My black rubber boots squeaked on the freshly mopped floor. I hate that noise. It gives me chills, and the last thing that a person wants before she walks into the dark autopsy room is a chilled to the bone feeling.
I flicked on the light switch and took a deep breath. Working as a morgue assistant wasn't exactly my dream job. It did allow me to work while the kids were in school, and put food on the table. It was a hell of a lot better than working nights at a gas station and leaving the kids alone, or going back to babysitting. Dealing with other peoples kids was about the last thing that I was willing to do.
My second marriage had come to a crashing halt less than 2 months earlier. Geoff was far from perfect, and he never held a full time job, but at least I had the illusion of a partnership before he left. Now, I was completely on my own with 3 kids, and I could have not been less prepared. I hadn't worked outside of the home in years, and the baby was still only in kindergarten.
My sea green scrubs tugged at my butt when I bent over to pick up my pen.
'Gotta lose weight,' I thought to myself. These scrubs are so damn uncomfortable. I could never understand how my sister wore hers home all of the time. Mind you, she worked 3 floors up, in x-ray, not in the bowels of the hospital, in the morgue.
I was already sweating by the time the phone rang.
'Morgue, Bridget speaking,' I spoke softly into the phone. There was something about being in the morgue that just made you speak like that. A reverence for the dead, maybe?
"Bridget?Is that you?" My mother shrilled into the phone.
'Yes, Mother. I just said that it was.'
"Oh." Silence. She ALWAYS did this. She phoned me from her office on the ninth floor, and checked up on me.
'Mother? Mom!,' I repeated, more loudly.
"Oh, yes, I thought that I would give you a ride home tonight, if you want. I brought you some raisins, and some homemade soup from The Church Ladies."
Great. So now the damn church knew that husband number two had walked on me. 'Yeah, thanks, I'll come up and see you when I'm done. The raisins...are they same as the last ones that you gave me?' I held my breath, knowing that the answer would be yes. The last batch of raisins that she sent home for me had been hand picked out of a box of Raisin Bran. One by one. It was no use trying to tell her that you could just buy Bran cereal.
She had already hung up, anyway, the dial tone was buzzing in my ear.
Back to work.
I left the autopsy room and entered the small hallway outside. This was my least favourite part of the job. I didn't like the cutting, or the removal of the organs, or the sewing afterwards (although my sewing had improved drastically over the past few weeks, I had to admit), but THIS was the worst.
Another deep breath. There was no need to double check the chart. I knew the name. I knew all of the names of everyone that I had ever worked on. I would remember this one, too.
Hannah Grant. Aged 62, found hanging in her bedroom closet, she was a deaconess at a Lutheran Church outside of town.
I touched the knob, and waited. I had this ritual, everyday. Touch, and wait. I exhaled loudly. I didn't even realize that I had been holding my breath.
I HATED getting the bodies out of the cooler. I had nightmares about the door slamming and locking, or jamming, and getting stuck in that cold, dark, cramped room with the dead. There was no lock on the door, inside or out, so it would never happen. COULD never happen, but I was terrified anyway.
There were only 2 bodies in the windowless room. One was a man, the other was Hannah. I wheeled her out of the hallway and into the autopsy room. I took photos of her neck,and tried not to look at her bulging eyes. I couldn't imagine what could make a woman that had given her life to God give up in such a way. It took me longer than usual to transfer her from the gurney onto the operating table.
Dead weight and all.
I cut her clothes off and made certain that all of the untensils were ready for when Dr.Hong came in. I liked working with him best. The other doctor was a friend of the family, but she was a perfectionist, and much too serious. You need to keep things light in the morgue. You have to. Working with dead people could be so depressing,and you would go nuts if you didn't joke around a little bit. Dr. Hong was my mothers boss, and she was his second in command. That made her MY boss, in a round about way. Just another reason to hate this job.
I thought about my fathers death, just 1 year earlier, and his insistence that he NOT be autopsied when he died. He died of a terminal illness we had been trying to prepare ourselves for the inevitability of his passing. Your never ready, though. Ever. I thought about how proud my Dad would be of me, and all of the bad jokes that he would tell. As a monument (tombstone) salesman, he had heard all of the jokes...People are dying to get, business is dead...yada yada, yada.
I smiled despite myself. I was proud of myself. I was proud of myself for picking up the pieces and moving on. I was proud of myself for taking on a job that most other people would never dream of taking on. (I could totally do the Quincy thing was what I said to my mother when she told me about a job opening at the morgue several months earlier.)
Life could be worse. Sure, my husband was gone, but he was a bigger scrub than the two piece sea green uniform that I was wearing. I had my kids, and I had my family and friends.
Dr.Hong came into the room , carrying a coffee. "You ready, Bridget?", he asked, squinting at my face. "I can finish my coffee if you need another minute." He walked to the stainless steel counter top and put his coffee down.
'I'm ready as I'll ever be, Dr.' I turned on the old clock radio that didn't keep time, but got three stations on it.
Tubthumping was playing, and Dr.Hong started singing along with it, off key. "I get knocked down, but I get up again......"
Ready as I'll ever be, I walked to the table where Hannah lay waiting. It was a tough job, a crappy job, but it was MY job.
And I was ready.