In The End: What Color Diamond Are You?
The sound of a car passing by the Muller Funeral Home died away as Chet Muller closed the front door. He paused in the entry, listening for a greeting but it was as quiet as a morgue.
His wife smiled when he walked into the parlor. It was a nervous smile; a twitchy half-hearted grin — forced in order to hide some deeper feelings and not quite succeeding. She averted her eyes.
He injected as much enthusiasm as he could muster into his voice. “Hi babe,” he said, “How’d the appointment go?”
She took off her head-scarf, rubbed her bald head and then folded the scarf as she said, “I’m going to die, Chet.”
To hear her say it, and say it so candidly, took the wind from his sails. He slumped onto the ottoman, looking at his hands as if they held some crib notes regarding what he should say next. His throat felt as though he had failed in an attempt to swallow a finger—perhaps his own.
“I don’t know what to say, Ann. It’s quite a blow. I thought the chemo would do the trick.”
“Chet, I don’t want my end to be a sad time. That’s not how I want to go out.”
She stepped back into the kitchen and came out holding a tray with a bottle of champagne and two flutes.
“What’s all this?”
She put the tray on the coffee table and said, “It’s a little celebration of my life; of our life together.”
He nodded with apprehension and shot little glances at her for cues. Ann was smiling more genuinely now. She handed him a flute and held up her own.
“To us, Chet. We make quite a pair, don’t we? We’ve got chemistry.”
Their glasses clinked lightly and they both drank, each studying the other. Between them lay a minefield of possibilities; things as yet unspoken.
“Chet? You know that newer service we offer? GemStars?”
“Sure. It’s a great way to be remembered.” He honestly believed that. How anybody thought up the idea to begin with was beyond him.
“I’m going to be cremated anyway; I want my cremains super heated and pressed into a diamond. Just like in the brochure. It’ll be a little more expensive, but I want to be the biggest red diamond they can make at GemStars.”
He nodded slowly, thoughtfully. He couldn’t picture wearing “Ann the diamond” while doing Cynthia the blonde—especially “Ann the big red diamond”. That idea had him considering colors. Ann was more of a smaller green gemstone in his opinion.
“We can do that, Ann. I’d be honored to wear…you. Hah, it just sounds so odd. No wonder people have a hard time with it. We’re carbon-based and so are diamonds but to think of someone you know as a diamond; it doesn’t quite add up when you picture it. Know what I mean?”
“Well, I’ve already taken care of the details. It’s in my dying requests and the money will come out of my will.”
He couldn’t fathom spending the money on her death that way. She’d get a plastic-carton urn and probably land on the unclaimed shelf downstairs. He smiled.
“Sounds like you have it all thought out. I’m so happy for you. No wonder you’re ready to celebrate.” He raised his glass. “To a wonderful life lived. You’re one in a million, Ann.”
He did genuinely feel happy for her. So he couldn’t understand why the choked up feeling was returning in his throat. It was getting downright hard to breathe. He looked at Ann with concern on his face. She smiled back; a carefree smile reminiscent of a warm sunny day—perhaps at a picnic.
“You can feel it now, can’t you?”
He opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t bring himself to do so.
“Yes, I suppose you can. Well Chet, the fact is I’m not dying.
“And I’ll have your cremains pressed into a big yellow diamond.”
Chet began clutching at his throat, pleading with his eyes. He tried to get up but only managed to drop to one knee. The champagne flute fell in his bid for balance. As he slumped to the floor by the couch he stared at Ann, whose smile faltered.
“You know, Chet; when I found out about you and Cynthia, I started this little charade of mine as a sympathy play. That I was able to shave my head and wear this scarf…well, I suppose it’s a great argument against my sanity.”
Ann looked away, distracted by an inner voice. She ran a palm over her bald head again, smiled, and refocused on Chet.
“I like it. I haven’t had a bad hair day in some time.”
Chet could only focus on trying to breathe. In this he was failing, slowly and horribly. His arms were limp at his sides and he had given up all but a few more breaths. He was drooling.
Ann left the room and came back with a gurney. “Anyway, this idea of putting you out of the way occurred to me. There was a chemistry between us Chet. But now? I can run this funeral home fine without you.”
Chet was still lucid, yet unable to move. He was fading fast because of his inability to breathe properly. Ann dragged him onto the gurney and used a strap to keep him from rolling off.
“I like the idea of pressing you into a diamond. I’d like to get you in an uncut and unpolished state; a diamond in the rough, that’ll be you. Of all the colors they offer, I think yellow suits you best.”
This idea came to me while considering a writing prompt from the Manomet Writing Group (a local group for me) and reading a short story by Neil Gaiman: “Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Louisville, Kentucky,” which first appeared in the 2002 Tour Book of the singer/ songwriter Tori Amos.
To me, it sounds like the birth of a serial killer. They usually save keepsakes of their kills, don’t they? What better keepsake than a diamond made from the victims cremains? Hmmmm?