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Beneficiaries

Alan McCabe was born into the funeral business. His grandfather was the founder of Serene Pastures funeral home. The old man left the care of his legacy to his son, Martin. The twenty-seven years Martin ran Serene Pastures were steady, and upon his death, he passed the family business onto his son Allan.

Martin saw to it Alan was well versed in the trade. He taught his son and protege to be a capable mortician and businessman. His dutiful wife Elizabeth was a dependable and competent administrator between the two of them they were able to run a tight ship. Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t always remain so favorable.

Death is a steady business to be sure but the area Serene Pastures serviced became less and less lucrative over the years. The elderly died debt-ladened and abandoned by their kin in local morgues. No one had money to spring for grandma and grandpas memorial services. Heroin overdoses kept a trickle of business flowing, but these were more often than not very modest aff…

The Luddites

It was a typical Midwestern late fall evening. The dower grey sky had dimmed into a cloudy starless night illuminated only by the swelling stream of headlights from rush hour traffic. Ryan was standing on a street corner watching the oncoming cars hoping the next pair of lights might be his ride.
A low and gentle breeze stirred the dry leaves and styrofoam cups covering the sidewalk. Ryan clenched his cold fists in the pockets of his coat and lowered his head presaging the icy gust of air that followed.
“C’mon, C'mon,” he muttered.
He saw a black Prius break away from the current of commuters and slowly approached the curb.
“Finally.”
He acknowledged the driver with a wave and the car came to a stop. Ryan slid in the back seat and greeted the driver.
“Hey, how are ya?” He asked.
“Good,” she replied. “And you?”
“Fine fine,” Ryan said.
The driver looked at the GPS receiver mounted on the windshield.
“So let’s see we’re going to 4453 south whatever,” her voice trailed as she finished…

Call it what you will

The twenty-four day old Olivia Bennet made her family debut at her grandmother’s funeral. Nothing unites people like a common enemy and death certainly is the one thing we all have in common.  There were three generations of people milling around the cold corpse of a woman many of them never met more than once or in Olivia’s case not at all.

Olivia’s mother, the bereaved and beloved daughter of the deceased, Charlotte Bennet stood by her mother’s casket, cradling her newborn while accepting condolences. Her husband stood stiffly by her side, his eyes cast down, and his hands folded in front of him but still looking a bit unsure of how sad he should appear to me.

“That’s just the proper amount of mourning,” she assured her confused husband.

“She’ll always live on in our memories,” was a recurring sentiment. Charlotte wanted to ask them “Her own granddaughter will never even meet her, whose memories is she going to live on in?”

Charlotte decided against having that outburst as cathartic…

Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Karnot propped up his tired old body with his cane and quietly watched as a group of parents showed their children how to dig a small irrigation ditch. On most days a sight such as that would be enough to move the otherwise stalwart man to tears.  The 66-year-old Karnot had lost his only child, and now it was far too late for him to have another. For a man in his twilight years, it was a very lonely apocalypse. It would all die with him. But this time watching the process of one generation passing on knowledge to the next quelled his sadness. The old pioneer may not have carried his genes into the cosmos, but he could be sure he was leaving a hard fought for legacy. The survival of any species is never more than a numbers game. Life, especially in it’s more complex forms is exceedingly fragile. Matter will only take on consciousness for the briefest of periods before entropy tears the physical form apart and scatters the pieces into oblivion. Make as many copies as you can as quickly a…

Yahweh

It was a serenely quiet morning. Adam sat at the marble kitchen island, charging his phone, and occasionally glancing at the morning’s paper. The autumn sun poured through the glass patio doors into the toy-filled living room. The pool of light illuminated most of the downstairs area, so there was no reason to turn on any of the electric fixtures.
Adam picked up a mug of hot coffee, he held it just below his chin and let the aromatic steam gently rise to his nose. He took a sip. When he put the ceramic mug back on the counter that was the loudest noise anywhere in the house. Adam savored the silence.
The paper was more engaging than usual. Adam couldn’t remember the last time he was able to read through a full article without any interruptions. Adam was a man keen on making the most of these sporadic times of almost meditative stillness. Career and family made them quite rare.
He was nearing the end of the sports section when the doorbell rang. Adam was reluctant to stand up, but then…

Jack the Corgi

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In the predawn hours, when the soft light of the rising morning sun defuses through the sky coloring the inky black of night with diluted hues of orange and purple a procession of four police cars and a black Rolls Royce were speeding through a lamp-lit street of London.
The convoy stopped in front of a modest row house. The police units quickly sprang from their cars and formed a perimeter around the house.
The driver of the Rolls-Royce stepped out of the car to open the door for his esteemed passenger. A long and slender figured in a pinstriped suit emerged from the back. He adjusted his wire-frame glasses and tie as he walked into the house.
“Inspector Claremont,” a burly man with thinning red hair and a bushy mustache greeted the lanky sophisticate with an outstretched hand.
“Andrew Melbourne,”
“I take it you’re the one from the palace then?” The barrel-chested officer said.
“Yes, that would be me. Now, where is Jack?”
Claremont’s face took on a grim composure, and he silently po…

The Hotel Ascendancy

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Max didn’t remember stumbling into his room or falling face first across his bed. He was at a party, he blinked, and suddenly it was morning. His parched tongue was like a sponge that had absorbed and retained all the vile flavors of the festivities. His brain felt like it pulsing against the inside of his skull, and he clenched his eyes shut to try and alleviate the pain.
Rays of split across the blinds covering the balcony door. The sounds of mingling voices and splashing water drifted up from the courtyard pool. Max reached for the phone on the nightstand and dialed the front desk.
A soft-spoken woman immediately answered. “Asdenecy front desk, this is Jane how can I help you?”
“Hi, this is room 520. Could you have them send up my Suboxone please?” Max mumbled.
“Absolutely, I’ll notify the pharmacy right away!” Jane said dutifully.
It was another day in paradise, but for Max, it was his last day.
In the official pamphlet, the Ascendency described itself as a “wellness resort.” The…