Mourning Through Fishnets, by Nathaniel Tower
I was supposed to be mourning my dead wife, but I couldn’t take my eyes off this slutty-looking woman standing in the corner. I normally don’t go for that type. I like my women to be sexy in a more modest way. Not homely by any means, and not that girl-next-door type, whatever the hell that means. Just girls that look well-put together and have a reasonable fashion sense but are sexy as hell when they take their clothes off. Just take my wife for example. She was lying there in her copper-colored casket all prim and proper, a nice business-type suit or something like that. Not even a cut of cleavage showing. But she still looked nice. Not to sound like a necrophiliac, but I’m sure she looked good underneath it as well.
Then there was this girl in the corner, her face all muddied with makeup and her breasts spilling out of her too-tight tank top like potatoes out of a ripped burlap sack. She looked like the type of girl you’d see in one of those made-for-TV porn movies. Maybe she thought this was a film shoot. I can picture the plot now—the sexy slut in the corner comes and screws the widower after everyone leaves. Hell, they probably do it on top of the casket. Magical.
She had been standing in the corner for the last hour. She hadn’t spoken to anyone, nor had she even inched toward the now dwindling line of visitors paying their respects to me. “So sorry for your loss,” they all said, as if those words meant anything to me. Or to them. What did any of them have to be sorry about?
I wondered who she was, dreaming up scenarios as I glazed through conversations with people I barely knew.
“Oh yes, quite sad indeed.”
Well, no shit it’s sad. My wife was twenty-four years old and she died suddenly in a hit and run accident. That’s pretty damn sad.
“I wonder if they’ll ever catch the guy…”
Quite frankly, I didn’t care. It wouldn’t change much of anything if they did. I kept saying “I hope so” every time someone mentioned it, but really I just kept imagining that woman in the corner with her thin yet muscular fish-netted legs wrapped around me, five-inch heels still on of course. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help but think she was a service provided by the funeral home to take my pain away. Honestly, I was ready to act out that porno.
After what must’ve been the 117th and final “sorry” of the evening—I’ll get around to reading that guestbook someday—the confused porn actress began walking my way, her hips swaying back and forth in a way my wife’s never did. It was like a pendulum, or maybe like Newton’s Cradle. I pretended not to notice as I glanced around the room, but really I was just checking to make sure everyone else had left. Other than my wife, they had. I checked my watch: half-past eight. The visitation had gone thirty minutes later than advertised. The funeral home ended up charging for an extra hour, but that might’ve been because one of the undertakers—not that they call themselves that anymore—came in while I was “canoodling” with the slut and her polka-dotted mini (at one point during the evening I thought I heard a couple women referring to her as “Skankadots”). We weren’t canoodling by any stretch of the imagination. That was just what the undertaker said. Skankadots was still a couple feet away when the nosey undertaker even walked in on us.
“My heavens,” she said when she entered the room, covering her eyes as if some grotesque act were taking place. I mean, come on, it’s a funeral home. Anything that living people do is less grotesque than what goes on there on a daily basis.
I glanced at the woman, whose clothes and makeup were more stiff and artificial than my dead wife’s. “Is time up?” was all I could think to say. I hadn’t even had the chance to speak to Skankadots yet. But boy was I looking forward to it. She’d probably be the first sincere person to converse with me all night.
The woman’s rigid mouth remained in a petrified ‘O’.
“I’d still like to pay my respects,” Skankadots said with no hint of flirtation in her voice, which I found extremely disappointing.
“Well I never,” Mrs. Undertaker said. She was a walking cliché, aside from being a woman working in a funeral home. I had always thought that was a job for creepy old men on the verge of death or evil-looking dudes that seemed ready to take you under. “And how did you know the deceased?” she accused.
“How did you know her?” Skankadots shot back. She was feisty in dress and attitude. I was starting to think this could be one of the best nights of my life.
Mrs. Undertaker just stood and stared, waiting for further explanation or making sure we didn’t do anything to soil the immaculate carpets.
“We worked together, if you must know,” Skankadots said, winking at me on the word ‘worked.’ For a moment, I wondered if maybe my wife was into porn on the side. Or maybe she had been a hooker on the weekends I went out of town. We’d only known each other for a few months before we had gotten married, and we’d only been married for a couple years, so who’s to say I really knew the woman.
I glanced over at Mrs. Undertaker. She checked her watch and tapped her foot twice but didn’t say anything.
“Could we just have a few more minutes alone with the body?” Skankadots said in a voice that was far from skanky. Maybe she really did just want to pay her respects.
“You have five minutes,” Mrs. Undertaker ordered. She backed out of the room, staring disapprovingly the whole way. I thought about saying something, but I didn’t need to give any explanation. I’d done nothing wrong.
Once Mrs. Undertaker had exited the room—she did leave the doors open and was probably cupping her hand just out of the doorway to get a listen, if she could even hear well enough—Skankadots stepped right up and slipped her arms around me. It was the most sensual hug I’d ever received. That polka-dotted mini skirt was pressed up against my crotch, and I could feel the seams of the fishnets through the threads of my suit pants. I waited for her hands to slide all the way down my torso, but she let go and stepped back before they did.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” she cooed.
Great, I thought. Another one of these moments. I had expected a little more honesty from someone like this.
Now about three feet apart, we made eye contact for the first time. We had been trying to do it all night, but our glances always seemed to just miss.
Her eyes were tried, and she had way too much eyeliner, possibly the tattooed kind. I never did go for the women who plastered themselves with makeup like they were some sort of clown. But there was just something different about Skankadots.
“So, how did you know my wife?” I heard myself asking as I continued to study her painted face.
“I didn’t,” she said. She was standing in the way that a sexy woman stands, with one leg slightly angled and her legs opened enough where if I bent down to tie my shoe I could see anything I wanted. I almost did it, but I was pretty sure my shoes were both tied. I didn’t want to look like a pervert.
“Then what are you doing here?” I asked, my eyes bobbing up and down between her half-naked breasts and her impossibly forever legs. Honestly, I didn’t think women like this were real. Maybe all the stress of my wife’s death was causing me to imagine things. I wanted to touch her again and make sure she wasn’t a mirage, but I didn’t feel bold enough to make that kind of move. Besides, this looked like the type of woman that made the moves for you.
“I’m studying the trade,” she replied cryptically. I had no idea what she meant.
“And what trade is that?” I asked with an attempt at a wink. I was never the slyest winker. Usually I ended up blinking for a long time, like the way you look when you’re about to sneeze. Hopefully she would think it was cute.
“I think you know,” she said with a sneeze-blink of her own. Her playful mockery assured me that she was interested. I wondered if we would just do it there. The undertaker lady was only giving us a couple more minutes, but I wasn’t sure how long I could last with this woman. She obviously knew her stuff. She could probably show me the time of my life in the few seconds it would take to walk out the door. Why hadn’t I paid more attention to sluts before?
“Go ahead and show me,” I told her, looking square in her darkly lined eyes, no blinks or winks this time. Now I was all business, although I hoped this was just a friendly liaison and not part of her job. The cost of the funeral had really bled me dry, so throwing out cash on a call girl wasn’t really in the cards for me at the moment. Maybe they would catch the hit-and-run driver after all so I could file one of those wrongful death lawsuits and make some bank. Then Skankadots and I could travel the globe and she could show me all her slutty outfits and whatever else she had in her repertoire.
“Alright,” she said. By this time we probably only had about ninety seconds left to do the deed. I swallowed hard, hoping she wouldn’t see my pulsating Adam’s apple.
She took the large bright purple purse off her shoulder and opened it. I expected it to be overflowing with condoms and other sexual tools. Instead, I saw a bagful of jewelry and wallets. One of them looked a bit like mine, and I was almost certain that there was a strand of pearls that had been around my wife’s neck just moments before.
“Wanna split it?” she asked.
I stared in disbelief, wondering how she managed to lift all that loot when she hadn’t moved all night. This girl was better than I even imagined.
“Well?” She suddenly looked anxious. Mrs. Undertaker was due back in less than a minute. I had to decide something quickly.
“I’ll split it if you go home with me,” I decided to spit out. This was the most bold I’d ever been in my life.
“One or the other,” she said.
I figured we had about thirty seconds. There was a lot of money in there, probably enough to pay for the funeral and more. It was almost too tempting to resist.
“Time’s up,” Mrs. Undertaker scowled from the doorway.
Skankadots closed the purse and put it back up on her shoulder. Funny thing was that I hadn’t even noticed that she had a purse before. Not sure how I could’ve missed such a monstrous bag.
“We’ll see you in the morning,” Mrs. Undertaker said to me.
Skankadots gave me a “you blew it look.”
I hung my head in disappointment, which Mrs. Undertaker probably thought was my sorrow setting in.
“Say your goodbyes,” Mrs. Undertaker said.
I almost said goodbye to Skankadots before I realized she meant we were supposed to say goodbye to my wife. We walked over to her body together. Sure enough, the pearls were no longer around her neck. I gave Skankadots a “wow, you’re good” look before bowing my head to my wife. Glancing at her, she looked awfully plain, like a mannequin at a second-hand store with some gently used clothes. She had nothing on Skankadots.
“Walk me out,” she whispered to me as we stared at the body for one last moment. I turned to walk away first.
“We’ll have her out for you in the morning so you can say one final goodbye,” the undertaker said. Then she led us to the doorway. For some reason, she didn’t seem as disapproving this time. Perhaps my look of lust had vanished, although I knew that if it had, the look of greed had taken its place.
As we walked out to the parking lot, I half-expected Skankadots to slip her arm into the crook of mine. I wasn’t sure which offer she wanted me to take. Did she want to give up this wealth, or did she want to give up her body for the night? Either way, she was doing me a big favor. Truth is, I hadn’t quite decided even when we got to her car, a beaten-up Chevy with dented doors and a spiderweb-cracked windshield. She sure looked like she could use the money, although maybe it was all part of her act. After all, I’d never seen a slut get out of a nice looking car. Of course, I didn’t really think she was a slut anymore. She just wanted people to think she was to distract from what she was really doing. Everyone stared at her boobs and legs and had no clue what her hands were taking from them.
“So, which do you want?” she said as she stood by the trunk. She opened it and revealed a trunk full of valuables. There were no signs of sexual promiscuity though, which disappointed me a little.
My eyes bounced around like little rubber balls, back and forth between the trunk full of goods and her body full of goods. Eve had nothing on this girl. Compared to this, Adam’s decision was easy.
“Last call,” she said as she readied her arm to toss the purse of booty in the trunk.
I thought about it really hard for the next few seconds, and then a cool breeze blasted my body and my mind made itself up.
“Alright,” I said, “I know what I want.”
* * *
I was twenty minutes late the next morning. They had already closed up the casket and loaded it into the hearse. I asked if I couldn’t have one more look, but the undertaker, a nice looking young man with a sharp black suit, told me they had to stick to their schedule.
“It’s not really that big of a deal anyway,” he assured me. “It’s not like it would’ve changed anything.”
I knew he was right, but I still felt a little guilty about not seeing her one more time.
But I didn’t feel guilty at all after the service when I paid the final bill. I knew last night had made this worth every penny.
Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 50 online and print magazines. A story of his, “The Oaten Hands,” was named one of 190 notable stories by StorySouth’s Million Writers Award in 2009. He currently lives in Missouri with his wife and daughter.
Nathaniel Tower’s first novel, A Reason to Kill, was released in July 2011.
You can also visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm.
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