When people’s lives intersect, some may call it fate. Some may call it untoward. Some may call it fortuitous, and some may call it pure happenstance.
Old man Mosley, George and Maude’s lives had converged and thus, become intertwined in an almost other worldly way.
Maude Bowman, at age 56, had been shuffled from foster home to foster home, from the time she was 7 years old. Although some of the families who took her in were kind, others treated her more like a servant.
She had never been trusting as far as belief in longevity of relationships, and given the trauma she suffered at the tender age of 7, it was understandable. Baring her soul to someone was never going to happen, and Maude seemed to be comfortable with that omission.
She had long ago lost her luster, much like the fake pearls in the chain that held her glasses.
When she was 17, she escaped the last home where she had been exiled after rebuffing several attempts of unwanted advances from her foster father. She packed a garbage bag with the few things that belonged to her, and crawled out of the window at midnight.
Finding refuge in the alcove of a store, she waited out the night, and began walking the next day. She wasn’t sure where she was going. She just wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t where she had been.
After three nights on the street, she found respite on a park bench, outside Mosley’s Crematorium. Old man Mosley saw her, and like he would later do for George, bought her a hamburger, and offered a warm night’s rest inside.
Maude was hesitant at first. She didn’t trust men in general, and certainly didn’t trust a stranger, but something about old man Mosley was curiously comforting.
The next morning, old man Mosley came to check on her, and they began to talk. He asked her if she was looking for work, and although it hadn’t yet occurred to her as to how she would live, she found herself blurting out, “Yes, I am.” Then she hesitated, and said, “Wait. Would I be burning bodies?”
He chuckled and said, “No, child. You would be my bookkeeper and secretary. Geraldine worked here for a long time, but she moved away.”
Maude looked around at the dismal room and said, “I don’t imaging you get very much business.” Old man Mosley said, “You’d be surprised. I charge much less than other establishments, and sometimes it’s shocking at how quickly greed surfaces when someone dies.”
“What do you mean?” Maude asked. Old man Mosley said, “it’s much cheaper to set a body on fire than plant it six feet under. Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true.”
Not having any other option at the moment, Maude agreed to work for him.
“You’ll be working with Mort. He’s a good guy, Quiet. Keeps to himself. Comes in, does his job and then goes to the local pub to have a beer with the locals. He’ll be here until he reaches retirement age, and then he’ll move on, but it will be a while before that happens.”
He found a room for her in a large house, not too far from the Crematorium, and paid the first month’s rent. He gave her an advance on her salary, and told her to buy some groceries.
After several weeks, old man Mosley came in and checked on things, much like he always did. He had very little to do with the business itself, but liked to peep in now and then, just to see, as he said, “if the old furnace is still firing.”
He could see the sadness in Maude, and although he wasn’t one to pry, he had a kindness about him that made people more or less expose their soft underbellies.
Once, he looked at Maude and said, “sometimes, child, it’s good to touch the living.” He was surprised when she said, “I think I’m more comfortable with the dead. The dead don’t leave you. They’re already gone.”
An uncharacteristic tear fell from Maude’s eye. Old man Mosley sat down, and said, “What is it child? What has made you so sad?”
Maude began to tell her story.
“When I was 7 years old, my best friend Noble, was having a birthday party. I had never been invited to a birthday party before. I had never been invited anywhere before. I remember being so excited.”
Old man Mosley could see the pain in her eyes as she continued.
“My mother and father had to drive me, and I remember being annoyed when they brought my brothers with them. I was the oldest, and the only girl. I thought my brothers were pests. They were always teasing me.”
Old man Mosley asked her how many brothers she had. “Four,” she said. “I remember sometimes telling them that I wish they would fall into a hole and never come out.”
“What happened?” old man Mosley asked.
“When my mother and father were coming back to get me, they were hit by a school bus. Their van caught on fire, and they all burned up. Sometimes, I think it was my fault that they got hit. I was always wishing that my brothers would go away.”
Old man Mosley said, “you mustn’t think that way, child. We all have bad thoughts from time to time. If we were punished for bad thoughts, the entire world would be in a constant state of collapse. All brothers annoy sisters, and all sisters annoy brothers. It’s just a part of life’s circle.”
Maude looked at him and said, “Is it wrong for me to wish that the person who hit them would suffer a horrible death, and burn in Hell?”
“Yes. It’s wrong,” he said. “First, you must forgive the driver. Then, you must forgive yourself.”
He patted Maude on the shoulder and said, “Think about what I said, and we will speak of this no more.”
Twenty-six years later, when Mort retired, Maude would unknowingly come face to face with the man who killed her family. His name was George.