk Sugar,” “Miller’s Pond,” “Nerve Cowboy,” “Poem,” “The Santa Clara Review,” “Third Wednesday,” “The Thorny Locust” and other publications.

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