The Undertaker – Bob Selcrosse

I went to see the undertaker.
Get in, he said.
He brandished his shovel.
It’s easy, he said.
He gave me his shovel and climbed into the hole.
Throw dirt on me, he said.
Was this a trick? Wouldn’t he raise up higher and higher, the fresh ground settling beneath him, until he was up above ground again? This was undertaker humor. They are like the clowns of death, pulling scarves continuously out from their throats until we must cease to look. I put the dirt on him.
Over time, I gave him the dirt. It ceased to move.
A boy in rags, came.
Where is the grave digger? He said.
He is under one of these thousands of stones, I said.
He felt around in my pockets.
His mother appeared.
They held out little bowls. Feed us, they said. You are a daddy-murderer, they said.
I took them back to the undertaker’s household.
I washed the boy’s clothing and rubbed the woman’s head.
Although we are both workers in death, I, the coffin maker, am fulfilled.
With the boy on my lap and the woman at my disposal, I ate plenty of bread.
I made a telescope of pipe and glass. I taught my family to look at the stars.
Then the undertaker came back from the dead.
I found him in the town, causing a riot. The many cut sacks of flower. Hiding men under an awning.
What are you doing? I said.
I am confused and alone, he said.
I grabbed him. He was grey. His mouth opened and closed.
Why am I alive? he said.
You have come back. It’s a miracle, I said.
His wife and child emerged and pelted him with stones. He began a speech to them about love and what he’d seen underground—the chiming of bells, the honking of horns, the myriad of polka dots. He walked into the stones to approach them.
Eventually, he became a hand under a pile of stones.
I pulled him up and his hand came off. It was rubber. I pulled the real hand underneath—also rubber.

Bob Selcrosse grew up with his mother, selling books, in the Pacific Northwest. He is now working on a book about a book. It is based in the Pacific Northwest. The book is The Cabinet of Children.

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