Tale of the Three Morticians

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The Fly and the Skunk

Life was not simple for Skunk. People were devastated at the loss of their prized artist. The paint spilled from Spine Less’ art shop had created a muddy stain down Willful way. Its strong odour disturbed the inhabitants of the street. Skunk could barely leave his house without someone approaching him about the smell. As if the intoxicating odour of paint wasn’t bad enough, the stench of rotting fish also became evident. Whatever paint had managed to find its way into the Glass Lake had been poisoning the fish. The stink was making people ill and driving tourists away. To clear the scent of paint from the air, Skunk sent the street cleaners on a cleaning frenzy down the roads. The fish were an entirely different problem.

Skunk was inspecting the condition of the Glass Lake from the beach when he bumped into a scraggly fisherman dressed in a plastic yellow fishing suit.

“If these fish keep coming up dead before I can catch them I won’t be able to earn my keep!” he complained. That’s when Skunk came up with the brilliant idea of paying the fishermen to remove the fish carcasses from the lake.

“I’ll give you just as much as you were earning in your fish sales if you collect the dead fish and have them burned discretely,” he offered. The fishermen were happy to oblige and soon the stink lessened. But the work of this mysterious vandal only continued.

As mayor, it was Skunk’s responsibility to protect the citizens of Belleville. Of course, with a serial vandal on the loose and one man dead this was not easy. The vandal always operated at night. He would steal store merchandise and then use it to destroy the merchant’s personal belongings. A woman who sold furniture found one of her patio sets disassembled in a tree. That same day the barber went to drive his car only to discover that it had been doused in shaving cream. Many other citizens fell victim to similar crimes. Skunk could only think of one motive to explain the vandal’s actions: sadistic pleasure. So far, it seemed as though the vandal did not intend to hurt anyone. After all, the vandal had not directly killed Spine Less. He was like a fly: annoying, but harmless. Skunk didn’t think the criminal was particularly smart either. Terrorizing a town with minimal security wasn’t exactly a job for a master mind. Catching this guy would be a slice. All Skunk had to do was set a trap.

One morning Skunk was sorting through resumés of the Belleville police squad in search for a team of security guards, when a haggard woman entered the café. She approached Skunk with the determination of an assassin.

“How can you sit there sipping coffee all nice and calm while a criminal is at large?!” she screamed, swatting Skunk’s morning coffee from his hand. Skunk stared in exasperation as the pile of resumés before him turned into a pile of sopping brown mush.

“Ma’am?!” Skunk jumped from his seat by the window as the coffee began to drip into his lap, scalding him. The woman’s sudden anger extinguished and she crumpled to the floor in tears.

“My son!” she wailed. “My poor boy!” Her hands shook with emotion as she covered her face, hiding the intensity of her sadness from the world. Skunk hated to see a mother in pain. “You must promise me you’ll destroy the monster who drove my son to madness.” She gripped Skunk’s pant leg and looked up at him with desperate eyes. Her sorrow reminded him of another woman. Skunk placed a hand on her heaving shoulder.

“I promise you I will bring the man responsible to justice,” he said. Satisfied, the distraught woman then left Skunk to collect whatever was left of the resumés. He brought the remaining pulp to Officer Fanny Duster and together they agreed upon a reasonable sized team of well qualified officers to patrol the town come sunset.

Skunk stood before them, his hands clasped behind his back. The sound of his shoes clicking against the white floors of the police station was amplified in the wide open hallway.

“Do you all know what this is?” Skunk questioned them. He held up a skunk shaped cologne bottle. The glass skunk flask appeared to be standing on its paws with the rest of its body upright as if it were about to spray a potential enemy. Under the tail was a nozzle. A man at the end of the long line of navy uniforms threw up his hand eagerly.

“Sir, it’s a lethal cologne, sir,” the lad shouted. Officer Fanny Duster chopped his thick hand over the boy’s skull.

“Keep your know-it-all mouth shut, Temaru!” he growled, his fleshy face flushing red.

“It’s okay,” Skunk said. The man known as Temaru grimaced and touched the back of his head tenderly. His hair was black and fell to his shoulders and his eyes were almond-shaped. “So you’ve heard about this cologne I worked on?” The man bowed and nodded.

“Oh yes!” he declared. “But I had no idea that you yourself participated in its creation.” Temaru bowed even deeper. “It is truly an honour to serve you.”

Skunk cleared his throat, “Why don’t you tell everyone else about it,” he suggested. Temaru’s eyes widened.

“Me?!” he exclaimed. “Sir, I would be honoured.” As Temaru explained the significance of the cologne, Skunk could see the information pass straight through the other officers’ heads. Their eyes drooped more and more with each word. Even Skunk found his mind wandering.

The labs were filled with four-eyed men gawking at test tubes and sniffing chemicals, all in desperate search for a scent that would captivate the markets. They were brilliant fools. While their greedy white coats flapped over vials of pheromone-induced smells, Skunk concocted a weapon: a cologne more potent than the stink of a skunk.

“How painfully ironic,” Skunk thought to himself. “He was the one who wanted me to become a chemical engineer.”

“One spritz of the malodorous solution can render a person unconscious!” Temaru exclaimed. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Diggory?” Upon hearing his name, Skunk was spirited back into reality.

“That’s right. Good research, Temaru,” he said. The man seemed to melt under Skunk’s praise. “I have created a large quantity of this perfume. It is not to be worn, but used as a defense mechanism. If anyone of you happens to come across this vandal tonight, you can use this spray to assist in his arrest. You will each be equipped with a canister containing this smell. Don’t let the smell reach your own noses. As Temaru said, it can knock a man unconscious. If you manage to detain the vandal, contact me immediately on your cell. You all have my number.” The guards saluted one by one at the conclusion of Skunk’s instructions. Before leaving the patrol squad, Skunk gave one more very important order.

“As you watch over Belleville tonight,” he said, “remember Spine Less.” The officers set out, one pair per quadrant of Belleville. Skunk could see their statuesque forms from his bedroom window. The orange sun was level with the Glass Lake, creating a bleeding pathway on its surface. In the comfort of his fine-looking home, Skunk turned to his wife. A breeze swept the sheer curtains aside. Through the pale material, his wife resembled a ghost.

“Just one call,” he uttered, more to the scenery than to his wife. Mink took his hand and pulled him from the window to bed. Still, Skunk continued to mutter. “A ring in the middle of night to signify the squashing of our fly…” His voice trailed off as Mink put a finger to his lips.

“You’re going to make yourself hoarse with all that nonsensical blubbering,” she stated, and softly pecked him on the cheek. Skunk smiled.

“Sorry, my dear,” he apologized. “It’s just, I want this vandal to be caught.” He took his phone and turned up the volume on the ringer. “This is one night I hope my sleep is disturbed.” He closed his eyes and allowed his body to sink into the supple mattress.

When he opened them, he found himself a good deal younger. His hands were softer and he was definitely shorter. A concrete jungle gym stood before him. The kids who crawled on it were like ants. They were small but strong.

“Hey, Skunk boy!” an obnoxious voice called from behind. Skunk turned to meet a snub-nosed boy. He looked to be about the age of seven. Like the other boys, he was wearing a gray suit, a button up shirt, and a black tie. Skunk noticed that he too adorned the uniform. “Seeing as your head looks like a skunk’s bum, why don’t I put it in the toilet?!” The boy circled Skunk like a vulture. “After all,” he continued, “stinking pieces of crap like you belong in the toilet.” He threw back his head and cackled. A number of other boys appeared beside them; they also started to laugh. Skunk was angry. His insides blazed with hatred. While the bully cried tears of laughter, Skunk threw back his foot and kicked the boy as hard as he could between the legs. The giggling stopped, and a number of boys gasped as their leader griped in pain.

“Get him!” he shrieked. Grubby hands tore at Skunk’s limbs from every direction. Skunk screamed for help, but there wasn’t a single teacher on the school yard. Like a pack of wild dogs, the boys dragged Skunk to the washroom. Clutching him painfully by his hair, they forced his head into the swirling depths of the toilet, snickering and spitting their wretched laugh with every dunk.

Skunk awoke with a gasp. He felt as though he had been drowning. He wiped the sheen of sweat from his forehead and sat up to see the time. It was three in the morning. He looked at his phone. There was still no call. Skunk inhaled deeply. His heart was hammering in his chest. Mink breathed rhythmically beside him. She looked so peaceful. Skunk wondered if he looked that peaceful in his sleep.

“Serves me right,” Skunk said under his breath, “I asked for a disturbed sleep.”

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