The Coffin Factory

Posted: September 8, 2015 in comedy, Halloween, horror, Nikola Jajic, Road Trip, Travel
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It was a coffin factory. I was in an honest to God, coffin factory.

I had made the call two days earlier. A shot in the dark, but one that I took every now and then. New business is often without aim. A target floating in the ether, waiting on that lucky bullseye.

I was tipped off to their general whereabouts from an old colleague of mine. The casket company appeared to be doing quite a bit of welding. And if you’re spot-welding, then you’re most likely using a lot of welding consumables. These parts are made from nonferrous metals, and need to be changed out often, due to the large amount of current, and heavy force, which this particular process of welding entails.

Brass tacks: Sooner or later you need new parts. We happen to make those parts. Buy them from us and we’ll love you forever.

I should have put one and two together. A casket company, is most likely making caskets. But the word casket sounds a little too much like gasket. And my mind glazed over the word lazily. I assumed it was automotive needs that I would once again be trying to fulfill.

The company was located in a rural area of Indiana. An area which most recently made headlines for the staggering amount of new HIV cases that were popping up in its various townships. Apparently, the numbers rivaled those of New York City. The only difference being there wasn’t nearly the resources, medical personnel, or awareness, that most major cities have. Long story short, the CDC were setting up shop.

Not that any of this had a bearing on my situation. I wasn’t planning on sharing needles or genitals anytime soon, but still, news of this sort always carries a bit of doom and gloom with it. The fact that I was driving through rural Indiana in the midst of a downpour didn’t help either. My eyesight isn’t the best, but I’ve staved off the opportunity to don hip eyewear for this long, and I tend to keep that going, at least until the DMV advises otherwise. Unfortunately, a downpour can be challenging for those of us not blessed with sniper-like peepers, especially when the street signs are mostly lying face down on random dirt roads.

Although, my frustration at the amount of attention needed for the simple task of driving quickly fizzled, as I stumbled upon one of the stranger sights I had seen in some time.

While stopped at a red light, an Amish couple turned and clopped down my street, riding on a horse-drawn carriage. This was my first encounter with the Amish, and their means of transportation (Not counting Kingpin), and I stared wide-eyed in fascination. My jaw hanging and the light changing, as I took it all in.

The rain was flying in at a 45 degree angle. The drops were  the size of mini-water balloons, coming in quicker than a Cuban little leaguer’s fastball. The Amish couple kept low, their hat and bonnet impossibly glued onto their soaking heads, as the gusting wind fought to rid them of their ancient accessories. The man handled the reigns capably, as his wife, or sister-wife, or whatever it is with the Amish, held the umbrella up and out like a makeshift windshield. The scene was equal parts human innovation and cultural stagnation.

The other party in this shit show was, until now, an unseen trucker. He laid on his horn from behind me, reminding anyone within earshot, that we all have somewhere else to be. Even the Amish.

Moments later, there I stood, soaking wet inside of a coffin factory. The Amish might’ve remembered their umbrella, but I did not.

The head of maintenance, I’ll call him Jimbo for this blog, greeted me with good ol’ boy charm.

“Gotdamn. It sure as hell is coming down out the there, eh?”

“Yeah it is.” I replied warily.

“Well, come on then, let me show you round.” Said Jimbo, as he spun and headed deeper into the factory.

I followed Jimbo through the maze like turns of the offices, until we finally spilled onto the shop floor, where I was promptly greeted by hundreds of open coffins.

The sight was a slap in the face from the bony hand of the Reaper himself. I let out a stunned stammer, trying not to let my mortal fears show. Jimbo turned and smiled brightly, reveling in my surprise.

“Lots a damn coffins, amirite? Shit, we build and ship em all over the gotdamn world. This is the house of a thousand soon to be corpses. Heh!”

I just nodded and smiled, as he went on. Jimbo really loved his job.

“Imagine if this place flooded, eh? Whole damn county would be screaming and running for their lives. Floating coffins everywhere!”

Jimbo chuckled hard at his imagery, and I couldn’t help but let out a snort and laugh as well. I believe it’s known as gallows humor, and it does the trick in a pinch.

Soon, we strolled around the shop, as Jimbo showed me the manufacturing process of coffins. All the while, the coffins traveled back and forth, over our heads, and all around us, on various conveyor belts, like a conga line from hell.

Jimbo showed off the really custom ones, which, according to Jimbo, went for upwards of fifty thousand dollars. The big man shook his head when he dropped that number. He looked like a man who wished he had some chew to spit at that moment, but settled for just shaking his head again.

“Can you believe that?! Fifty grand! Hell, if it was me, I’d take that fifty grand and throw a party instead. Dancing girls, my man!”

“A lot of money.” I said, as I nodded in agreement.

I found myself morphing into an extra from King of the Hill. A yes man of sorts. Agreeable to the end. “Yup, what you said, Jimbo.” Or “Damn right, Jimbo.” It was an easy transition to make, Jimbo had ideas enough for the both of us.

And there was no doubt that Jimbo had thought out this scenario, and probably most scenarios that had anything to do with the funeral trade.

Unfortunately, our meeting ended abruptly, when Jimbo was pulled away on an urgent matter. A matter that would presumably result in an angry conference call with one unhappy deity or another, and thus perhaps resulting in a bold move toward cremation.

And Jimbo would let out a frustrated sigh and exclaim “That’s the gotdamn death business for ya.”

I drove back to my office under a sun-filled sky, with clouds like cotton balls. I hoped to steal another glance at the Amish, who undoubtedly made their own coffins, but it was not to be. Instead, I settled for a guy with a funny mustache, at the first Starbucks I could find.

Close enough, I thought.

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