Martin wasn’t proud of what he did for a living because in 1960’s Louisiana there was a stigma attached to the dead and those who dealt with them. Martin had worked at the funeral home for a couple of years. He hadn’t planned to have a career in the business but times were tough and you took jobs wherever you could. He had performed most of the jobs available in the mortuary except for embalming. He was apprenticing for his license but had not yet had the opportunity to embalm. He for the most part enjoyed his work behind the scenes preparing the bodies for viewing, arranging the flowers and setting up extra seating for the viewings of deceased dignitaries.
She guarded both her grill and her recipe like a pit bull with a bone. No one, not even Martin, knew her special ingredients.
The men worked with skill and dignity making sure they packed up everything that might pertain to the body. They spoke with the highway patrolman and signed his paperwork, loaded the sheet covered body into the back of the wagon and headed back to the mortuary. It was a job they performed routinely but it never became routine. They never forgot that the reason they were there was because someone had died. Their jobs weighed heavy upon them and they would often expel that weight in the form of inappropriate humor but never in front of anyone just between the two of them.
They were getting close to the funeral home when they smelled the familiar scent. Clyde took a deep breath and said “man oh man that smells good.” Martin sniffed and replied “dang it I done toll Letty that I had fresh meat comin. I guess she done dug sumin out of de deep freeze.” Clyde knew what Martin meant but since they had just picked up the recently deceased he found it a bit funny if not a whole lot inappropriate. Okay he really found it a little bit inappropriate and a whole lot funny and he began to laugh. He laughed so hard he missed the drive and jumped the curb. Deciding it didn’t much matter the men left the hearse where it was and unloaded the dead man and wheeled him into the basement which doubled as the morgue.
They knew there wasn’t much they could do for the poor guy but there was a rack of Letty’s ribs waiting for them they put him in the cooler and headed upstairs. They found Letty in the kitchen putting the finishing spices in her potato salad and boiling up some tea. “You boys lookin fer sumin” she asked in her sweet southern drawl. Martin kissed his wife’s cheek and said “some of your ribs and an extra heapin of dat tater salad. Me and Clyde jest got back from a run. I done tole ju dat Momma and dem were butcherin a hawg dis week and I’d bring you some fresh meat.” Letty smiled and said “why do you dink I made deese ribs? I’s cleanin out dat deep freeze to make room fer one of your daddy’s hawgs.” Clyde stuck his nose down close to the plate of ribs and took a long inhale “Letty ain’t nobody in dis whole world make ribs like you.” Letty smiled and replied “you boys go on back to your work. I’ll bring dem up to you when dey is done.”
They two men did as they were told and went back to cleaning up the prep room in anticipation of upcoming viewing. They scrubbed the tables and swept the floors and brought up the unfortunate motorcyclist. Then they heard a knock on the door. “Come on in” Martin hollered, but the knocking continued. He opened the door to find Letty standing with a heaving tray. She had loaded it with racks of ribs, succulent and dripping with sauce, potato salad, fried okra and sweet sliced tomatoes. She had tall glasses full of ice cold sweet tea with mint leaves dispersed perfectly through the glass. She sashayed into the room sat the tray down and gave each man a peck and said “I’ll leave you to it. I gots to go see Mamaw down at de home and take her some of my beignets.”
The men sat down next to the occupied gurney at the steel table and began dishing up the food. Letty had liberally coated the ribs in her sauce, but that was never enough. She also supplied each man with his own bowl of sauce in which to dip the ribs.
They didn’t stop to use their napkin; they didn’t even stop to sip their tea. The plan was to devour the ribs first, wipe up then eat the rest of the food. Neither man heard the door when it opened. It wasn’t until they had let out the groan and heard the scream did they realize anyone else had entered the room. There standing in the door way was the dead man’s family and there behind the bloody sheet covered gurney sat Martin and Clyde faces covered in the deep red barbecue sauce.
Saturday at the Maul
15 hours ago