A crematorium is an odd place for a part-time job, but the pay is good and is helping Felix help his mother. Setting aside the creepiness factor, though, he’s pretty sure there are things his boss isn’t telling him about part of the business.
Like just what’s in those glowing bottles behind the water heater.
Felix pulled the wool hat down to cover his ears and eyebrows. Part of the same practiced motion, he yanked the collar of his too-heavy jacket up high so the hallway mirror showed just his eyes and nose. From a distance, he didn’t think anyone would recognize him. Up close, well, if he paid enough attention, no one he knew would get that close.
A couple of shuffling steps took him to the bottom of the stairs. “See you after work, mom!” The words reflected up bare walls and eventually to his mother’s bedroom. Her reply took longer to make the return trip, barely reaching his ears.
“Okay, sweetheart. Be good.”
Be good. As if he were seven and not almost seventeen. As if he were going to a friend’s house on the corner and not to the other side of town. He sighed and yanked the front door open. To the creepiest part time job he’d ever heard of.READ MORE
Locking the door behind him, Felix jammed his hands in the pockets of his jacket, hunched his shoulders, and tried to look like his eyes were focused on the sidewalk instead of scanning the world around him. At least it was fall now. He might be overdressed but making the cross town trip all summer had been much worse. You could only hide so much with a ball cap and sunglasses.
On the bus, Felix was safe, more or less, at least after the first few stops. As close to the back as he could get, he scrunched down in his seat, stuck his ear buds in, and stared at the front door wishing he could relax and crank the volume.
It hadn’t always been like this, but his mom’s disability cheques didn’t go as far as they used to. They needed the extra money and she couldn’t work anymore. Work, hell, she’d be lucky to see Felix’s twentieth birthday but neither of them talked about that, about anything that might happen after next week. He’d do everything he could to take care of her, but for sure he wasn’t going to wait around after she died, find some dumb job to barely make the mortgage every month until his own diagnosis came back with ALS written on it. Fuck that.
Safe between stops, he squeezed his eyes shut until the threat of tears went away. Don’t think about it. For now, he just had to take care of her, make sure there was enough money for decent food. He wouldn’t let her eat junk for any meal that might be her last one at home.
Clenching his teeth, he tried to listen to the music, base line spearing into his brain to try driving the thoughts away. He had all day to be miserable at work if Mr. Thompkins let him, which he probably wouldn’t.
Mr. Thompkins met Felix with a huge smile. Not too surprising considering the company available before he came in. “Felix, lad! How are you this fine autumn morning?” The jovial, booming voice smashed against the wall of his normal funk, cracking the stone just enough to let him smile a little as he pulled his coat off.
“Fine, sir. About like always.” He stuffed the hat down one coat sleeve and turned to see Mr. Thompkins’ lopsided smile and raised eyebrows. Even knowing what his boss’s next words would be didn’t seal the breach. Mr. Thompkins had something about him, some weird aura that never let anyone stay closed down or angry for long and Felix thought that was weird, considering the business he was in.
But his boss surprised him this time. “I hope you told your mother I said hello. It’s been a little while since we’ve talked and I don’t want her to think I’ve forgotten her.”
Felix’s mother and Mr. Thompkins went to high school together sometime back before cable. He thought they might even have dated but didn’t really want to know. Whatever the connection, it helped Felix answer the ad when his mother told him she thought it was Gordon’s business and called him an old friend. It had nothing to do with getting the job, though. Felix was pretty sure being the only applicant took care of that.
“I doubt she’d ever think that, sir.”
Mr. Thompkins grinned and clapped a big hand on Felix’s shoulder. The blow might have rocked someone smaller, but told him it was time for work. “Come on then, son. The ovens’re heating up and we’ve got a heavy day today. Grab yourself a pair of gloves and let’s get to it.”