Art by Ryan Sheehy

Coffin For Sale

Week 7: Written February 14, 2016

He drove a hearse with an empty coffin inside to every sales call, the only easy way to show off his one and only product to prospective buyers. It was a handmade casket priced well below anything the funeral homes and mortuaries had to offer, which made him a hot commodity with the poor and elderly. Most of his clientele lived in the country, remote areas, which he preferred.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Hampton. I’m Gordon Ashe. We spoke on the phone earlier this week.”

Hampton looked every bit his 90 years, and fresh off the death of his dear wife Marjorie, he might’ve even looked a fair bit older. Gordon, who stood tall and narrow like a stalk of bamboo, softly hugged his sales binder, looking down at the old man with his patented sympathetic expression. He’d had a very long time to perfect it, and it never failed to gain a client’s trust.

Hampton nodded, remembering the phone call, and stepped to the side to let Gordon enter. “Come in.”

Gordon smiled and followed the widower to his kitchen, where he opened his binder and laid out Hampton’s options. There were a variety of payment plans available, all very generous and forgiving — no payments on interest for the first year, or two.

There really wasn’t much to discuss. Hampton knew the costs that came with dying, and Gordon’s offer was impossible to refuse. All that remained was to see the casket itself.

“I’ll pull the car around back and slide it out so you can give it a proper once over,” Gordon assured the old man.

It was, at first glance, just like the photo. A beautiful casket, made of rich, dark wood with ornate decorations carved delicately within. And Gordon wasn’t just the salesman, either. He was the craftsman who built the coffin, by hand, with the kind of consideration more frequently given to heirloom dressers or classic houses, not something meant to be buried in the ground.

“It’s perfect,” Hampton said, his voice quivering due to age, sadness, or both. He approached the coffin, running his shaking fingers along the carvings, and opened the lid to examine the interior. It was just as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside, if not more so. The walls and floor were soft and plush. The tiniest touch left an impression in the silk-lined filling, as if it were memory foam instead of feathers.

“It’s Hungarian goose down,” Gordon said, reading Hampton’s mind. “The finest down feathers money can buy.”

Hampton nodded his approval. He went to close the lid, but stopped when he saw a discoloration at the other end of the casket. It looked like dirt. There might’ve been a hole in the silk, too, as if from wear and tear.

He almost ignored it — for a price this cheap, what did it matter? — but on principle, he spoke up.

“Will you be replacing the silk inside? Seems a bit ratty on the other side.”

“Ratty?”

Gordon stepped to Hampton’s side to get a better look.

“Where is it?” he asked.

“Over here, see?” Hampton leaned over, pointing at the dirty spot. It was where the feet would be.

Gordon didn’t bother looking. Instead, he turned, opened wide, and launched at Hampton’s neck.

The old man gasped and fell backward, eyes opening wider than they had in decades. But Gordon held on, his teeth digging so far and deep into Hampton’s neck that they struck bone. With that much pressure on his windpipe, the old man passed out in seconds, leaving Gordon to feast with nary a struggle. It was good, filling.

He left the body just inside the front door, with the door and screen askew. This far in the middle of nowhere, it was easy to believe an animal had caught him on the way back from fetching the mail. After years — decades, centuries — nobody had suspected Gordon of any foul play, so he was doing something right.

Ordinarily, he would’ve tried to drain his client of his very last drop of blood, storing some in a bottle for later, but tonight he had some work to do. The silk lining in his coffin was wearing thin, and Gordon liked to keep his product — his home — nice and tidy.