‘It’s perfect,’ said Maggie as she lay in the casket.
Harold Barnes offered his hand. ‘It’s a shame he never got to see it,’ Maggie continued as she climbed free of the coffin. Being the second-born of twins, Maggie was the approximate height and weight of her brother, and Barnes had fashioned the casket exactly to her measurements. He indicated a passage inscribed in the underside of the lid: ‘Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.’ Maggie placed a dry kiss on Barnes’ cheek.
‘Joyce was his favourite,’ she said, tracing the lettering with her fingers. ‘And what a joy it is to see things come to a close,’ she added as they settled the remainder of the fee.
They embraced a final time, Maggie’s eyes watering as she rushed into the fawn morning light, the metallic ring of the street suddenly upon her. Barnes watched her go and then shuttered the blinds, turned the sign on the door and went to the back room where a shaft of blunt sunlight shot through a small window, illuminating a gurney in the room’s middle. There, by way of a small incision below the navel, the remaining earthly fluids drained from the body of Eddie Moon.
‘Onwards and upwards!’ exclaimed Maggie as she turned towards the hill and climbed the town’s high street, headed for the council chambers.
A tram clattered by in the opposite direction, going for the wharf, where Tom Small guided his trawler against the pier. He slipped a noose of rope around a nearby pylon as other boats arrived from the seaway, each bearing a wake of foam gleaming in the maturing daylight. Around him, crew disembarked along the sleepy boardwalks, the end of season excitement heightening the gay sounds; seagulls hooting, boom poles clinking in the lazy wind. Tom stepped into the tray of his boat to study a scrub of tangled netting he had set aside on entering the bay. As he considered the possible approaches, Harold Barnes reviewed his own work; a set of pipes cycled preservatives through Eddie Moon’s veins and Barnes ran his hands over the body’s flesh, shedding skin into the air in clouds of silver. From a pail of milky water he produced a sponge and cleaned each limb, working delicately between the fingers and toes.