The Caretaker – 3

MY CLEANING LADY was named Agnes Clairborne, a petite creature of Scottish descent who worked swiftly and was extremely reliable. She arrived each Wednesday morning at 10:00 and let herself in. Although ours was an employer-employee relationship, it had lasted over a dozen years, and I suspected that if Agnes ever retired, we’d remain in touch.

It seemed fitting to me, therefore, that Agnes would be the one to find me. She arrived on the morning of December 12, unlocked the door, and half-tripped over my body, which was slumped across the archway of the house. She cried. I never expected anyone would cry over my demise, which just goes to show that life isn’t the only thing full of surprises.

Members of the orchestra were informed of my passing, and Mr. Sato, the assistant conductor, graciously oversaw business of my burial. The orchestra played Stravinsky’s “Lullaby of the Firebird” at my funeral—another unexpected surprise. There were tears as the casket that entombed my lifeless body was lowered into the earth. How odd it felt to me, a newly ethereal presence, to be capable of hearing and seeing these proceedings yet incapable of being heard or seen.

Ten years later I still, at times, gaze upon my grave. The weathered headstone lay overrun with grass clippings, leaves, and dirt. There have been no visitors to plot 738 since that cloudy day in December, a decade past. I mention this as a matter of fact, not out of sorrow or lamentation. I’ve plenty of company here: Henry Salinger, Agnes Worthington, Edward Martinez, Felix McMahon, Madison and Deborah Nelson, Carol O’Caffery. Dozens more. They welcomed me before the moon had risen on my first evening of residence, as if I were a long-awaited friend. In a way, I suppose I was.

We’re together, and I prefer it that way. Ours is an enduring kinship. Although ignored or forgotten by the living, we joyfully celebrate one another in this, the hereafter.


NEXT: Something new.