The white mortuary bed was clean and vacant. Randy’s boom box was silent and the cold little room with its waxy smell and creepy embalming machine was deserted. Good. Nora sat down at the staff table in the back of the mortuary and pulled her phone out of her pocket.
A man’s voice was coming from somewhere… Nora looked around and noticed that the big steel back door was propped open by a squished box of latex gloves. Nora listened. She heard Randy’s cackling laugh coming through the crack.
Randy was about the only person in the place she could stand. Nora pushed through the big heavy door. He sat at a rickety old picnic table next to a loading dock ramp. Across from him sat some old person, and between them, on the table, a bottle of booze and Randy’s travel mug. Randy turned at the creak of the door.
“Hey! Nora! How are you doing?”
Nora smiled at them and sat down on a plastic chair next to the picnic table.
Randy introduced Nora to the old man. “Jim, this here’s Nora. She’s a bit of a newby. She’s in charge of laundry and pretty soon I think I’ll have her convinced to apprentice in the mortuary.” Randy and his friend laughed.
“Yeah, no. I’m fine with laundry.”
The old guy pulled out his phone and looked at it. “It’s my daughter,” he grunted. “Wants to take me out for lunch.”
Nora tried to be witty and join the conversation. “Huh. I take it you’re not a big fan of Loretta’s home-made elbow macaroni and cheese?”
Jim snorted at her. “That Loretta’s a nice kid, but can’t cook to save her life.” Randy and Nora laughed. Randy took a swig at his travel mug and Jim took a slug from the whiskey bottle. Nora cringed.
“I been trying to get her to join me at ballroom dance lessons, but she’s one hard nut to crack.”
Dancing. It was the last straw for Nora in grade 10 PE. The school was so PC liberal that they only taught dances that weren’t for couples, because they didn’t want to suggest that students had to fit into binary gender roles by teaching male/female dance parts. However, they still had a boys team and a girls team for every sport that existed on the planet. “Maybe check out line dancing,” Nora said. “You don’t need a partner.”
The old guy guffawed. “Thanks for the tip, sweetheart. But what’s the fun of dancing without a pretty lady on your arm? Say… maybe you’d like to be my date? Every Thursday night at the leisure center!”
Nora swallowed some spit down the wrong pipe and choked into her sleeve while Randy chortled.
“I don’t think that would be appropriate, Mr… um… What room are you in, anyway?” Nora did not remember ever seeing this old man in the home.
They were both laughing again. Randy said, “Nora, Jim’s not a resident.”
“Lord! What do you– I’m only seventy-eight! I’m not even retired yet!”
Nora felt her ears and cheeks turning red.
“Jesus! What a kid!”
Jim got up and dusted his jeans off. “She’s gonna meet me out front o’ my house. Guess I’d better take off.” He went and picked up a motorcycle helmet off a motorcycle sitting up against the loading dock wall. Nora couldn’t believe it. She’d just assumed that was Randy’s motorcycle. She looked at Randy and he half-winked at her. Old Jim put the helmet on his half bald head, clipped it up, and sat down on the bike seat. With a flick of a wrist and a slight step with his boot, the motorcycle varoomed to life. Jim gave a two-finger salute at the brim of the helmet and took off, spraying gravel and dust behind the fat rear tire.