I was about eight when I spent a week in a funeral home. My brother, Paul, was working his way through Seattle Pacific College by maintaining the hearses and family cars at the Green Lake Funeral Home in the city. He actually lived in the funeral home, having a room at the end of the hallway on the same floor where dead bodies lay in coffins open for viewing. The viewing rooms were separated by walls, but open to the hallway. At the other end of the hallway was the stairway going down to the main floor. But if you turned right after walking out of Paul’s room, there was a shorter hall leading to a service elevator, a rickety transport that carried employees and supplies and bodies to the different levels of the building, including the basement where the prep room was and also storage space. The garage, where Paul worked, was a separate building off the back parking lot. I lived in Blaine at the time, a small border town renowned for the great Peace Arch monument between the U.S. and Canada. And when Paul came home from college on rare occasions, it would be a dream-come-true for a young boy. I practically idolized my big brother. He gave me my first (and only) electric train set. He gave me my first BB gun. When I had chicken pox, he took me on Saturday to the school ball field where we flew engine-powered model airplanes. And when Paul suggested I spend a week with him in Seattle, I was on top of the world.
During the day in the big city, Paul and I would walk down the street and sing “Cindy, Oh Cindy” together. When I admired a pogo stick in the window, Paul bought it for me. Years later, when we lived in Allen, our Grandpa took this pogo stick outside to jump on it. He was 85-years-old and had always wanted to try a pogo stick. He bounced three good bounces on it, then tipped completely horizontal in the air and slammed on his side on the cement. He only had the wind knocked out of him. Three years later, Grandpa single-handedly built his last house, and he lived to be almost 98 and was buried in a coffin he crafted himself.
|The old Green Lake Funeral Home is now |
the Billings Middle School
I thought of these things while watching TV, but eventually, prime time ended, and the shows became boring. One night I became bored enough to try venturing down to join Paul in the garage. I turned off the TV and opened the door and peered down the long hallway. I had walked down that hallway before, shielding my eyes from the dead bodies on the left, but Paul had been with me. Alone there was no way I would do that, so I turned right to go down the shorter hallway to the elevator. I was terrified…but bored.
I quickly walked to the elevator. Was I being followed? Had a body climbed out of a coffin, and turned the corner behind me? I was too afraid to look. Was a corpse walking stiffly and silently after me, reaching? I pushed the button and heard the rattling transport begin its way up to me. It seemed to take forever. The elevator cage door slid open and I darted in and turned around, relieved that nothing had been following me. The main problem with this service elevator is that it had no light, and when it started moving, I was in pitch darkness. Then it happened. A thump! There was a big thump behind me in the dark. I wasn’t alone! Surely a zombie stood behind me!
When the elevator stopped at the lower floor and the door slid open thousands of years later, I ran out and to the garage in a panic, hollering to Paul that someone else was on it. Clinging to my big brother, we went back to check. In the back of the elevator were stacks of boxes, and because of the machine’s jolting, one box had fallen down. Knowing my brother, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had set the box to do that.
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