Where was I? My woozy mind struggled to regain my bearings and what the heck had happened, but all I had to cling to was complete and utter darkness. I used my hands to feel around.
Four narrow walls.
Four narrow walls? I lifted up my head and bumped up against a ceiling.
Pinprick memories of the past few hours started to return. I remembered...a funeral parlor. A coffin. Wait, a coffin?
Oh my God, I’d been buried alive!
In a complete Spanish panic, I started to claw and push my way out from confinement. I went totally Uma Thurman from Kill Bill (Part Deux)! My hands pushed up against the narrow ceiling, I tried to free myself from the narrow cell I found myself trapped in. And all too quickly, I heard a ripping of fabric and the ceiling gave way. There was a loud crash next to me, and then, I was free.
Alive! Now I knew how Martin Luther King felt-I felt free at last, free at last, thank God I was free at last! I lay there, panting and sweaty, and feeling better than after a good night of anal stimulation.
And then, and only then, I started to get my bearings. I was still in the dark, but it was no longer the heavy oppressing darkness I had been enclosed in, like a fly trapped in amber. I saw a darkened ceiling above me and what appeared to be some sort of plant life to my side. Plant life?
Yes! Violets...and roses. A wedding bouquet? Strange, dear, but true. And to my right, there seemed to be a large dark box...and next to that, mere inches from my fingers, what appeared to be a battered picture frame.
Using all the strength remaining, I strained my fingers to reach for it. Careful, careful! The glass inside the heavy mahogany frame was clearly cracked and broken. I dragged the frame to my chest, lifted it up. Squinted my eyes to read in the darkness.
Although the photo in the frame had ripped, I could still decipher the inscription. “Loving husband, first rate realtor, master thespian.”
Egad! I knew exactly where I was. I remembered precisely what had occurred. In a rush, the events of the evening came back to me. I had been spying. Then, I knew just how Jesus felt. Then, a whispered confession, right before darkness fell.
And somehow, no one ever realized I was passed out cold underneath a cold corpse! What a damn amateurish funeral home this was. Hadn’t it occurred to anyone to look under the coffin before turning out the lights? Which meant I was all alone in the funeral parlor, just me and my dead corpse.
A creepy feeling...well, crept over me, as I realized that I was surrounded by stiffs, including the one stiff that had reason to hate me. It was a complete Night of the Living Dead moment.
I rubbed my fingers against the mahogany frame. And of course, that meant the heavy box to my side had to be the master thespian and first rate realtor himself. Brilliant.
What was I saying? What had I done? The horrors of my actions started to sink in. Feeling weak as a kitten (and guilty as hell), I slowly lifted myself up from the floor and dusted myself off.
My eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness. Meaning, I had a better view of the damaged coffin in front of me.
“Oh, RJ.” Stumbling along, I staggered to the coffin. Had I broken it? Had the body fallen out? What if the coffin had landed upside down and I had accidentally decapitated him? Oh, this couldn’t be happening to me! This was surely not going to earn me any brownie points as the lead suspect in RJ’s murder.
“RJ.” I moved my hand through the wreckage until I encountered human flesh. Yes, there! I felt a hard protuberance and a soft mound of hair. Wait, please say that’s not what I think it is...
I moved my face forward, my mouth open and my tongue hanging out, wondering what exactly I was touching. Oh, wait. Thank God! It was only RJ’s nose. But wait, was the head still attached to the shoulders? Just to be on the safe side, I gave it a good yank.
It held. Well, that was a relief. At least I wouldn’t be charged with decapitating a corpse. Only destroying his coffin and disturbing his final resting place.
“Ah, RJ.” At last, we were face to face, so close that I could smell the sickly scent of formaldehyde coursing through his veins. My lips were practically touching his. How fitting: he, who had been kissed by the angel of death, so close to me, who had seen my life shattered by that deadly kiss. Best that I should kiss his rotting corpse, and get it over with.
“RJ,” I sighed, feeling a soliloquy coming on. They were words I may have wanted to say to him while he was alive, but never had the chance. “You and I both know that I had nothing to do with your murder. I may have disliked you, old man, but I could never bring myself to kill you. I would never have had the nerve to push you down a flight of stairs. But who had? Had it been your beloved Danita, the heartless guttersnipe! Fat old Stan Portman? Ah, if only the dead could speak! And thank God you can’t, because that would really freak me out.
“Don’t worry, though,” I concluded, hearing my voice eerily echoing through the empty funeral home. “This I promise you, here and now. They picked the right man to falsely accuse, because as God is my witness, I will get to the bottom of this! Your death will not have been in vain. By the time I am through, the whole world will know who it was who did the pushing—and your killer will be brought into the sweet arms of justice to fry in the electric chair!”
Wait. Did the commonwealth of Massachusetts even have an electric chair? Ah, who the fuck cared? It sounded good!
And then, to seal the deal, I placed my lips right smack dab upon RJ’s. A kiss to show the sincerity of my promise.
Ugh! What a horrible mano a mano kiss it was. Even worse than when I had been in the touring company of Sugar Babies after college and made out with a plastered Mickey Rooney. That man’s lips smelled of herring, but at least they hadn’t been as stiff and brittle as cardboard.
Still, it sealed the deal. And now that it was done, there was only one question remaining: how the hell was I going to get out? For I certainly had no desire to spend more time with a cold stiff than I absolutely had to.
I had to make a break. Cleaning up the mess was out of the question. Not in the dark, at least.
A thought: was there a way to get out without setting off the alarms? No doubt the place was locked up tighter than Fort Knox, just to prevent...well, what I had just done.
I could only imagine the horrified look on the face of the funeral director, not to mention Danita, when they walked in tomorrow morning. No, no, don’t go there, girlfriend.
I must confess, my darlings, I was feeling far too guilty over the whole unfortunate affair. Surely I was completely blameless, though. I hadn’t realized I was trashing the coffin until it was far too late. It was a completely understandable reaction, given my extreme fear of being buried alive. And really, unless you’re a zombie, who among us wouldn’t freak when faced with being buried alive?
So I sat there in the gloom of the funeral home and thought thoughts of quiet desperation. My gaze fell upon the stately windows covering two sides of the room. Although they were covered in gauzy curtains that barely let in any light, I could still see signs of life outside. The windows had to be protected by alarms that would go off the moment I smashed them in. The front door, too.
Hmmm. But what about opening them from the inside? Would the alarm sound then? Breaking in was one thing. Breaking out, on the other hand...
It was worth a shot, but I would need to make a quick break. I’d need a getaway car, just like Bonnie and Clyde.
Hmm, what had happened to my car? For that matter, what had happened to Missi and Kevin? Some partners in crime they were. How could they have left me rotting underneath a decaying corpse like that? For that matter, why hadn’t they tried to contact me, to call my cell phone or—
My cell phone! How could I have been so idiotic? I had been so bloody caught up in talking to my own personal Yurick I had neglected to consider my one link to the outside world. It was time to call Kevin—and fast!
Post haste, I shoved my hand into my tasteful but stylish Slimbs jeans and fished out my cell phone. Ah, the damn thing had been turned off. Of course! Kevin had insisted I do so before I crawled under the coffin. And...grumble grumble...maybe he had been right. Had the phone gone off while I was passed out, somebody (probably that bitch Danita) would have noticed.
I powered up my iPhone. Ah, sweet Susanwerphone. There were 42 unanswered calls and 56 text messages. From Kevin, most likely. I scrolled through the messages. Sure enough.
KEVIN JAMES: Raphael RUOK????
KEVIN JAMES: Raphael!
KEVIN JAMES: Raphael!!
KEVIN JAMES: Please say you are ok
KEVIN JAMES: Why won’t you answer? Where are you???
KEVIN JAMES: I think I peed my pants.
And on and on and on. I just erased the whole damn lot of them. This was worse than the last time we broke up. >
Still, I needed my getaway. With some remorse, I dialed Kevin’s number and held the phone far from my ears.
“RAPHAEL!” Even from a distance, I could still hear this shrill feminine voice. In fact, so could the entire funeral home. His screech was enough to wake the dead.
Nervously, I glanced over at RJ’s dead body. Well, almost.
With extreme caution, lest another screech outbreak occur, I placed Susanwerphone next to my ear. “Kevin. Don’t scream again. It’s me.”
Like an obedient puppy, he obeyed. It was just like one of our domination sessions, without the spiked collars. I had taught him well. “Now, listen. Try to speak calmly, and above all, softly. I am locked in a funeral home. RJ’s body is lying on the floor next to me. I don’t think the poor stiff is going to make it.”
And then, I giggled. Giggled! I think the stress was beginning to get to me.
“Where are you, Kevin?”
A pause. “I am at a convenience story down the street.” Then I heard what appeared to be a sob. “I’ve been worried sick, Raphael.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry, my loyal friend, but I kind of encountered a situation underneath the coffin and—“
“-and Missi and I stuck around as long as we could, but Danita started looking at us funny, and even then, we hung around the parking lot until they locked up, and then we thought they might think it was strange we were there with the motor running so we—“
“Kevin, you’re babbling.” With great effort, I picked myself off the floor and dusted myself off. It was time to exit, stage left. I made my way around the coffin, being careful not to step on any of RJ’s favorite body parts. “I am going to need you to do me a huge favor. Get to the funeral parlor pronto and leave the car running at the front door.” Then I stopped, knowing the reaction I was going to get. “I can’t guarantee the police won’t give chase.”
And with that, I threw the phone to the floor, waiting for the scream.