A Sensitive Man

by Barbara P. Greenbaum

ASensitiveManGeorge had no idea how many Beanie Babies would fit in that coffin ‘til we filled her up. Lost count somewhere around six hundred and fourteen. Mable May was north of three hundred pounds so it was a big box. Yep—I do know it was wrong. Sort of. But wasn’t like anybody got hurt. We didn’t really hurt the doctor. Mable May was already dead. And five grand is five grand. Or was supposed to be. It was all George’s idea.

Mable’s husband wouldn’t care. Not that kind of guy. Besides, Pedro had already moved on. Check with Shirley Jackson at the Piggly Wiggly. She knows Pedro a bit better than she should. Got to hand it to good old Pete. He’s got hisself a nice big insurance check and a cute little trailer. She left the house to her son. You know J. D.? She wasn’t all that stupid, but shit, what good was it, filled up with all those damned stuffed animals. J. D. worked real quick on that one. Every Beanie she ever owned was out on that street in boxes before the sun went down on the day she passed. Good thing George had the sense to pick ’em up. She told George she had more than two thousand. She had over two hundred of just those black-and-white dogs. All the same! George said it was supposed to be some kind of investment. But when Mable bought ‘em, she couldn’t stand to sell ‘em. And now the damned things aren’t worth shit.

The plan was sweet. I’m not sure where George found this guy—Craigslist I think? All the ad said was “cadavers wanted for science.” Hell, when he first showed me, I figured it was a freebie thing, but then George told me this guy would pay us. The only condition was the deceased person had to be obese and Mable fit. Never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be legal. Hell, the man said he was a doctor!

So we got dressed up and went to the viewin’ on Friday night at March’s Funeral Home. Everybody in town was there crying like they liked the woman, and I suppose some of ‘em did. I dropped my wife back home and George and me went out to Gig’s and had us a few beers. Around midnight, we went back to the funeral home and pulled the truck out back, just like it was regular business, see. And no—I don’t have a lot of experience breakin’ into places. Some. But I wouldn’t say a lot. And they never lock the back door. Old man March brags about that all the time.

The hardest part was working in the dark. George brought these stupid lookin’ little headlights on the straps you put around your head and we put those on. Worst part was she wasn’t downstairs but upstairs, where we’d seen her for the viewin’, so we had to carry her. George said the elevator would probably make too much noise. And we didn’t think to use that little cart thing they have. Nope, George said we had to do it the hard way.

By two or so in the morning, I got to tell you, I’m sweating like a pig. Man, that woman was heavy. There were some ugly moments when that flashlight thing worked a bit too good. Thought I was gonna die getting her onto the truck. George made the box out of plywood he bought at Home Depot and he got the size right for once. But then we had to unload all the damned Beanie Babies. We filled that coffin to the top, and we still had three big boxes left over. At that point moving her into the cooler felt like a piece of cake. The plant is out on Route 40. Worked there now for five years and I’ve got a key, see? And I knew there wouldn’t be anybody in there until Monday so we had the whole weekend if we wanted it. We just backed on up to the loading dock, walked her off and right in.

I did feel kinda bad. She was all laid out so neat, probably the way she’d want to be. Mable May was a nut, but she was always neat. Had really nice nails and a clean home. She was my mother’s first cousin and she and my mother were like sisters, to hear her tell it. She vacuumed her Beanies every week or she claimed. But by the time we got her into the plywood box, she didn’t look so good. We dropped her a couple of times. I was thinking, if this was you, Gene, would I want some relative of yours hauling you around in the middle of night to give to some doctor who’d do all kinds of things with what was left of ya? Maybe not.

George said, “at that point Gene, you wouldn’t care.” But I don’t know. She was always nice to me, even when my wife was having such a hard time blendin’ in with the family. And she was nice to the kids—gave ‘em Beanie Babies whenever we saw her. Then I thought, God, Gene, what would your mother say? Tried hard not to, but that thought just kinda crept in there. Tried to talk George out of all of it there and then, but nope, George said we’d started this shit, now we had to finish it.

Still I have to say it was a bit hard, the next day, burying a coffin full of Beanie Babies and keepin’ a straight face. Thank goodness the funeral was at noon so we got some sleep. And thank God March didn’t look at her in the morning. That woulda screwed things up. And the kicker? That asshole Pedro made us pallbearers. Here we’d been toting her around all night, and next day we have to tote around her Beanies. Shit.

So we left the calling hours at J.D.’s house early—but then everybody did. The wife gave me a hard time about going out again, nothing new there. Just for the record, I wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for her always bitchin’ about money, but that’s another story. George and I split around five or so, went back to Gig’s for a few more beers, and then headed to the packing plant, got her loaded up and on the road.

Took us five hours to get down there. We pull up to this place that looks more like a warehouse than a doctor’s office, and this little skinny brown guy comes out, introduces himself as Dr. somethin’—I didn’t catch the name. He’s got an accent so thick I can barely understand him, with his glasses that look all fogged up. He tells us to drive in to one of the bays, which we do, and then to unload her right there and set her on the floor.

So we open the box and he takes a long look at her and then asks me—you put her in refrigeration? And I’m like well, yeah—what did you expect? Then George says we couldn’t keep her out in eighty-degree weather without the whole county knowin’, so we put her in cold storage. “But that meant she froze, right,” the doctor says, and I say no, it just means she was kept the same temperature as meat, and he said how cold was that, and I said forty-one degrees Fahrenheit or five degrees Celsius. And he says are you sure she wasn’t frozen? And I said hell no, she wasn’t frozen, we don’t do that at the plant, and I should know ‘cause I’m the one who checks the temperature, and then he says he don’t like her color. She’s dead, what’d ya expect? She’s not going to be rosy, and then he says he’ll give us two thousand instead of five because he’s pretty sure she’s been frozen. George is like oh no you won’t, you’ll give us five. Then he says okay. George was leaning on him at that point, like up against a support pillar leaning. It wasn’t a lot of leaning, just a little, but George ain’t small, and the little runt wasn’t that dumb.

I didn’t like him much, I can tell you, after all the shit we went through to get her down there and then he’s going to try to chisel us? So then he asks, get this, will you take a check? And we say hell no, so George throws him in the truck between us and we take him to the ATM, and that’s when we find out there’s like a thousand dollar maximum on how much you can withdraw within a twenty-four-hour period. Did you know that? That so pissed me off!

Then the little bastard brought out twenty-five hundred, which proved he was going to try to cheat us any which way, and this guy was an India guy, not an Indian but a guy from India, which really frosted me over cause it’s bad enough when you get taken by an American, but it’s worse when they come halfway across the world to shove a pole up your butt and smile while they’re doing it. So then I asked him what are you going to do to Mable May? I shouldn’t have asked. The question had been kind of naggin’ at me since the day before. It was dumb because then he starts telling me what he’s going to do, and I start to feel real sick.

He’s talking about cuttin’ her apart and taking her brain out, takin’ her fat out and I am not likin’ this. I tell him that’s enough now. So we’re sitting in the parking lot after the guy took out max, and I look at George and George looks at me, and it’s like we’re thinking the same thing. So we all go back to the doctor’s place, drive into the bay and duct tape the doc to a chair. None of that woulda happened if the guy hadn’t gotten cheap.

So we load Mable May back up into George’s truck. We thought about leaving him the Beanie Babies but decided he didn’t deserve ‘em. George was so pissed he backed into the side of the garage door on his way out and that’s how the taillight got busted. And we took off down the road, thinking we might just have enough time to switch her back. Then we realize, oh shit, we’d actually have to bury her. Then we’re thinking we could just plant her on top of her real coffin with the Beanie Babies in it. We thought that would be fittin’. Anyway, we may have actually gotten it all done if it weren’t for the stupid taillight. Yeah, we took the money. We earned it.

You gonna arrest me? I got two little kids, man. This can’t be the worst possible thing you ever saw. I mean we didn’t hurt nobody. Bet that Doc is long gone. I mean how can this guy put an ad on Craigslist to do something illegal? Ain’t there a law about that? If we’d left her with the doc down there, we wouldn’t be here now. Weird, eh? And it was George’s idea. Don’t that count for somethin’?

We’ll take Mable May off your hands and see to it she’s properly tended. She is kin, after all. Please, don’t tell my wife. She gets real upset about things she don’t understand. And we do have boxes of Beanie Babies if you’re interested in, you know, a donation. I’ve learned my lesson, by the way. I’m going to steer clear of George from now on. He’s not a sensitive man.

Category: Short Story