I wonder if James Dutch had any idea that this would be his last ride, as he climbed onto his vintage Harley. I wonder if he thought, “maybe I’ve had too much to drink. Maybe I should call someone.” Maybe he didn’t have anyone, or maybe he just didn’t care, but the fact remained that he got on his bike. The fact remained that he pulled out onto the road, and the fact remained that very soon after. James Dutch was dead.
By the time I arrived on the scene, the blood had spread out of his body, and into a large red circle about four feet wide surrounding his body. His arms were extended above his head like some kind of macabre version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The flashing cop lights reflected wildly in the not so small puddle. I turned away from the body, and found the medical investigator in charge of the scene. “Hey man, he looks pretty beat up, what happened to him?” I asked. “Well, it looks like he got a little sauced and fell off his bike. Doesn’t look like he hit anything though.” Indeed, I saw that both the man, and his motorcycle were in the lane they were supposed to be in. “Man, that sucks, he sure does look beat up. Well, are you ready to load him up?” I asked. “Yeah, sure am. Let me just find a body bag.” I went back over to my van and put on a pair of powdery white latex exam gloves, the kind that doctors in old movies, and myself, like to snap before getting down to business. I went to the back and opened the hatch. The gurney gave me some problems when I tried to wheel it out of the back, it always does. When I got back to the body, the medical investigator, whose name was Doug, had already unzipped and turned inside out the white plastic bag. It was lying next to the body. Right before we load a body into the bag, I like to get a good look at what happened to them, it makes for better stories. Just from the large pool of blood that stained my shoes, I could tell this was a bad one, and when I looked closer at the body I could see I was right. The back of James’ head had been torn off, and brains were leaking all over the road. “Thanks a lot James,” I thought, “now im going to have to scoop them up and put them in the bag.” His neck had been slit, and I could see the blood pouring out as a cop started to pick up an arm. “Hey buddy,” the cop said, “do you mind grabbing a leg?” “Yeah sure, sorry.” I said and grabbed his feet. “Damn it,” his shoe had fallen off, but when I looked down to grab his leg, I realized that his entire foot wasn’t attached. “Fuck!” I yelled. The cops all laughed. “What are you, new to this or something?” they laughed some more. “Kind of, shit man, his leg fell off!” I said. “Well, just put it in the bag with the rest of him, he won’t mind. Wow, what a dumb fucker, you can still smell the whisky on him.” We finally managed to get the body into the bag, and onto my gurney, and eventually into the back of my van. “Is it cool to go now?” I asked Doug. “Yeah man, go for it. I might see you at the morgue, I’ve got a few things to do over there tonight.” He told me. “Alright, sounds good, see you later,” I said, and got into the van. “Well James, lets get you to the morgue.” I said to the man in the bag covered by a red cloth in the back. And that being that I pulled out onto the road, and through the maze of cop cars until their lights were just a fading glow in my rearview mirror.
The back road James had met his demise on led me through the New Mexico desert past the two large hills that looked like giant turtles covered in sagebrush. The power plants to the side, and behind me spilled smoke out into the air; there would be a beautiful sunset the next night, all pink, purple, and orange. I pulled out my phone and called my friend. “Hey man, you’ll never believe what I just had to do!” I said, and told him the story. “No way man, that’s hilarious, he didn’t even hit anything?” he said and laughed. “No man, he just fell off.” I was passing by the hospital towards the back where the morgue was, and had to get off the phone. I got the keys to the morgue out of the compartment in the dashboard of the van and got out. I opened the door to the morgue and propped it open with a large rock. The smell of death is a distinct and disgusting one, it stays with you for days. It comes back to you in the strangest of places, there were many times I fully expected to open a door somewhere to find a dead body, only to realize I was wearing a sweater from the week before. I opened the back hatch and carefully pulled the gurney halfway out. I listened for the click that told me that the wheels were locked and weren’t going to collapse on me, and then did the same with the top two. Once the gurney was out of the van, I wheeled it into the morgue. Despite the thousands of late night trips there, I still felt scared to be alone and in the dark, all the zombie movies I ever saw would come back to me with eerie vividness. The walk in refrigerator already had two other occupants, so I moved them to the edge of the room, and pulled out the only empty gurney and put it side by side with my own. I stood on the side of the empty one and pulled James as hard as I could to get him across to the new gurney without dropping him on the floor. Thanks to the slide board there wasn’t any problem. I wheeled him into the refrigerator next to the other bodies. “Goodbye James, good luck.” I said as I turned off the light and shut the door. I pulled my gurney, now empty, ready for the next murder, or suicide, or car accident back to my van and pushed it in. I filled out the paperwork and drove around to the hospital entrance to give it to a security guard named Joe, Jimmy, or Steve. There was a different guard every night. It was Joe tonight, he took the paper with a nod, and went back to playing solitaire on his computer. The night was finally over. It was around four thirty, and I was ready to go to sleep, but on the way home, my pager went off, the beep signaling the end of someone’s life, so I turned the van around. I headed back into town to repeat what I had just done, death had become a routine, and bodies were cargo to me now. The only difference was the amount of blood. Who knows what happens to you after you die? I do. There is no grim reaper. There is no sweet chariot. Just my van, a few bored cops and me.