Providence, Rhode Island
Was it a full moon? Because it seemed like crazy hit town and we got flooded. The funeral home was packed with more bodies than usual. I’d spent the past half hour explaining to a grieving family why an open casket really wasn’t the best option for their grandmother who’d been dead for over two weeks. Believe me, it wasn’t. I’d never been so happy to lock the front door.
Dad and I were cleaning up the prep room when my nineteen-year-old cousin Ethan appeared in the doorway with his hand shoved in a bag of chips. Like all the men in the family he towered over me, a height that was punctuated by another three or so inches of reddish-brown white boy ’fro. “You guys want the bad news or the really bad news first?”
The beginnings of a migraine pulsated in my right temple, growing more insistent by the second. It was now after ten o’clock at night. The only thing I wanted was to shower and get ready for bed.
Dad closed the stainless steel cabinet where we kept all the bottles of embalming chemicals. “Just lay it all out there.”
“Man, you guys are no fun.” He stuffed another chip in his mouth, then wiped his hand on the front of his Naruto T-shirt. “All right. We got another stiff, and Drew’s at some shady party getting hammered.” Ethan grinned.
“What?” I said. “Drew is…what?”
“You know, getting sloshed, shitfaced, cocked, drunk—”
“I know what it means, you ass.”
Dad looked at me, frowning. “Isn’t he supposed to be working on a science project?”
“What, like how many beers does it take to get to the center of a—?”
“Ethan, knock it off,” I snapped. “Yes, he was supposed to be working on a science project. I should’ve known.”
“Right? Nobody does homework on Friday nights.”
“You’re really not helping.”
Dad sighed and slumped his shoulders. “Well, one of us will have to go get him.”
“Why don’t you guys flip for it?” Ethan held a quarter between his thumb and forefinger and waved it in front of my face. “C’mon. Heads, Jen gets him; tails and Uncle Andrew does it. It’s foolproof.”
Foolproof? Ha. Right. Try suckered. Dad and I looked at each other and shrugged. My sixteen-year-old brother deserved the mother of all ass-kickings. Was it wrong that I was hoping for tails? Tails meant filling out some paperwork and escorting a body from the hospital morgue. It meant no aggravation. That body wasn’t going to argue or give me an attitude. My brother?
Yeah, different story.
Ethan slapped the quarter onto the table and lifted his hand. “Heads, my lovely cousin.”