Bradley rarely discusses what it’s like to be a mortician and embalm a dead body. It’s only after a few hits on the bong, a deep throated blow job, and a glass of his favorite beverage (Jack Daniel’s whiskey) that his mouth starts running carelessly, spewing forth the details of a profession that many believe is a job best left buried and in the dark. I squeezed some facts from him last night though. Just as I was getting off my knees, a reporter on CNN informed viewers of a funeral home smuggling ring. Michael Mastromarion, a former dentist and a group of his friends have been illegally harvesting human flesh, organs and other body parts from corpses in funeral homes in Philadelphia, New York and parts of New Jersey. Trafficking body parts and illegally harvesting from the dead is a lucrative, underground business driven by a growing demand for human bones and tissues. A lot of people wish to stay young and beautiful forever. The news story was the perfect moment to bring up the subject of Bradley’s abandoned career in the funeral business. I nearly choked as I listened to what the news reporter was saying. After bones are stolen from the dead, Mastromarion and his cutters placed pieces of copper pipe inside the corpses’ shells in attempts to provide structure to the embalmed bodies.
“People really don’t inspect dead relatives in detail, do they?” I asked while burping.”Hell no! Family and friends are often too distraught to care about what may have been taken from their loved ones. Who would believe anyone would have the balls to treat the dead with selfish disrespect?. Some of the funeral homes that I worked for were just like fast food chains. When death comes calling, it shouts in threes. It seems like everyone chooses to die at the same time. We get very busy as funeral directors, just like they at Burger King at lunchtime. I was never sloppy at my work, Charles, no matter how busy got. I always considered my career a craft and I took good care of those who were placed in my table.”
“I should hope so.”
“Not every mortician is like me. I’ve seen some really bad work done on bodies at Brooklyn funerals homes. The strange thing is, very few corpses look like a live person anyway. People with tears in their eyes speak up only after viewing services have ended, when it’s too late to investigate the matter and look for missing parts—‘He looked kind of funny didn’t he?’ Is what they ask after the lid is dropped on the coffin, when it’s too late to check things out, and who really wants to touch a dead body?”
“My bosses have replied to those who ask questions with statements like—‘Oh he was very ill, you know’ or ‘That’s what cancer does to a body.’ They cover up their sloppy tracks knowing damn well that they rushed through those jobs, not particularly concerned about making the bodies look human again.”
I could see he was getting upset again, just talking about his old job. I almost changed the channel and subject, but decided to let him continue.”It’s sad how they can get away with such poor quality of service,” Bradley informed as I refreshed his cocktail by dropping in a few more cubes of ice. He laughed while explaining that pale corpses are really just pure laziness on the part of funeral directors and it has nothing to do with death. Some do not take the time to carefully inject the arteries with appropriate amounts of fluids.”
Bradley claims to know how to make a dead body look alive again, unlike most others in his profession.”I think everyone should be an organ donor anyway,” I said. “They should pass a mandatory organ donor law requiring that everyone give their used bodies to science and God; that way, the living will have what is needed to stay fresh. If they pass such a law there will be no need for dentists to steal body parts. They throw the organs out anyway, right?”
“What do you mean? They get buried with the bodies?”
“Yes, we stuff them back inside.” “But don’t you have to take them out before you inject the bodies with fluid.””
Usually the organs are already removed at the hospital. It’s just like a Thanksgiving turkey with the heart, liver and gizzards placed inside a nifty little bag. Hospitals like Belleview do an excellent job with the dead. They even have orderlies that work there. I’d drive up in the hearse, flash my badge, tip the orderly $5 and he’d load up the body.””I hope you didn’t tip them out of your own pocket.”
“Of course not, the funeral home paid for that,” my lover explained.I was surprised he was talking so much last night. He never spoke so openly about the profession. Perhaps we simply never talk enough anyway, I realized as he continued to explain that years after his own father had died, while talking to his aunt at a family reunion, he learned that his dad, a man that had died when Bradley was just three, had a secret desire to become a funeral director too. Bradley’s Dad didn’t play normal childlike games when he was a kid. Neither had Bradley. They both had an infatuation for the dead. Perhaps it is a calling.
“Aunt Mary told me that when my pops was little he played a game called funeral director and he’d ask Mary to pretend she was dead so that he could practice preserving her body.””You must be joking.”
“No, Charles. I keep telling you, being a funeral director is a calling, not a profession. It’s genetic. It’s our purpose. We are drawn to the art.”I made a few mental notes and realized that they are just like writers.
“Did you get fired from a job, B? Is that why you quit?”
“No, I didn’t get fired. It was a disagreement.”
“What do you mean?”
“A woman wanted to hold her still born infant that I worked on one last time.””
And?””I let her ride in the hearse with me on the way to the graveyard and I took the baby out of the tiny little casket and placed it in her arms one last time.”
“Although I know it was only a reflex of the infants’ vocal chord, the baby left out a google while in his mother’s arms.”
“Oh, dear God,” I cried while pouring myself yet another cocktail.