Author: Ken Poyner
I start evenings at six o’clock. Delta is usually on her porch in her shimmering yellow superhero costume. I excitedly wave and holler, “Good evening, Delta. Good day in the City?”
She may not have gotten that day into the city, but she will say “Evening. Absolutely!”, adding the exclamation point whether she made it into the city or not. She carries a shield and two sets of bolos, and sometimes she just does not care to lug all that on the bus, so she hangs out on her porch and pretends she went in to work in the city as one of its superheroes.
I walk to work, since it is just a casual stroll to Forest Lawn Cemetery, less than four blocks down and one street over. Six to two, I walk the dead. Not zombies. Just confused dead who like to get out, but don’t really have their own plan for doing so.
There are not many who choose this profession. Most, like Delta, take an identity as a superhero, or supervillain, or some shapeshifter. Not much glory in walking the dead; but, if I did not do it, likely no one would. My other neighbor, Jim, is a deadeye sheriff. It works for him, but I have no envy.
Tonight, first on my schedule is a girl who died in the last yellow fever epidemic. Lucky to be in Forest Lawn, as so many died in the plague that they committed quite a few to mass graves. Walkers almost never get out to mass graves. A bit confusing. Sometimes not even the dead know who they are. Hard to tell everyone apart.
Just a quick light-hearted promenade around the block, a little small talk. After her, a recent internment: a real estate broker who died mid-real estate deal and who hasn’t finally gotten over not making that last sale.
I try to listen attentively. I offer confirmation. I nod in agreement. There would not be much to break their morbid monotony otherwise. It is a simple job – but, to them, I am some kind of hero, the essential number that allows them to have a viable mathematics. They know I could have chosen some other ego archetype – fought crime, solved mysteries, kept the world safe, plotted world destruction, whatever. But someone has to look in on the world’s less glamorous needs.
I get to the cemetery and the ground is just opening up. Seven appointments, with a break at midnight for dinner. Sometimes I sit with some random corpse while I eat, happily on the job even when I am not on the clock.
No, no costume, no appliances. Think shoes. Shoes. The salesman at Belmont’s who sold me on these low arch walking shoes: now, he is the real hero. Knew just what would work for me. No bright colors, but a good solid durable shoe that doesn’t cry after a long walk. Laces that stay tied, not those tubular ones that work themselves free after a few blocks. Good advice taken. I could never rely on Jim or Delta for those flavors of decision. You have got to give full credit to where a real value lies. Shoes.