a work in progress / no title yet (2017)

part i.

Perga doesn’t like having customers who ask him to color the coffin they order anything other than shades of brown. He thinks coffins should be not gaudy; they should be beautiful-looking, yes, yes, but not gaudy, do you get it? Though, blacks are okay. Perga likes black. Some order white (white is striking, blinding.), but that’s acceptable, too.

But yellow? Really? Canary yellow?

“I’m sorry, madam, but yellow — ”

In front of Perga stands a lady who wears enormous hat, big enough to hide a baby inside, probably. The lady looks like she’s been crying all night, her mascara running a marathon, her cheeks red and puffy. Apparently, her recently deceased husband (a Herr Becker from Danube, died of old age [86!], rest his soul) really loved canary yellow and eighty percent of his wardrobe consists of clothings in canary yellow.

“Please, good sir, this is how my darling Elias wanted to be remembered, he specifically asked for a yellow canary coffin. You can read his will, if you want,” she pauses, “or is it money? Is the paint expensive? I — I can give any amount you need, how much is it? Hm? The money is ready, I can give it to you right here, right now.”

Perga shakes his head.

“This is not about the money, madam. I have paint in every color that can be seen by human eyes and I make them myself. They don’t cost me that much, to be honest with you. It’s just… My personal preference, as a coffin maker.” He offers her a smile, but quickly continues, “But, that is how Herr Becker wanted his coffin to be, so I should do nothing but comply.”

Madam Becker begins to tear up. Perga unconsciously reaches for the box of tissue he keeps on his desk. It looks like she doesn’t need it, so Perga retracts his hand. “Thank you, Mr. Perga,” she says in cracking voice, “you have no idea how much this means to me. You see, Elias and I are — were — married for almost fifty years, if there’s anything, anything at all, I can do to make him happy for the last time, I certainly would, Mr. Perga.”

Perga gives her a soft smile. Not a genuine one, but it’s the realest soft smile he can muster. It’s been a long week. He’s really tired and needs a vacation.

“I’m not married myself, Madam Becker, but I do actually know how it feels to lose loved ones. I understand how you feel and I will do my utmost best to present Herr Becker the most beautiful coffin he could forever rest his body in,” he says, reaching to grasp one of her hand and squeezing it gently.

Without letting go of her hand, Perga guides the now-crying Madam Becker to the front door. It’s raining outside, he notes. Madam Becker thanks him one more time and fixes her coat. After she leaves, he plops down on his chair, closes his eyes, and deeply sighs.