by Spencer Hyde
Running a crematorium is easy work, but it’s like, do I really need to keep explaining the process to families and how these bodies go in as just bags of water and end up ash? I mean, I guess it’s super sad and all. Sometimes I talk to the bodies as they go into the oven and just mention like, how much they’ll weigh when it’s all done. And I’ve made a lot of money because I need it, not because I like the way I get it. So, that’s something probably worth noting, because the black market for body parts—which is mostly limbs—isn’t exactly some unknown, random, cannot-be-defined thing that slides into your life and then, Hey! you’re a member now or something, it really approaches you in the form of a small Asian man asking you very aloof-like if you want extra cash and What, do you really need the whole body? because medical research companies will pay huge change for that stuff. By stuff he of course means limbs which of course come from loved ones of the people coming into my office which of course ends up in these overly decorated pots to be placed places and remembered. But memory is the real urn, right? I mean, I can sell a leg to that guy for thousands of dollars but what’s it costing the family if I never tell them? They know the heat left their loved one and that heat is in the bricks now. They won’t notice an ounce of ash, right? So it’s really just that I have some weight on me, and maybe that’s what I have to carry as I go to the next world, but I know in this world my little girl has a rare bone thing eating away at her and if I can pay for it with other bones then I can actually afford it and not feel like I’ve failed her. And I can’t really sever memories, right? I mean, they will still remember the time their dad smiled from the audience during their cello performance and stuff, not like he’s all proud and can’t clap because he’s missing an arm in the memory. It’s only in real life he’s missing that arm, and it’s really just turned to a pile of ash, and maybe I boxed it up wrong and missed some and maybe that’s what’s paying for me to help my girl out because she’s not ash and if she becomes a pile at my feet that’s something I can’t lift or carry into the next world or even imagine holding in my hands in this world. I’m just not that strong. Not that you need to know how strong I am or that memories can’t be stolen or that we really just move from one form of heat to another because you probably knew that—I just needed to say it.
by Spencer Hyde
You should probably know that my dad has the weirdest job ever. I mean, most girls my age get to talk about how their dad like, saves energy by creating those smart-car batteries, or how their dad works in finance and flies the family to cool places like Ireland or something. My dad runs a crematorium. Not super cool sounding, I know. But he enjoys his work I guess. It’s not like I have a say in what he does anyway. But I remember him being especially upset with me for leaving the gate open. As if I didn’t feel awful enough about losing my little sister. She was just learning to color, too.
We recently learned about this thing in my Biology class: elephant graveyards. It’s this old legend, according to my teacher, where older elephants wander off from the group because they know they are going to die. So that’s just a legend, a myth. But when elephants die, my teacher said other elephants wait around and pick up their friend’s or family member’s bones and walk around with them for a while before moving on. So cool, right? Like, the fact they show so much respect for the departed. But I don’t know that I would be willing to pick up Annie’s bones. I mean, I bet the elephant responsible for the death didn’t feel all that close to those bones, or even to the rest of the herd.
Anyway, Annie is now in two urns, one in my dad’s house, and one in my mom’s. They are both beautifully made, but I just see the elephant bones now whenever I look at them. Sometimes when I’m at my dad’s place I’ll take the urn and sit with it in the dark long after he’s fallen asleep. I just hold it and ask Annie if she’ll forgive me or not. She never answers, of course.
About the Author:
Spencer Hyde’s novel Waiting for Fitz released in March of 2019. His stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, Bellevue Literary Review, Five Points, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and literature at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and is currently at work on his second novel set in Hell’s Canyon.
About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:
CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.