George Schwartz gave every indication that he enjoyed his job, to the extent that anyone enjoys “cooking someone,” as he often said. Maude wasn’t shocked when he said things like, “gonna go roast a body,” or “gonna go make a crispy critter.”
He had extraordinarily muscular arms that belied his slight build, and an ever-present bristly stubble almost covered the facial scars from youthful acne. One his left arm, the roman numeral VI was tattooed. His shabby clothing and unkempt appearance didn’t really matter, because he wasn’t in the public eye.
He was grateful to have a job, but his disingenuous attitude toward the dead might give a lay person pause. He would often say, “when you’re dead, you’re dead. After that, who cares if you get scorched?” Only once had Maude heard him say, “at least they don’t scream.” Although a little perplexed, she dismissed the statement as just another one of George’s eccentricities.
His prospective about death, and burned bodies was ironic, given his past.
When he was 16, he stole a school bus and drove it all the way across the state of Georgia. On his way back, he collided with a mini-van. Six people were trapped inside as it caught on fire. George tried to open the doors, but was repelled by the flames. He watched as the people desperately tried to free themselves, and he listened as they screamed in pain.
He was charged with grand theft auto, and six counts of manslaughter. He was tried as an adult, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
He was a model prisoner, and was released for good behavior after 35 years. He wasn’t one to make grandiose statements about having found God while incarcerated, but he never drove a motor vehicle again, as a sort of self-imposed punishment.
Transitioning back into the world was difficult for George, and he spent several months on the street. Oftentimes, he would stand on the corner and hold a sign that said, “will work for food.” Most assumed that he was seeking money to buy alcohol, but George had never had a drop to drink. Having an alcoholic father didn’t keep him from being a juvenile thief, but it did keep him away from the booze.
His mother died while he was in prison, but he didn’t know that his father had beaten her to death, until he was released. There was no mechanism for revenge, as his father finally put the bottle to his head, and pulled the trigger.
One night, while shivering in the pouring rain, his sign faded and worn, George had a fortuitous encounter with old man Mosley, who bought him a hamburger and took him to the crematorium. He gave him a blanket, and allowed him to spend the night on the floor.
The next morning, old man Mosley returned with the expectation that after a good night’s sleep, George would be gone, but he was surprised when he found him still there. They went to get a cup of coffee, and George told old man Mosley about his past.
Old man Mosley had a few skeletons of his own, buried deep in the closet, and he was sympathetic to George’s plight. He offered him a job cremating bodies, and they made a pact that they would never speak of George’s past. Neither of them ever broke that pact.
Sleep hadn’t come easy for George in years, and on the nights that he could actually drift off, he would awake screaming. He had never stopped having nightmares about the six people who burned alive while he was watching.
To be continued_______________