About the author
Freda Myers Ellis was born and educated in Yorkshire, England. She married Joseph Ellis and had three children. Freda taught in schools in England and Australia after emigrating with her husband and son in 1969. Freda now resides on Queensland’s Gold Coast and has had a novel, Payback, and several poems published and also broadcast. She is a member of Gold Coast Writers.
my path through life, I’ve laughed and I’ve cried.
dear ones have lived: many others have died.
travelled far and wide: I’ve lived, loved and tried,
I’ll never reveal all, some things one must hide.
A GRAVE SITUATION (part sample)
is full of ups and downs,
of laughter, many frowns.
the best of it, for it’s truly said,
“You can’t do a thing about it when you’re dead”
sighed. Was this event the end of an era or as his wife Mary would say, “No,
just the beginning of a new one.”
Mary, ever the optimist.
had been made redundant along with all of his mates. The factory had finally
closed down. It wasn’t as if they weren’t expecting it. This last twelve
months had been a bonus. The boss had done his best, telling them all to look
for work elsewhere. He’d said it was easier to get it while they were still
working, but most of them had thought things would pick up. Jim had tried but it
was well nigh impossible.
collected his pay packet knowing it would be months before they got their
redundancy pay. He’d have to find something. The dole money didn’t go far.
next morning he had his breakfast and headed straight for the job center.
passed the “White Lady Funeral Parlour” on his way. ‘Stupid name,’ he
thought. Why Bill had let his wife talk him into changing it, he never knew. His
Mary had said it made you feel as if a ghost was hovering over you. Quite scary
and he knew she was right. His Mary was always right. He slowed down. He could
hear Donnie Winters coughing. He really should do something about that cough.
Couldn’t be good for business or could it. He did sound as if he had one foot
in the grave. He grinned. Just part of the scene. Dead right for a funeral
finally arrived at the job center and met some of his mates coming out, shaking
doin’, Jim. We’re all going for a pint at the Swagman.” This was their
favourite watering hole. “Are you coming?”
said Jim. “I’ve some business to see to.”
lads ambled off, muttering. Mary would murder him if he came back reeking of
beer at this hour of the day.
he made his way back, he stopped at the funeral parlour. Donny was still
coughing and Bill was arguing with him, telling him to go home and go to the
that cough seen to. It’s enough to bring them corpses back to life and we
can’t have that, you know.”
laughed. Great sense of humour had Bill, but he really was right. That cough was
can’t,” stammered Donnie between coughing. “I’ve got to pick up old Sam
strolled towards them, shaking his head.
home, Donnie. I’ll collect Sam for you, his sons will be there, they’ll help
gave a sigh of relief. “Thanks Jim.”
will you go? You can trust Jim, he’s helped before.”
said Donnie ramming his hat on his bald head. “Anything for a bit of peace,
but I won’t get that when I get home. You know Aggie, nag, nag, nag.”
Donnie, now straight to the doctor’s and ring me and tell me what he says.”
left, still breathing heavily, red in the face.
turned to Jim. “Are you sure you can do this, Jim? What time do you start
laughed. “Haven’t you heard, Bill? Factory closed down last night. We’ve
all been made redundant, so if I can earn a few dollars until I get my
redundancy pay, it will help.”
said Bill, “but I can’t pay you much because I’ll still have to pay
Donnie. He’s been with me a long time.”
okay,” said Jim. “Every little helps. I guess I’d better slip home and put
me dark clobber on. Can’t arrive looking disrespectful.”
was pleased her Jim wasn’t a proud chap. As long as they could pay the rent
and feed the family, he’d be happy doing anything.
didn’t like handling dead folk, but as his dad would have said, “Beggars
can’t be choosers.”
went along and Sam’s brothers were all there waiting for him. They helped Jim
put him gently in the van. They had washed and shaved him and put him in his
best suit. Jim thought he looked better than he’d looked in years.
back of the van had a nice soft eiderdown for him to lie on and he was settled
chattered to Amy, his wife, and she said she would be along later to choose the
coffin and Sam would nestle in it comfortably in the chapel of rest until his
went back and helped Bill and an hour later Bill had a telephone call from
Donnie’s wife. Donnie was in hospital. The doctor had insisted. He had
bronchial pneumonia. He could be off for months.
that’s put the cat among the pigeons,” said Bill. “Harry Somers won’t
last ‘til morning. His wife rang while you were out collecting Sam. So mi lad,
it looks like I’ll need you full time. I don’t reckon we’ll see Donnie for
a while, if ever. Can you stand this racket? It’s not everyone’s cup of tea,
Jim. We are busy and even if Donnie does come back, we need another man. How
about it lad?”
game,” said Jim. “It beats the dole,” and that’s just what his Mary said
when he gave her the news.
new beginning and funeral parlour’s never close shop.” She laughed. “Here
today and gone tomorrow. That’s life, Jim.”
settled into his new job a little warily. His mates pulled his leg saying,
“You know, Jim, this is another dead end job.”
ha,” said Jim, but at least he was working and learning a new trade.
was teaching him how to make the corpses look presentable, a touch of make-up
and he intended teaching him about embalming. Things could be worse. His mates
had stopped pulling his leg. They hated being on the dole.
was Monday afternoon and Bill had asked him to take old man Smithers along to
the funeral parlour.
have to take him in the hearse, Jim, the van’s in for servicing and for
God’s sake watch that catch on the back door.” He laughed, “We don’t
want him rolling back down Swan Hill, do we? Come on, mate, he’s in his
coffin. I’ll help you get him into the hearse and meet you down at the chapel
of rest in about half an hour.”
quickly got him in the hearse and off went Jim.
had tested the lock himself at the back of the hearse, so Jim didn’t worry
was at the top of the hill that Jim heard the bump. He thought he’d hit a rock
in the road. The workmen had the road up and they were not over cautious about
leaving stuff around. A bit further on at the traffic lights he did, however,
God!” he gasped. The hearse was empty! His heart missed a beat. He must find
somewhere to turn the hearse round and go back. That bump. That must have been
soon found an entry, turned the hearse round and headed back up the road.
heart was in his mouth. Oh Lord don’t let the coffin be smashed, and old
Smithers be hanging out. This was the end. All his plans for a holiday with Mary
and the kids down the drain.
last the top of the hill came into view.
he drove down, looking carefully on both sides of the road.
down he spotted it. It was swaying on the edge of the ditch outside Benson’s
property. He pulled up, but quickly realised no way could he lift that coffin
into the hearse, not without help. But he couldn’t leave it there, half on the
road and half in the ditch.
Lord, the school bus would be coming up shortly with all those cheeky kids
hanging out of the windows. He had to do something and quickly or the whole town
would know and be gathered round.
pushed and pushed until the coffin was fully in the ditch. It was on its side,
but it couldn’t be helped.
Mr. Smithers, but you can still be seen from the road and that means from the
looked round. They had recently been trimming the hedges and had left all the
cuttings, so he hurried back and forth, covering the coffin, until at last he
was satisfied the coffin could not be seen.
would be waiting at the chapel of rest, wondering where he had got to and he
would damn well go berserk when he found out what had happened.
he had done his best and it was Bill who had checked that lock on the door, so
he got into the hearse and drove off, and as he did so, the school bus followed
him, but not a peep, so he had covered it well.
he reached the chapel, Bill was pacing up and down.
the hell have you been, Jim? Having a pint with your mates?”
was not at his best. He had mud on his shoes and his clothes were filthy and his
hands were dirty and scratched. Bill was jumping up and down.
old Smithers? What have you done with him? His wife is coming to view him.”
down,” said Jim. “You will just have to put her off or bring her out to the
ditch at Swan Hill.”
face was ashen. For once he was speechless. At least that gave Jim time to tell
him the full story and he ended by saying, “Bill, it was you that checked that
lock on the hearse, not me.”
looked at Jim. “Sorry lad, my fault. What are we going to do?”
you ring her, Bill, his missus and put her off, then as soon as it gets dark,
you and I will go out and bring him back. It won’t be easy, because I covered
the coffin up. You know them school kids. It would have been a nine-day wonder.
We will take a torch and gumboots. It won’t be easy, Bill, he’s in the
are right. Sorry,” said Bill again. “It was my fault. I should have had that
lock fixed months ago. You did your best, lad, more than your best. I can see
that now. Go home and get cleaned up and come back as soon as it gets dark.”
night around 7pm, as Bill said everyone would be having their evening meal, they
left in the hearse to collect old Smithers.
course, it proved to be more difficult in the dark than they have anticipated.
couldn’t quite remember where he had left the coffin. It was so different in
the dark and they were almost at the point of giving up when Jim found the spot.
“Eureka!” he yelled.
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