“Mister Noferryman”

“Hey there. Are you the caretaker of this cemetery?”

“No. Not exactly.”

“Oh. Loved ones here?”

“No. Not exactly.”

“Sorry. It’s just, I always see you walking around here. Don’t kill me for being curious.”

“I’m not the caretaker of this cemetery. I’m the caretaker’s supplier.”

“Well, that sure explains it. How’s the pay?”

“Well, I’d actually be making some money if I had a cup like yours!”

“A dollar and seventy-five cents a day is not enough to make a living, I’m afraid. And those are just the good days. If you could even call them that.”

“But is it enough for you to get them across?”

“Pardon?”

“You know, to sail all these deep sleepers over to the world of the dead. I mean, you are the ferryman, right? You look like him, with your ragged black clothes. Where did you leave your boat?”

“I’m no ferryman. But I sure wish I had a boat. I would sail away from this limbo.”

“Sounds to me like you need a ferryman. Sorry, I’m a sucker for mythology. Wait a minute! You said you always see me walking around here. Then that means you’re always walking around here.”

“Every day.”

“Why’s that? Loved ones? Or are you secretly the caretaker of this cemetery? Wow, are you making sure I’m doing my job? How long have you been watching me?”

“My wife. She’s right there. Under your feet.”

“What monster took her? Was it cancer? Depression? Violence? You?”

“It was… a three-headed monster.”

“Pardon?”

“He broke in… on all fours… wearing the severed heads of our neighbor’s dogs. One like a mask, the other two on each of his shoulders. After shooting both of my legs he… grabbed her and… ripped her throat out… with his own teeth. With his own teeth, he… ripped her—”

“I am really sorry, Mister Noferryman. I really am.”

“Doctors said it was a miracle I could walk again. But her loss had already crippled me for life. I didn’t want to walk. I didn’t want to do anything. She was the four walls and roof that kept me safe. She was my home. And it was all taken away by that crazy—”

“Wow. Well, since I’m the only one here in any condition to be a betting man, I bet you would love to see her again. In the flesh. Wouldn’t you?”

“How?”

“Well, part of my job description requires my hands to get dirty. Pretty often. Just give me a minute, okay? My shovel’s over there behind that sad tree. Stay right there.”

“I want to, but… no. Not like this. No. This isn’t right.”

“Oh come on, Mister Noferryman! I know you’re dying to see her again. To feel her again. Every inch of the four walls and roof you lost. I bet you would love to be inside your home again. Inside her.”

“Oh, God, yes. More than anything!”

“Wow. You flatter me! But I’m not God. Not exactly. I’m just the supplier.”

***

“I have one more body for you, Mister Caretaker! A man named Mister Noferryman.

“Mister Caretaker? Are you home?

“Mister Caretaker?

“Wow, are you ignoring me?

“Sweet Judas. So let me get this straight: I supply this lovely cemetery of yours with cold bodies, and you only give me the cold shoulder in return. How is that fair?

“I’m starting to think you’re not worthy of my services!

“Do you know how much money was saved here today? No funeral cost. At all. Nothing. Mister Noferryman’s burial cost F.R. dollars and double-E cents. I even saved you space! One burial plot with two characters sharing a happily-ever-after ending. On top of that, I practically gave every decent person in this city a free snack. When a homeless person dies, a vending machine wins!

“Still giving me the cold shoulder? Fine. Then that’s all you’re getting, too! I’m taking the rest of Mister Noferryman with me.”

***

“Good morning, Mister Caretaker! Have you seen the news?

“Oh, come on, I know you have a television in there.

“Mister Noferryman was actually the ferryman! I knew that’s who he really was deep down on the inside. I knew it from the moment I first laid eyes on him. I just had to eat the flesh from his bones to prove it.

“So, a group of kids found him in an overturned boat in the river. He wasn’t alone! They found his black-cloaked, one-armed skeleton along with his wife’s corpse.

“Hey, what did you do with the arm I left you, Mister Caretaker?”