Wallis Moore enjoyed the finer things in life and, more importantly, associating with others who enjoyed the finer things in life. Their enjoyment rubbed off on his enjoyment and together he and they rubbed each other’s enjoyment to create a heightened enjoyment feed back loop. Being rich meant you got to hang out with other rich people. Which, according to Wallis, was where a person wanted to be. He sat on a veal leather chair in his office, which was behind a ludicrously large glass desk. His office overlooked his sprawling crematorium grounds from the road to the back 100 acres, and had a window directed toward his brother’s piss-poor excuse for a business.
On the wall hung a large plan for his fire powered empire. He stood up and adjusted the frame of the plan so minutely as to be meaningless. And then, promptly adjusted it minutely back to its original position. On the plan he had an Urn field, already being filled with the ashes of the deceased. Unlike his dim witted brother he could pack two or three burials with urns in the same space one casket was buried.
His gaze fell to his pride and joy; the Organic Orchard. Here people could be buried all natural and a tree would be planted on top of them. They could choose from all manner of trees; apple, pear, plum, and peach. When those trees were mature the fruit would be made into jams and preserves. Wallis laughed. “Unpreserved people making preserved jam.” He would make the dead work for him.
His cell phone rang, it was the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. “Hello,” Wallis said.
“Hello,” a female voice greeted him.
“Can I help you?” Wallis asked.
“I’m Jasmine Garcia, a reporter with the Parford Press,” Garcia said.
“Oh yes, our illustrious town weekly,” Wallis said with a smile. “You wrote that expose on Marvin’s Diner and Spa last month. Is he still mixing expired tomato paste with sugar and calling it gourmet ketchup?”
“Of course,” Garcia said. “But, that’s not why I called today.”
“Oh?” Wallis said with a greater smile. He knew why she called.
“Your Caring Country Crematorium is making a name for itself in the city,” Garcia said. “Some in the town are concerned with this new cemetery tourism.”
“Some fear it’s creating a bad name for Parford. One person said it was like we’re the region’s graveyard, filled with roaming goth dead-wannabe cultists.”
“Who said that?”
“They didn’t want to be quoted.”
“Sounds like my brother,” Wallis said with a chuckle.
“Others said that Parford is turning into the world’s graveyard voyeurism capital.”
“Who said that?”
“They didn’t want to be quoted.” Regret sounded clear in Garcia’s voice.
“Certainly wasn’t my brother, he doesn’t know what capital means.” Wallis laughed at his own joke. “Listen, more people visiting our town means more people spending money at Gary’s Gas and Garage, Harriet’s Hotel and Taxidermy, Lydia’s Lice Removal and Lamination. Heck even Abigail’s Alibi Service & Accounting has gotten a boost in revenue.” Wallis strode over to the rear facing window. “What I do is good for everyone. Including you, Ms. Garcia. More people means more readers, means more ad revenue for the weekly. I really should be mayor.”
“Can I quote you on that?” Garcia asked.
“No. Certainly not. I don’t want to be mayor,” Wallis retorted.
“Just a comment, on the record, regarding your brother’s new special deal he’s advertising in the Press,” Garcia asked.
“Sure. I always like to go on the record,” Wallis said. “What’s the new deal?”
“Marriage Eternity,” Garcia read from the ad. “Two cemetery plots for the price of 1 and four-fifths. A plot for you and your significant other. Gays welcome. And if you divorce before death, then your plots can be divorced too. Pristine Paradise Cemetery. Gay Friendly Cemetery.”
“That’s the stupidest thing he’s done this week,” Wallis said with a laugh.
“Can I quote you on that?” Garcia asked excitedly. She always wanted to be able to quote people.
“No. Certainly not,” Wallis replied, tersely. “Is that everything?
“Yes,” Garcia said with some dejection. “Thank you Mr. Moore.”
Wallis hung up the phone then walked over to the front of the building and looked out across the road to his brother’s cemetery. He could see Willard in his rocking chair on the veranda of their parent’s old home. Willard’s hand was up and his middle finger extended. Wallis laughed with the full throated gusto of genuine mirth. He loved this town. Loved the countryside. Loved his new business. But, most of all, Wallis loved screwing over his younger brother. “What are you planning, brother dearest?” At that moment a knock sounded at his office door. “Enter.”
“Mr. Moore,” his assistant said. “I’ve got four new plots sold and need you to review and sign off.
“Ah, thank you Ms. Piatowski,” Wallis said as he sat down behind his desk. “You’ll get a nice commission cheque for these.”
“Thank you.” Phoebe Piatowski walked across the room with heightened hip movement, accentuated by her high heeled shoes. She glanced at Wallis’ face to see if he noticed, but he only stared at the manila folders in her hands. She placed them on the desk, leaning forward to open them, thus exposing her bra under her white blouse.
“I think you’ve popped a button. Better get that fixed. Winter is coming and I can’t afford to have you sick.” Wallis said while gleefully signing each of the four sales. “Is that all?” Wallis asked, closing the folders.
“One more thing,” Phoebe said as she stood up and buttoned the top button of her blouse. “Your zoning permits have been approved. You just need to go to city hall and pick them up in person.”
“Excellent work Ms. Piatowski. Excellent work, indeed,” Wallis said with a smile. “That will be all for the day, you may leave early.”
“Thank you Mr. Moore,” Phoebe said. She turned and sauntered out, swaying her hips in as seductively a fashion as possible.
“Did you hurt yourself?” Wallis asked.
“What?” Phoebe said, turning to face her boss and pulling her glasses down to look over the rim with an alluring pose.
“You’re walking with a limp.”
“No,” Phoebe said and a sigh. “Good night, sir.”
Wallis himself left the office early. As boss it was his prerogative. Besides he needed to get to town hall before it promptly closed at 5pm. He got into his bright green electric Prius. Each door had a his Triple C logo, Caring County Crematorium. Everywhere he drove he advertised his business. He parked on the street and entered city hall. A grand marble staircase led him to the second level, where the Mayor’s office was located. He approached the mayor’s door, adjusted his sport jacket, the one with 100% hemp elbow patches he bought in the city, and knocked on the door.
“Come on in Wallis I know it’s you,” the Mayor said.
“Madam Mayor,” Wallis said as he entered.
“Wallis, you castoff from jackoff, you know to address me as Ms. Mayor,” Mayor Christine Lemieux said with anger.
“My mistake,” Wallis said, inwardly humoured at her response. “I take it your sensitivity classes are working?” He sat down in front of her desk.
“You can eat shit, Wallis,” Lemieux said.
“No, you can eat shit and live, knowing you’ve eaten shit.” She shook her head and pursed her lips. “Why might you be here, I wonder? Is it because of zoning permits?” Lemieux asked, getting to the point. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms.
“I just want to thank you for the zoning permits,” Wallis said.
“Don’t thank me,” Lemieux said. “The two other councillors in your fucking pocket voted for you.”
“Now, now Ms. Mayor…”
“Don’t now, now me. I know that in your irrational desire to destroy your brother you’ll do just about anything,” Lemieux said. “Or anyone. Here, take your permits and get the hell outta my office.” She watched him take the permits and regarded his effeminate hands. They looked weak and brittle, prone to easy bruising much like their owner.
“Well, thank you all the same,” Wallis said. He stood up and took the permits. He reached the door when Lemieux called out to him. “Yes?” He asked.
“You’ll never be mayor while I draw breath into these pink American lungs,” Lemieux said.
“I don’t want to be mayor.”
“Fuck off.” That was her favoured way of dismissing people from her office, regardless of who it was. She told the governor to fuck off when he delivered a cheque to help with infrastructure. Once the cheque was in her hands she felt no further need to have him in her presence. Kicked him and the press out of her office. The notoriety got her re-elected several times. Her election slogan; “I’ll tell off anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
Of course those signs were vandalized, changed to “I’ll suck off anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Mayor Lemieux’s response was equally candid and direct. “Seems my signs got some attention,” she said, standing beside a defaced sign in front of the local media. “Who ever did this can come on down here and I’ll suck em off. I’ll be here for four hours.” When no one came, figuratively speaking, she declared herself the winner of the Sign Showdown. “The smaller the… ‘Ego.’ The larger the cowardice.” She got re-elected.
Wallis liked her attitude, hated her though. She never voted for what he felt was important. “As mayor I’d change things,” Wallis said as he pounded his right fist into the palm of his left hand. He quickly added in a loud voice, “But I don’t want to be Mayor.” Sudden panic set in and, with a frantic spasm of energy, he looked all around to ensure no one heard his first remark.
“You havin’ a stroke, mister?” A kid asked.
“No,” Wallis said and shook his head.
“Just seems you bent your neck around like an elephant trunk. You mighta done damage to your neck.” the kid said.
“Did you have an accident in your pants?”
“NO!” Wallis yelled.
“When I pooped my pants I looked around like you did, makin’ sure no one can smell it. You look guilty,” the kid continued, standing on the sidewalk with a finger knuckle deep up his nose.
“I am not guilty,” Wallis said, wondering why he was arguing with the town idiot’s only offspring. He regarded the boy, whose vigorous nose picking, bulging his nostril outwards, reminded Wallis of an alien about ready to burst forth from someone’s stomach.
“Whatever millennial,” the kid said and walked away.
Wallis clenched his jaw, looked around again, and drove off. He took a longer route home, back to the crematorium. Deep breathing helped calm his nerves. He had read somewhere that the navy seals practiced calming breathing. “I am the navy seal of funeral directors.” He felt calm already. Wallis wanted to savour his next move in the never ending war he was waging against his brother. Wallis laughed. “He’s using checkers pieces in a chess game.”
“I don’t fucking play either,” Willard said, when Wallis repeated the chess/checkers analogy. “You can shove all the pieces up your ass for all I care. Now get off my property,” Willard said from the veranda.
“Oh, dear Willard, I’m not on your property,” Wallis said as he stood on the road. “But this,” he waved a piece of paper in the air. “This is a piece of my victory in our time.” Wallis waved the paper, triumphantly, like the Neville Chamberlain of cemetery owners.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Willard asked.
“I got the permit for pet burials and cremation. They will not be giving you one. City Hall is on my side, dear Willard. I’ll be blooming Dog Roses from rover’s remains and selling the flowers for plenty of profit,” Wallis said, laughing the whole time he spoke.
“You speak like an exploding septic tank, bubbling and squirting nothing but shit,” Willard yelled, his face reddening.
“Even more business for me.” Wallis turned and got in his car. He knew Willard was giving him the middle finger. He looked in the rear view mirror as he drove to his crematorium. Sure enough Willard stood, rigid, with his finger extended. It was a good day.