Hearse for Sale
by J. Bowers
"Wow," I said. "That's a hearse, all right."

"I knew you didn't believe me." said Marjorie.

But there it was, just where Marjorie said it would be: a black behemoth of a hearse in a parking space labeled "For Residents Only."

"Wow," I said again, reading the chrome lettering on the fender. "It's the Miller Meteor!"

"Yeah," Marjorie agreed, unimpressed. "You can open it. I don't bother locking it."

"Why not?"

She shrugged.

"Well, it doesn't run. No one steals cars like that."

"No," I agreed.

I swung open the back door. The stench was incredible, like sour milk and Lysol. I slammed the door shut. Marjorie laughed.

"What is that, embalming fluid?"

"Yeah, I guess so," said Marjorie.

I cupped my hands around my eyes and leaned against the window. A glass shield separated the front seat from the back one. It had a little sliding hatch, like a taxi. Marjorie showed me the raised platform where the coffin was supposed to go.

"I wonder what a corpse would say to a hearse driver?"

"Um, 'slow down?'"

We sat on the curb and laughed.

"Well?" said Marjorie.

"Well, what?"

"Well, what should I do with it? I don't want it anymore. It doesn't run."

The sodium streetlights shone through the hearse's windshield, giving the upholstery an eerie glow. I tried to make a thoughtful noise.

"Use your imagination," Marjorie insisted.

I really wanted to. I wanted vampires and bat-cannons. I wanted to bake cookies in the glove compartment, and hold séances in the trunk. But that wasn’t practical.

Somewhere, a small dog was barking.

"Let’s take it apart," I said, finally. "You could slowly throw the pieces away, one by one, on ‘large trash’ days."

"It has a lot of parts," said Marjorie. "I thought about making a work of art, but I don't think anyone would care."

"What did the ad say?"

"I don't have a copy anymore," she said. "It said, ‘1977 Cadillac hearse,’ and I wanted two thousand. Maybe that was too much."

"I have this vision," I began. "We drive it to the reservoir, strap a big old rock to the gas pedal, and shipwreck the sucker. Like a movie."

"It still doesn't run."

"Oh, right. I forgot." I really had. "Well, someone will want it. I kind of do."

"Do you?" she asked, hopefully. I thought about it.

"Not really, no," I said, but I promised to help.

"Great," said Marjorie. "It's about time someone got proactive about this."

That night I dreamt about the hearse. In my dream, Jawaharlal Nehru was driving and waving. He had filled the hearse with flowers--broken pansies and tulips, the roots all dripping dirt. I found it beautiful.

The next time I went to Marjorie's, the Miller Meteor was gone.

Marjorie was awfully excited.

"I sold the hearse!" she yelped, her eyes almost too wide for her face.

"You sold the hearse!" I shouted right back. "To who? Where? How?"

"I don't know!" she said. She sounded pleased and confused. "A man came with two kids and a car battery. He stuck the battery in my hearse, stuck his kids in the backseat, and drove away."

"Well, congratulations," I said. She looked really happy.

"Thanks," said Marjorie.

We walked into the living room to watch the neighborhood birds shit on Marjorie's patio.

"Did he say what he would use it for?" I finally asked.


"The hearse."

Marjorie shrugged.

"Parts, I guess. I mean, I don't know what else. He didn't look like a hearse-owning guy.”

"He was a family man?"

“Probably," said Marjorie. "With the kids and all."

I pictured the children riding in the Miller Meteor, pigtailed and baseball-capped. They slid open the taxi hatch to wiggle sticky fingers at their father. His-wife-their-mother sat shotgun, her thighs jiggling slightly while her husband passed juice boxes into the backseat and told everyone to hang on tightly, there's construction up ahead.

"It’s a family hearse," I said.

"Wow," said Marjorie.
Posted by: J. Bowers

Prose (March 2nd, 2006)