Hiram Peacemother is a man not easily bothered. In his line of work it pays to be relaxed and not let anything ruffle your feathers. It would hardly do to get excited around your customers. Hiram runs the local Funeral Parlor and Crematorium that me and my neighbors in Witter Springs will probably patronize when we get around to it.
Hiram likes cats. The other day I was in town in Sam Dolofin’s Feed Store to pick up some chicken feed. Hiram was at the counter. He bought kitty litter and a dozen bags of cat food.
“Why so much cat food, Hiram? I asked.
“I have lots of cats. I need them to keep down the mice population. Mice like to live around my place. It wouldn’t do for a mourner, while they are viewing their Loved One in the Viewing Room to be disturbed in their meditations by a herd of mice running over their shoes.”
Talk got around to this and that. Sometimes Hiram’s conversation tends to depressing. It must be his familiarity with the Other Side. I brought up Talbot McCandless’ name to keep the conversation cheerful. Talbot, who is crowding ninety, is always smiling and happy. Talbot had just painted my hen coup. When he had finished my chicken coup looked like a rainbow had struck it. Talbot loves his work.
“Talbot painted my chicken house Saturday. Then he wanted to paint the hen roost in color,” I informed Hiram.
“For an old geezer he is full of new ideas. I let him paint the roosts. I think the hens liked it. They are laying more eggs now and Talbot tried to collect a royalty on the extra eggs because of his nice paint job on the hen roosts. Talbot is not only active for his age, he one of the most creative people I ever met.”
Hiram’s answer seemed a little surly.
“He’s too damn creative. I won’t let him in to my place any more.”
“Why, Hiram, your place is a business establishment. Everybody has to visit your place sooner or later,” I said in astonishment. “You can’t keep anybody out.”
“Oh, he’ll come around eventually…and I’ll take care of him. But I told him that he was not to come back before that,” Hiram replied.
That surprised me. Everybody likes Talbot.
“That sounds harsh, Hiram. That seems like a cold thing to say. Talbot must know his time can’t be far off at his age. What in the world did Talbot say to you to get you so upset?”
Hiram’s expression became more doleful.
“Oh, McCandless is creative alright. He’s so full of ideas that he dropped one on me last week so I could hardly work the rest of the day.”
I waited for Hiram to tell me what Talbot had said to get him so riled up and unhappy.
“McCandless came to see me last week to talk about Pre-Need. That was all right. I encourage a person to discuss the arrangements before the need arises. That’s thoughtful. Too many folks wait until the coroner brings ’em to me and then there’s the hassle for the money from the estate from a grieving relative. That gets complicated. If they come in first and fill out the papers, why then, it all goes as smooth as a greased pig. ”
“The next thing Talbot asks is the cost. I told him the price…$1380.”
“‘Thirteen hundred dollars just to put me in the oven?‘ Talbot says.
“’Don’t size matter? I weigh a hundred and fifty pounds soaking wet. Jim Purvice, who passed last month, weighed three-fifty if he weighed an ounce. Did you charge him more?'”
“I told Talbot, ‘No. I don’t have favorites. I treat all my clients the same. The door of my oven is wide enough and tall enough for all, no matter their size, race or religion. What happens after I put ’em in all comes out the same…a small bucket of ashes.’”
Hiram Peacemother is known around Lake County as a serious person; especially when people talk to him about his business.
“There’s nothing funny about what I do. I expect folks to take me seriously.”
“What else did McCandless say that upset you so?”
Hiram Peacemother was about to break into tears.
He asked me, “Do you give senior discounts?”
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