Staying Alive

Shay Keliher

He felt cold and alone . . . probably because he was dead. I assumed that that wasn’t going to increase
his body temperature. With intelligence like this, it was a wonder how I failed the Science course in
university.

I looked at the body in the coffin, his pale, clammy scalp gently resting on the red velvet lining of his new
home. I looked at the suit he was wearing and frowned: the tie was slightly loose. I sighed and put my
cup of tea down on the table next to me and walked to the coffin.

I tightened the tie and looked into the man’s glassy, soulless eyes and shivered nervously. I always found
the job of being an undertaker to be rather disturbing. I was always surrounded by the dead.

I picked up my cup of tea and took a sip before spitting it out in disgust . . . all over the corpse of Mr
Filson. I sighed in frustration and grabbed a rag from the table next to me and began to wipe the drops
of tea off of Mr. Filson’s clammy scalp.

As I was doing this, the door behind me clicked open. I looked over my shoulder as the tall, gangly figure
of my boss, Mr. Grainger, stooped under the doorway.

“Evening, James,” He droned in his lifeless voice.

“Well yes I suppose it is,” I mumbled under my breath.

Mr. Grainger looked at me and frowned. “Excuse me James, what are you doing?” he asked.

“Poor Mr. Filson spilled his tea all over his new shirt,” I replied, continuing to rub the tea into Filson’s
shirt.

“Yes, well I have some bad news.”

“And that would be?” I asked.

“We took the measurements incorrectly: the coffin’s too long for the grave.” Grainger said.

“Well, get the gravedigger to make it a bit longer.” I said, not quite understanding why he was telling me
this.

“I would love to, but, unfortunately, paying him overtime would cost too much.”

I threw the rag to one side and turned to face him, “And I am being told this because . . .?”

Mr. Grainger smiled before reaching into his jacket and pulling out a saw.

“Your overtime fee is much less, however, now get to work!,” he said, before thrusting the saw into my
hands. As he stormed out of the room, I clenched my fists in anger. A sharp pain shot through my body
and I cursed loudly as the blade of the saw dug into my hands. I dropped the saw to the floor and
hopped about on the spot in pain before grabbing the saw off of the floor and turning back to the coffin.

* * * * * *

“What do you mean you cut too much off?” Mr. Grainger asked me an hour later.

I wiped some sweat off of my forehead and sighed, “I cut too much off and now the body won’t fit in the
coffin.”

He looked at me with a deadpan expression. “Well come on,” he said, “let’s see it.”

I led him from his office to the room where Mr. Filson was being held. I pushed the door open and
stepped inside. I stepped to the side so Mr. Grainger could see Filson.

“Ah, I see what you mean.” Grainger said.

The coffin was now a few inches shorter at each end, leaving the top of Filson’s head exposed and his
feet dangling out.

“So now what are you going to do?” Grainger asked.

“What am I going to do?!” I asked him in outrage.

“Well you got yourself into this mess.”

“You’re the one who told me to cut bits of the coffin off!” I yelled at him.

“Please be quiet.” Grainger said.

“Oh yeah, poor Mr. Filson might get a headache!” I snapped.

“Look,” Grainger said, “I’ll help you fit him in.”

“How?” I asked.

“Simple, we bend his knees and force the lid down over him.”

“Will that work?” I asked.

“Maybe not, but we can try.”

“Fair enough.” I shrugged.

We both walked to the coffin and looked down at the now slightly exposed body of Mr. Filson. Grainger
pushed his legs up slightly so they were bent and then eased him into a position so he would fit easily in
the coffin.

I grabbed the lid from the floor and we both lifted it onto the coffin.

“Sir,” I started, “I don’t think this’ll work.”

“It’ll be fine, we just need to apply a little force and it’ll close easily.” Grainger replied as he pushed the
lid down with a bit more force than usual.

After a moment where we both tried very hard to slam the lid down, Mr. Filson was pushed out the
other end. He landed on the floor with a dull thud and Grainger and I shared a glance.

“Excellent job, James.” Grainger sighed.

“It was your fault!” I protested.

“Never mind, never mind,” Grainger said as he bustled over to Filson’s body, “just help me get him back
into the coffin.”

“Well, how are we going to get him into the coffin?” I asked.

“Do you still have the saw?”

“Well, I’d say that today isn’t Mr. Filson’s finest hour.” I said as Mister Grainger handed me one of
Filson’s now removed feet.

“Indeed!” Mr. Grainger said through gritted teeth, as he began to cut through the other one.

“And this will be enough to fit him into the coffin?” I asked.

“I hope so.”

* * * * * *

“So it turns out that he won’t fit in?” I asked.

“Seems that way, yes.” Grainger said as he lobbed Filson’s feet into the coffin.

“What now?” I asked.

“Pauper’s grave?”

“Yeah.”

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