I Saved That for You, Baby
by Daniel J. Murray
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
Margret pulled a chair to the bed and placed the jar on Jeff’s pillow beside his right ear. She clutched his hand and pulled it toward her forehead. She made slow, sweeping patterns on her brow and kissed his palm lightly. She placed his palm to her cheek and closed her eyes; she was lost in his touch.
The air conditioner, which had always run quietly, began to sputter. This was it — the sign that they were coming. Without haste Margret grabbed the jar, unscrewed the lid and held it down at her knees. At that moment, the doctor and nurses entered, moving in coordination around the bed, taking their positions. Dr. Simms gave one final check of Jeff’s pupils, sweeping his flashlight back and forth: a futile but necessary routine.
“I’m sorry, Margret”, said Dr. Simms solemnly, but with a hint of rehearsal. “The time has come. The insurance will not pay for any more treatment and as you have already stated, you do not have the means to sustain him. Again, I am very sorry.”
Dr. Simms threw a few switches and turned a few dials and it was done. The heart monitor played out the ghastly tone that no one ever wants to hear, but to Margret it was sheer magnificence, like a haunting Beethoven sonata. Without any further words, the doctors and nurses left Margret alone to grieve.
This was her only chance. Quickly, she sprang up gripping the jar in her right hand and pressed the opening hard over Jeff’s mouth. She waited. A moment passed after Jeff had been disengaged from the machine; had it come? Is it possible that the tidal breath had come and Margret missed it?
She waited: she had to; she couldn’t be sure. After a few more agonizing seconds, it came; a long, deep, guttural exhalation that voided Jeff’s lungs. It was the tidal breath, the final essence of the person.
Once satisfied, Margret quickly screwed the lid onto the jar and placed it into her bag. She stared at Jeff; a single tear of joy ran down her cheek. Not long after, two orderlies came to the room, draped the sheet over Jeff’s head and carted him off to the morgue.
Margret followed behind them, keeping a safe distance so to not be detected. She had to get into the morgue before they performed an autopsy.
Peering through the small rectangular window of the morgue, Margret watched as the orderlies documented Jeff’s arrival, placed him into a body bag, dropped the bag onto the freezer shelf and slid it inside, finalizing the procedure with a slam and click of the freezer door. Second from the bottom, third row from the left, Margret noticed.
Quickly, Margret retreated down the hall, ducking into a closet as the orderlies exited the morgue. She waited in silence, clutching at the jar in her bag. I’m coming Jeff, we’ll be together again, she thought.
The orderlies passed the closet and Margret made her way back to the morgue door. She paused looking through the window again. The lights were off inside and Margret felt a sudden shudder run through her. She had to be brave; there was no turning back now.
She pressed down on the handle and slid into the dark room, pressing her back to the cold brick wall. The chill of the room and the thrill of her trespass forced the hairs on her arms to stand. She stood in silence, listening to the sounds of her own breathing. The smell of death and formaldehyde was overwhelming.
For a moment she thought she heard a sound; a movement somewhere in the room. After a moment or two, she decided it must have been her imagination; an imaginary noise due to fear and the darkness in the room.
She blindly searched the wall behind her, sliding her arms up and down, feeling for a light switch. It wasn’t there; it must be on the wall on the other side of the door, she thought. She groped her way across the door, found the switch and threw it. A hum and sudden pop of mercury in the light tubes illuminated the room in a flickering strobe. Margret closed her eyes and waited for her pupils to adjust to the light.
Across the room and to her right was Jeff’s freezer. Margret’s heart pounded in her chest like a jackhammer. Reluctantly she made her way to the freezer and placed her hand on the handle. She took a deep breath and slowly pulled until it clicked open. She slid the tray out and stared at the black bag. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably as she reached for the big zipper at the head of the bag. The metal zipper was bitingly cold from the frigid temperature inside of the cabinet and she pulled it slowly, one click at a time until his face was uncovered.
She stared at him; studying the lines of his eyebrow, his nose and lips. Suddenly, she was swept by the thought that her plan might not work. It was possible that she had become deluded from the stress of her situation: the years she spent in and out of hospitals; the dreadful chemotherapy treatments; the endless nights caring for Jeff as he vomited uncontrollably — his fever spiking; watching Jeff, her love, all but vanish in his mind and body. She became overwhelmed at these thoughts and started to sob. This did not last long; however, she was there to get him back.
She wiped the tears with her sleeve and reached into her purse, pulling out the jar that contained Jeff’s breath. She started to unscrew the lid when she heard a sound in the hall; voices! They were in the corridor, quickly approaching the morgue; she could hear the swish of their paper shoe covers.
Without thinking, and for fear of being caught, Margret pushed Jeff’s body back into the freezer, climbed inside and quietly pulled the door shut just as they reached the door. The voices were the orderlies. They came back to the morgue with another freshly dead body. Margret was still, holding her breath deep inside. She was trembling in fear and from the sub-zero temperature inside the freezer. She closed her eyes and thought of Jeff.
* * *
The sun rose earlier that morning, it was the spring solstice and Margret new that something about her was different. She made a fresh pot of coffee, some eggs and two sides of bacon. Jeff would be awake soon, he was sure to see a change in her. Wouldn’t he? She brushed the thought aside and finished making breakfast. Jeff lumbered into the kitchen a few moments later.
“Morn, Mar.” He laid a soft kiss on her cheek then grabbed a mug for coffee. Margret blushed and turned to him, placidly pulling at the bottom of her night gown; flaunting — she wanted him to notice her. He hadn’t.
They ate their breakfast nearly in silence, and then Margret spoke: “Jeff? Something is different about me. Can you guess what?” Jeff dropped his fork, lowered his newspaper he’d been reading and glared at Margret’s glowing face.
“You ain’t saying... Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” A smile creaked at the corner of his lips.
Margret didn’t answer, she just nodded her head; her grin was stretching from ear to ear now. Jeff shoved himself from the table and shouted “Yeah? We did it babe? I can’t believe it!” He leaped at Margret, wrapping his arm around her waist and grabbing her face with his other hand, kissing her frantically.
They had tried for many months to get pregnant, utilizing every method: eating certain foods; trying positions that were supposed to help during sex. Jeff had even gone so far as to race home from work after Margret called claiming that she was sure she had just ovulated. It was the happiest two weeks they would ever spend together.
The fetus was ectopic and had to be aborted. Margret was devastated and slowly decayed into madness.
* * *
Margret noticed that the orderlies were not leaving. They were telling jokes, laughing and she could smell the faint scent of cigarette smoke. She was running out of time. She knew that a considerable loss of oxygen to the brain, even over a short span of time, could cause significant if not irrevocable damage, and it had been almost a half hour since the machines had been disconnected from Jeff. She suspected that if it worked, Jeff would probably have some brain damage but she still had to try.
Quietly, slowly, she contorted her slender body and turned to face Jeff. The jar was above his head, and it took her a few horrifying seconds to find it; she couldn’t remember what she had done with it. She thought she’d heard a door click outside but couldn’t be sure. Margret started to feel faint and claustrophobic. There wasn’t a lot of oxygen left in the freezer; she had to hurry, otherwise the freezer was about to have two permanent occupants.
She positioned herself above Jeff’s face, unscrewed the lid of the jar and pressed the jar over his mouth while rhythmically expanding and contracting her belly trying to force Jeff’s diaphragm to accept the air. Nothing was happening and she was beginning to swoon.
Spots of light stippled before her eyes. An excruciating pain shot through her chest. And then:
“Mar? Is that you Mar?” Jeff’s voice was muffled by the jar but his face became illuminated, glowing, alive!
“Oh, Jeff baby, it worked! I knew it would!” She pulled the jar from his face and threw it aside, smothering him with kisses.
“I’ve always loved you, Mar, and I always will.” Margret nestled her head deep into Jeff’s chest, not bothered by the big zipper that was sticking into her temple. “I saved that for you, baby, and I never lost my faith. I knew it would work; nothing can separate us. Now we’ll be together for eternity, baby, eternity.”
The next morning when the doctor came in to perform the autopsy, he was shocked at what he’d found in the freezer tagged Moody. Inside he found Jeffery Moody, whose body he was there to autopsy, and another body, a woman lying next to him.
Days later a formal investigation was launched by the police in conjunction with the hospital administrator. The two orderlies who were last in the morgue were fired but cleared of all charges by the police. An autopsy was performed on both bodies, but the results were perplexing. The woman, found to be Margret Moody, had died from either asphyxiation or hypothermia; quite possibly both.
When the doctor autopsied Jeffery Moody, his findings were extraordinary. He found his body replete with cancer, naturally, but the odd thing was the condition of his heart. Prior to his death, Jeffery’s heart had showed no anomalies, but now he appeared to have suffered massive trauma consistent with a posthumous heart attack, which was not medically possible.
After a full dissection and examination of the heart, the doctor came to an astounding, singular conclusion to the mystery. Jeffery Moody had never died but was prematurely deposited in the morgue, where he inexplicably regained consciousness and from the shock of the situation apparently died of Broken Heart Syndrome.
The couple was buried together at the Holy Chaplain Cemetery. A single headstone adorned the grave with the inscription Omnia Mors Aequat.
Death had indeed made all things equal.
Copyright © 2009 by Daniel J. Murray