So far she was oh-for-three as a psychopomp. As if she could’ve just waltzed into the hospital morgue to claim her ex-lover’s pineal gland. Like they would’ve dug it out of his congealed brain and handed it over, a bloody little grain of rice in a Ziploc, so she could go home and pop it in her mouth and eat it raw according to his wishes. She would’ve had her work cut out for her just trying to get the thing and now he’d had the gall to up and die in another state, and in the company of that bitch no less, only for her to find out five months later.
She knew she shouldn’t have stolen The Egyptian Book of the Dead from the library back when she was in high school, but who would’ve missed it anyway? She didn’t anticipate the arrival of a heavy box on her doorstep with a collage of postage. She hadn’t known what to do with the enormous brass scales or the ibis feather nestled in Styrofoam peanuts. But when the earnest, wine-soaked final requests started popping up in casual conversations she knew.
When I die I want you to pull out my gold tooth and melt it down and wear it as a ring.
Not only requests from the dead-to-be but also favors demanded by the freshly grieving, the ones gnawing on the bones of their dead and sucking at their memories like marrow.
Put a lock of my hair in her palm when they burn her.
Worst of all were the early bird confessions, the ones that jumped the gun and the grave only to fall in her lap instead of the deathbed.
I gave the motherfucker our cat’s ashes instead of our daughter’s and he will never ever know.
Her dead lover’s woman found her a year after the fact, and absently rubbed the eczema blooms on her palms as she stood on the porch and said he’d flail up from the morphine, those last days, to cuss her out for putting the Reiki on him.
“Well, actually I was doing a dim mak, like a death touch, y’know? To get him to just get on with it, the stubborn bastard. But there’s no way he could know that though. Right? I was just helping.”
She quit rubbing her hands and stepped closer.
“Hey. Remember that time he made me cry and you walked down the bar and you licked the tears right off my face?”
Yes, she remembered. There were tears glistening there now. Her tongue was rougher than it used to be.
She hated this. All the Hail Mary passes at getting away with it or from it or away from it. How they just drag along their nasty little rattle-bag souls until they see her and fling them at her feet like rose petals. As if a heart wasn’t just a fist-sized stone buried in every chest. Their audacity in assuming she’d be there with them when it was time to go, ready to gobble up their secret little pieces and polish them into pearls inside her.
She wouldn’t miss this next one for the world, though.
When I die I want you to flay me and turn me into leather and make me into a book for you to write poetry in.
The morticians were going to love her.
Lindsey A Pharr (she/her) is a Mississippi native living in the woods outside of Marshall, North Carolina. You can find her on Twitter @lindsey_a_pharr and in her cabin, teaching herself hide tanning from YouTube videos.