Funeral Home ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Trilby showed them the embalming room and they were duly impressed by the stainless steel table and cabinets full of bottles.
“Don’t touch anything,” Trilby said, “or I’m going to have to kill you.”
“It must be so interesting to live in a funeral home,” Pinky said.
“Yeah, it’s a million laughs.”
“I want to see the caskets,” Jo said. “I’ll pick out the one I want to be buried in.”
“Are you planning on dying soon?” Pinky asked.
“Well, you never know.”
Trilby was hosting a Saturday night sleepover for her two best pals, Jo and Pinky. Her parents were away for the weekend and they had the whole place to themselves. As usual, she had to include her eleven-year-old brother Warren in the tour, in supper, and in everything else they did. Otherwise, he’d give a full report to mother and daddy and he would make it all sound so much worse than it had been.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight after seeing the embalming room,” Jo said.
“Don’t be silly,” Trilby said. “It’s not scary unless they have a body on the table.”
“Why don’t they have one now?”
“Gee, I wasn’t able to arrange it. Maybe next time.”
“Would they let us watch them embalm a body if they had one?” Pinky asked.
“Of course not,” Trilby said. “What do you think this is? A fun house?”
“I watched once,” Warren said. “There was blood everywhere!”
“You did not, you big fat liar!” Trilby said. “Daddy would never allow you near a body.”
“He didn’t know I was watching. I was watching through a peephole.”
“What peephole? There isn’t any peephole.”
“I was dreaming that I was watching him embalm a body through a peephole.”
“That’s not quite the same thing, is it?”
“I’m going to be an embalmer when I grow up, just like daddy,” Warren said. “Then I can see as many dead bodies as I want.”
“You won’t want to see them, then,” Trilby said.
Warren ran on ahead and hid in the dark showroom where the caskets were kept. When Trilby, Jo and Pinky came into the room, he hid behind a casket and jumped out at them before the lights were on.
Jo and Pinky screamed and Pinky wet her pants. Warren laughed and Trilby made him apologize and promise to stop bothering them.
“Why don’t you go on to bed, Warren? We don’t need you here. You’re spoiling the party.”
“I thought we were going to watch a movie.”
“Jo, Pinky, and I are going to watch a movie. You’re going to bed.”
“I’m going to tell mother. She told you to include me in the pajama party.”
“Why do you want to hang with girls?” Jo asked. “Most boys don’t like to do that.”
“He’s really a girl himself,” Trilby said, “only he doesn’t know it yet.
“Shut up!” Warren said. “I am not a girl!”
“All right, you’re not a girl. How about you go on upstairs and be quiet for the rest of the evening?”
“Shut up! I can be here if I want!”
Pinky came back from changing her underpants and they began touring the casket showroom.
“Oh, there are so many of them,” Jo said, “and they’re all so pretty!”
She found a copper-colored one with salmon lining that she especially liked. She started to get in and lie down.
“Take off your shoes first!” Trilby said. “If you get any dirt in there, daddy will be sure to notice it and I’ll get the blame.”
Jo lay back in the casket and giggled. “Close the lid,” she said. “I want to see what it feels like to be dead.”
Pinky closed the lid and Jo squealed. “It’s so cozy and snug in here,” Jo said. “Quite comfortable.”
“I want to try it,” Pinky said.
She found a silvery, steel casket that she liked, kicked off her shoes and got in. “Close the lid!” she said. “This is really nice.”
“I want to do it, too!” Warren said.
“No!” Trilby said. “You haven’t had a bath in a while.”
“I’ll tell mother that you let the others do it and you wouldn’t let me,” he said.
He found a white casket with rose trim a couple of rows over and got in and lay down. He reached up and pulled the lid closed himself.
“You’d feel funny if the lid got stuck,” Trilby said.
After they had all three felt what it was like to be dead and Trilby was trying to corral them back upstairs before something bad happened, Jo noticed the museum piece made of metal against the wall.
“It’s not like the others,” she said.
“It’s over a hundred years old,” Trilby said. “It’s been used before. My dad shows it to all his friends.”
“Do you mean there was somebody once buried in it?” Jo asked, obviously fascinated.
“I guess that’s what they mean when they say it was used before,” Trilby said.
Jo approached the box and pushed up the partly closed lid. “Oh, look!” she said. “Red velvet lining! Did you ever see anything so elegant in all your life?”
She got in and lay down and Pinky closed the lid.
“I don’t think I’d do that if I were you,” Trilby said. “There’s something funny about that box.”
“What’s funny about it?” Pinky asked.
“It has a trick lock or something.”
After a minute, Jo said from inside the box, “All right, you can open the lid now.”
Pinky went to raise the lid but it wouldn’t budge. “It’s stuck,” she said.
Trilby helped her and then Warren helped too. The three of them were pushing up on the lid with all their might, but it wouldn’t move.
“That’s what happens when you do shit you’re not supposed to do,” Trilby said.
“Let me out!” Jo called. “I can’t breathe!”
“She’s panicking!” Pinky said.
“Hold on!” Trilby said in a loud voice. “We’ll have you out in a minute!”
“What are we going to do?” Pinky said. “It won’t open.”
“She’ll die in there,” Warren said.
“Oh, thank you for that!” Trilby said. “You’re such a big help!”
Trilby sent Warren to the garage for the crowbar and while he was gone she and Pinky kept pushing up on the lid.
“Get me out!” Jo said.
They heard her kicking and banging with her fists on the underside of the lid and after a while they heard her crying.
“Just lie still and try to remain calm,” Trilby said. “You’ll use up what little oxygen is in there.”
Warren returned with the crowbar and Trilby looked for a seam where she might insert the edge of it to pry the lid open, but there were no seams.
“Oh, my!” Pinky said. “I think we’d better call the police.”
“No!” Trilby said. “If we do that, my parents will have to know!”
They kept trying to think of a way to get the box open and, after a half hour or so, they no longer heard Jo moving around and whimpering.
“I think she’s dead,” Warren said.
“She is not dead!” Trilby said. “We’ll get her out. We just need to figure out how this thing opens!”
“What is your mother going to say?” Pinky asked.
“She is going to have an absolute fit,” Trilby said. “I’m afraid there won’t be any more sleepovers.”
Not knowing what else to do, Trilby began looking on the sides of the box for a release or a button to push or anything that might open the lid. She covered every inch with her hands and found nothing.
Unnoticed by Trilby and Pinky, Warren got down on the floor underneath the box and there he found a latch which, when released, cause the lid to spring open.
Jo wasn’t dead. Jo was not in the box.
“She’s gone!” Pinky said, not believing her eyes.
“Just stay calm,” Trilby said. “She can’t be gone.”
“She’s hiding,” Pinky said. “She’s playing a trick on us.”
“What did you do?” Trilby demanded of Warren. “Is this one of your tricks?”
“I didn’t do anything!” Warren said. “I got the lid to open, didn’t I?”
After looking all over the room for Jo and not finding her, Trilby and Pinky went back upstairs with Warren trailing.
“She’ll come out whenever she feels like it,” Trilby said, “and have a good laugh on us for being such dopes.”
They watched a movie and had popcorn and hot chocolate. They expected Jo to come out at any moment with a big grin on her face, but she didn’t appear.
Before going to bed, they went back down to the showroom and searched again. The old metal box was just as they had left it. No sign of Jo.
“Do you think she went home?” Pinky asked.
“I’m sure that’s where she is,” Trilby said. “I’m never going to speak to her again for scaring us like this.”
Sunday morning they awoke at eight-thirty. After a breakfast of donuts and scrambled eggs, Trilby forced Warren against his will to call Jo at home. Jo wasn’t there, her mother said. She spent the night at a friend’s house and was expected home any minute.
“She didn’t go home,” Pinky said. “What can it mean?”
“It means I’m going to kill her the next time I see her,” Trilby said.
Again they went back down to the showroom. They walked up and down the rows of caskets, looking for anything amiss. Everything, including the metal casket where they had last seen Jo, was just as they had left it the night before.
They stood looking down into the old casket, as if there they might find some clue. Trilby tried to lift up the velvet lining, but it was sown fast.
Outside they heard the faint sounds of a dog barking and a truck going by out front. When those sounds ceased, they heard something else.
“Did you hear that?” Pinky asked.
“I heard something,” Trilby said, “but I don’t know what it was.”
It was like sobbing coming from far away and then they heard the words: Get me out of here!
“It’s her!” Pinky said.
“It couldn’t be!” Trilby said.
“I know her. I know her voice.”
“It’s probably Warren playing one of his tricks.”
She called Warren down to the showroom and, when he was standing there beside them, they heard it again: Please help me! Get me out of here!
The words were faint but unmistakable.
“We have to try to help her!” Pinky said.
“You get in,” Trilby said, “and I’ll close the lid.”
“What kind of fool do you take me for?”
“My parents will be back this afternoon,” Trilby said. “If we don’t find Jo by then, we’re in a lot of trouble.”
Without further discussion, Pinky got into the old box and Trilby closed the lid but, with her fingers, kept it from going down all the way. After five minutes inside the box, Pinky got out, having discovered nothing inside except an old musty smell.
“You won’t find her that way,” Warren said.
“How do you know?” Trilby asked.
“I saw it happen in a dream.”
“Saw what happen?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“How did the dream turn out?”
“You don’t think I’m going to tell you, do you?”
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp