172 – Coffin: Comfort Food, Part 1 of 1
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and seventy-two.
Tonight we present, Coffin: Comfort Food, Part 1 of 1.
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Geek Out! with Mainframe.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Will Coffin and his friend, Bunny, discover a grisly scene.
Flash Pulp 172 – Coffin: Comfort Food, Part 1 of 1
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Standing nude beneath the low-ceiling of the living room, a tear appeared on the old man’s cheek, disappeared into the depths of his wrinkles, then, traveling as if in a subterranean river, reappeared at his chin.
Every surface in the tiny basement apartment had been covered with cheap plastic sheeting, duct-taped together at the seams, including the ceiling, and the noise of the falling droplet seemed to linger along the shrouded walls.
“What in the sweet kingdom of cow-#### is going on here?” asked Bunny.
Coffin thought it was fairly obvious, given the camp stove, the tin plate, and the carefully piled dismembered-corpse.
* * *
Two days previous, Will and his drunken roommate had been sitting in Dorset’s, and the urban shaman had been explaining a truth of his occupation.
“Well, what I’m trying to tell you is that not everything fantastic in the world – and by fantastic, I don’t mean great, I mean awe inspiring – has to be some sort of occult happening.”
“Listen, I’ve seen some ###damn X-Files #### since we’ve been hanging out together, and I don’t think the bloody miracle of birth, or whatever, stands up to, say, basement zombies or suicidal immortals,” replied Bunny.
“You’re only down on child birthing because you’ve never been through it. For example: I know a guy who compulsively collects porn.”
“Well, thank you for opening my eyes to the mysteries of the ####ing universe.”
“Har, har. The thing is, he does it for their artistic merit. He’s been at it since he was eighteen. He was looking through a magazine – Busty Bikers, or Ladies & The Tramps, or whatever, some low-class second-string naughty book – and he came across this photo of a woman on a couch. There was something about the lighting, the position, the mix of fear and hope on her face – he started crying.”
“I had a boyfriend who’d do the same thing when he was looking at nudie pics. Frankly, he did it after sexy time too.” Bunny took a deep sip of her rum and coke.
“No, it wasn’t like that, he wasn’t doing it out of shame, the picture was just – I’ve seen it. It’s beautiful.” Coffin paused, collecting his thoughts. “I don’t think it was intended it to be. There were probably five-hundred pictures on the shoot – one shoot in however many thousand that happen a year – and through the law of averages, one of them was accidentally art. It was enough to send the collector on a life-long quest to find the diamonds in the rough.”
“I knew a few strippers named Diamond too. I still don’t get it, though – they’re just a bunch of naked ladies.”
“Tell it to Goya,” he said.
It was then that the mortician had arrived.
The shadiest of Capital City’s array of undertakers, Coffin had dealt with the man on several occasions, often at the end of a long day of unpleasantness. It was a surprise to have the man come to him, as usually the situation was reversed.
Rolling up his sleeves, and drinking down half of the sudsy bounty Dorset had dispensed him, the silver haired body-wrangler took a seat at Will and Bunny’s table.
“I’ve got a problem,” said the newcomer.
“Join the club,” Bunny answered, smacking her lips against the numbing layer of liquor that had gone unstirred at the bottom of her drink.
“No, not with the drink – I’ve got a body missing.”
Coffin raised a brow.
“I thought the disappearing act was the reason you were paid so well.”
“It isn’t a client’s cadaver – it’s actually Tocohwet.”
His leather jacket creaking as he stretched, Will whistled. Seeing his roommates confused look, he explained.
“Tocohwet is one of the assistants at the crematorium. She isn’t – uh, wasn’t – exactly here legally, but she was happy enough on the occasions I encountered her. She came with her husband, Manim, decades ago – a Wari’, er, a tribe from Brazil. I suspect her employer here was fond of the fact that neither her, or her husband, spoke terribly great English.”
“It didn’t hurt,” said the embalmer, “but we’ve worked together for years. I treated them like family!”
“Family who slept in a makeshift apartment over your garage,” Coffin replied. “It sounds like you can’t find either of them though?”
“Well, no. Manim came to me, weeping, and we went to his loft and there was Tocohwet, dead on the couch, Mr Bean still playing on the TV. I tried to bring her down to the crematorium, but, while I was on the stairs, Manny hit me from behind. I woke up later, lying in my own driveway, and the pair of them were gone, as was my wallet.”
“I’m not really in the business of tracking rogue bodies, at least not unless they’re back up and walking around,” said Will.
“Look – just call up 1-800 dial-a-ghost, or whatever it is you do, and I’m sure you can track them down.”
Coffin’s face had remained unyielding, until he noted the bundle of bills rolling at him from across the brown-lacquered surface – then the hunt had begun.
* * *
The smell in the tiny-windowed space was not a pleasant one.
“Must have taken a bit of effort to find a place he could rent for cash,” said Will, “then to get the plastic and everything. I don’t think he even has a car – Kar’Wick only knows how he got all this here without anyone noticing that he was dragging a dead woman around behind him.”
“He’s a body-choppin’ people eater!” Bunny replied.
“Don’t be so closed-minded. He loved his wife.”
Manim said nothing as his shoulders rolled with his despair. His lament silently nourished the growing puddle at his feet.
“He isn’t Jeffrey Dahmer – his people used to consume their loved ones as a way of finding closure. He isn’t a monster, he’s just sad, and old, and wanting to carry on a tradition that supposedly civilized people told him he couldn’t. His wife has been a part of him, emotionally, for a long time – now he wants her to be literally. Not only that, but, given their heritage, I’m sure it’s what she wanted as well. They’ve been here for decades, maybe fifty or sixty years, and they’ve only had each other, and their beliefs.”
“I know a lot of folks who undertake a little metaphorical cannibalism every Sunday,” Coffin said with a shrug. “In this case, he’d usually have a whole village to help. He has a big meal ahead of him.”
As the room once again fell into a hush, Will knelt beside the portions that were once Tocohwet, and lit the small stove.
With a retch, Bunny moved towards the stairs.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.
Text and audio commentaries can be sent to email@example.com, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.
Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/
– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.
I rather liked it and don’t worry too much about anyone who complains about the ending, I thought it was handled rather well.