Gumbo

Donnie Gumbo was a man. A larger built man. A larger built man with soft eyes and a strong neck. He was in line behind his best friend Oli at a taco truck. It was lunchtime when his best friend died.

Oliver Grim was standing in line in front of his best friend Donnie as they their turn in line at the food truck. He was long and skinny. For no particular reason, Oliver died in line. His body smacked the concrete below. Witnesses said it looked like “a puppet getting cut from its strings.”

Donnie Gumbo was the first to check on Oliver when he died. A crowd had gathered around them.

“Someone call the paramedics!” screamed Donnie. He performed CPR for an hour before he realized no one called.

“Come on, Oli. How are you just going to fucking die like that?” asked Donnie. “You’re okay. I got you. You’re lucky I know how to keep a guy alive.”

The crowd left and the food truck closed its window. The lot they were in that lunchtime became empty. One living person and one dead averages out to none.

“Beers after?” Donnie pumped for another thirty minutes before he finally stopped. He threw his dead friend over his wide shoulders and walked to the mortuary.

Donnie walked through the front door of the mortuary with Oliver on his shoulder.

“Do you guys do walk-ins?” Donnie asked.

The receptionist pointed him to a door on the right.

“Thanks.” Donnie readjusted Oliver and walked inside the door.

There was a small man behind a desk with mounds of paperwork in front of him. His hands couldn’t catch a cold they were so small. He was the size of a sack of beans. He was writing so fast his papers almost caught fire.

Donnie pulled out one of the chairs in the office and tried to sit his friend down. After a minute or two of Donnie balancing the dead weight, Oliver was in his seat proper. Donnie pulled out the other chair and sat down too. The small man never looked up.

“My friend is dead,” said Donnie.

“Physically or emotionally?” asked the small man still writing.

“I guess both?”

“Is that a question?”

Donnie looked at Oliver’s lifeless body. “Was it a question?”

“What do you want to do with him?” the small man asked.

“Bury him?”

“Is that a question?”

“Bury him.”

Oliver slowly started slipping in his chair. Donnie reached over before he hit the floor.

“It’ll be $10,000 to bury that young gentleman.”

Donnie let go. Oliver oozed out of the chair and onto the ground. “That’s insane! How about to burn him?”

“Cremation?”

“I don’t care what you put on him, just to burn him.”

“Cremation is $12,000.”

“Why does it cost so fucking much to die? Are there any coupons?”

“You try paying someone less than that to burn a body or make a casket. Doesn’t he have a family to deal with him.”

“You’re looking at him. We’re not blood, but we might as well be.”

“If you don’t have the funds, then we can’t do anything about him.”

Donnie Gumbo lifted Oliver Grim off the floor. He threw him over his right shoulder again. “I’ll just go somewhere else.”

“No one is going to let him die.”

“He’s already dead!” Donnie stormed out.

Donnie carried Oliver from mortuary to mortuary to try to find someone to bury or burn his friend. Each mortuary told him the same things as the first. Donnie had been visiting place to place for so long, he forgot to eat.

“Can I bring him in?” Donnie had stuck his head into a local Mexican restaurant. The waitress inside led the two down in a booth. Donnie leaned his friend against the wall in the booth.

“Is he okay?” the waitress asked.

“Well, he’s dead so no,” Donnie said.

“Already? It’s six o’clock?”

Donnie sat down. “Can I just get two asada tacos?”

“Anything for him?” The waitress looked over to Oliver.

“No. He’s dead.”

“Right.” The waitress left shaking her head.

Donnie looked over to the slouching Oliver. His faces was mushed against the wall. Should he talk to Oliver? Is that weird? He’s still his pal, Oli. Right?

“This is crazy, huh?” Donnie asked.

Oliver looked dead.

“I’m sorry.” Donnie looked down at the table to avoid eye contact. What was he sorry about?

“Can’t believe it cost so fucking much to bury a bloke these days?”

Oliver looked dead.

“And you didn’t help much either, you fucking bozo,” Donnie started to laugh before he realized how weird he must look.

The waitress returned with Donnie’s tacos in hand. In between bites, Donnie would speak.

“You should’ve seen your dumb face. And then you had the balls to fall outta your chair!”

“It’s like no one in this damn state wants to let you die.”

“You’re a real son of a bitch. You know that? Who just dies waiting in line?”

“You’re my friend. I can’t just let you fucking rot on the pavement. Brothers til the end, Oli–”

Donnie put Oliver back on his shoulder and left the restaurant after two hours. He had finished his food twenty minutes after he got it.

The next stop was the pharmacy down the street. Donnie entered and went to the skin care aisle.

“That small boy was talking something about a cream, Oli. Let me know if you see something like that. I don’t know what it’s called, Oli, so don’t break my balls. They use it on dead people apparently.”

Donnie scanned every bottle of lotion and cream in the aisle. He settled on: Aloe Infused Coconut Hazelnut Blend.

“I think this one is good, Oli. Plus, your skin’s a little rubbery.”

Oliver was dropped down in the parking lot. Donnie fumbled with the grocery bag to get the cream out. He popped open the seal and poured out a large glob of cream. He lathered Olivers arms, legs, and even raised up the shirt to get his ribs and back. Lastly, Donnie caked his face and neck. He used up the whole bottle. Donnie then grabbed the grocery bag and pull out a lighter.

“$12,000 dollars my ass, right Oli?” The flame of the lighter flickered awake. The flame touched against Oliver’s creamy skin. Donnie held the lighter there for minute. The body didn’t burn. He moved to the face area and held the fire to his hair. It only singed it.

“No wonder it’s $12,000, Oli. This is harder than it looks.”

Donnie removed the excess cream off Oliver’s dead body. He lathered it on himself before mounting his friend back onto his shoulder.  This time, it was harder to fit Oliver on his shoulder. He was much more stiff. It took a good amount of bending in Oliver’s back and legs to comfortably sit on top of his best friend.

“What to do…”

By the time Donnie got another idea, it was already late at night. The cemetery was already closed, but it wasn’t a problem for him to heave Oliver’s body and a shovel over the fence and then climb it himself.

With a shovel in one hand and his friend’s carcass in the other, Donnie walked to patch of grass under a tree. There he began to dig a hole wide and deep enough to stuff his friend into. It too about two hours of slaving dirt out of the hole before Donnie felt comfortable throwing in his friend.

“Alright, Oli. It looks like this is when we part ways. Listen man, you’ve been nothing but good to me so don’t you dare even think you gotta pay me back for this. Say hi to my ma for me? I’m sure you’ll see your kid up there too. She’s probably grown a bunch. And make sure you haunt me or some shit.”

Not many know what it’s like to bury a friend. That night, Donnie would have given his own life to swap places with his friend.

The last couple of shovels of dirt were piled on top of Oliver. His fingers were still peeking over the dirt. The rigor mortis had set in. Donnie took a good long look at his buried friend.

“Fuck me,” he uttered.

Oliver was unearthed that night and put back on top of Donnie’s shoulder once more. His skin was was a sickly gray color. The dirt had dried out his eyes and lips. He was mummified.

Donnie took his friend back to their home. They lived together and had lived together for at least ten years. A bath was drawn and Oliver was laid into the tub.

“You’re a dry fuck, Oli. You always have been. Goodnight, bud.” Donnie turned off the bathroom light and closed the door.

The next day, Donnie woke up bright and early to cook breakfast. He made scrambled eggs and buttered toast. He brought out two plates and served both before scrapping the food off one and onto the other.

He went to wake up Oliver in the bathroom. The lights revealed a bloated water balloon of a human floating in the tub. The water had been absorbed into Oliver’s rotting corpse. His gray skin had turned blue. The hair on his head had fallen off and clogged the drain. His eyes had grown so large that they spilled out to the outside of the sockets. His skin and his clothes had fused together. Oddly enough, his lips were plump.

“Oh fuck, Oli. What did I do?” Donnie rushed to Oliver’s expanded body. “I’m such a fucking idiot. Why didn’t you tell me this would happen? You’d never let me do this.”

Donnie picked up Oliver’s watery body and heaved it onto his shoulders. Oliver split in half which released all the water that had been soaked up overnight.

The bile, guts, juices, and fluids inside Oliver drenched Donnie’s clothes. Covered in his best friend’s juices, Donnie sat down and cried. After an hour and some change of crying, Donnie went to the kitchen and grabbed six rolls of towels. He soaked up as much of the fluid as he could and threw the towels in a black bag. He then carefully picked up the pieces of Oliver that had been ripped apart and stuffed it in the black bag. Lastly, he took off his clothes and put them in the bag as well.

Donnie got re-dressed and walked out of his home with Oliver in the black bag over his shoulder.

He loaded Oliver in the passenger seat and put on his seat belt. Donnie went around and sat himself in the driver seat, turned on the car, and pulled out of the house.

Donnie drove for God knows how long.

“I’m such a fuck up, Oli.”

Oliver’s syrup and juices jiggled in the bag.

“I can’t take care of you anymore, buddy. I’m not responsible enough. I know you’d take care of me, but holy shit, Oli, I rely on you more than you rely on me.”

Donnie pulled up to a retirement home and dropped Oliver at the front door.

“When you talk about me, don’t call me a son of a bitch,” Donnie said to Oliver. He sprinted back to the car crying. He sped off.

Ten minutes later, a nurse came out and met Oliver at the front door. She poked him and he jiggled. She assumed it was a prank and stuffed the bag in the garbage out back.

Ten years went by before Donnie visited the nursing home. He checked in a the front desk.

“Yeah. Donnie Gumbo. G-U-M-B-O. I’m here to see my friend Oliver,” Donnie told the receptionist.

“Oh! Oliver? He hasn’t had a visitor in years! How do you know him?” asked the receptionist.

“We go way back. If told you about my man, Oliver, you couldn’t look at him the same?”

Donnie was given a visitor sticker and was led to a room on the left wing. Donnie poked his head in first. “Oli?”

There was a man sitting in the middle of the room. He was tucked under a desk.

“Oli, is that you?”

The man turned to Donnie. “SHHHHH. You’ll wake him.”

“Who?” asked Donnie.

“My kid, you fucking bozo. Come down here,” the man said.

Donnie rushed under the desk. “You dog! You were busty while I was away? Wait. Why are we so low?”

“Because, sound travels vertically, idiot. You say something and zoom it goes up in the air and once its done sounding it wooshes to the ground. So, I’m down here because if I’m lower to the ground the less elevation my sound gains. And that means my kid won’t hear me yell at her mom. Which means she won’t go upstairs and strangle him blue.”

“Yeesh. You guys having issues?”

“I’m sorry. Who are you?” asked Oliver.

“Oli, it’s me. Donnie Gumbo. I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, but it’s not like I died or anything.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just make sure you stay low.”

“Whatever you say, Oli. Just as long as we’re good. It got a little hairy after you fainted in the parking lot.”

“I don’t remember that,” said Oliver.

“Yeah. It was so long ago, I don’t think I remember much of it either,” replied Donnie.

They kept their voices low and got to know each other all over again.

No one woke the baby.

-Hec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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