PAPERBACK BOOKS
AND THERE'S MORE.... 

Life is like a puzzle you can never solve,
Because you’re never sure what could evolve.
You make the choices to go this way or that,
But something always happens. It’s ‘tit for tat’.

The man behind the counter, what secrets he holds.
The vicar and the doctor, their stories all untold.
The old dear selling flowers, the sedate undertaker,
Having that last chuckle as we go to meet our maker.

Some things are hilarious, like that cream cake on her face.
Others oh so weird. Where’s that coffin? Not a trace.
And those ladies on the corner, there to entice.
You men know you shouldn’t. It’s naughty, but it’s nice.

So make yourselves comfy, this book to explore,

Because I promise you:

There’s more and there’s more!!!

In Store Price: $AU21.95
Online Price:   $AU20.95

ISBN: 1-9210-0528-9
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 216
Genre:  Fiction - Short Stories

 

 

 

Author: Freda Ellis 
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2005
Language: English

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About the author 

Freda Myers Ellis was born and educated in Yorkshire, England. She married Joseph Ellis and had three children. Freda taught in schools in England and Australia after emigrating with her husband and son in 1969. Freda now resides on Queensland’s Gold Coast and has had a novel, Payback, and several poems published and also broadcast. She is a member of Gold Coast Writers.

  PROLOGUE

 

On my path through life, I’ve laughed and I’ve cried.

Some dear ones have lived: many others have died.

I’ve travelled far and wide: I’ve lived, loved and tried,

But I’ll never reveal all, some things one must hide.

 

 

A GRAVE SITUATION (part sample)

 

Life is full of ups and downs,

Lots of laughter, many frowns.

Make the best of it, for it’s truly said,

“You can’t do a thing about it when you’re dead”

 

 

Jim sighed. Was this event the end of an era or as his wife Mary would say, “No, just the beginning of a new one.” 

Dear Mary, ever the optimist. 

Jim had been made redundant along with all of his mates. The factory had finally closed down. It wasn’t as if they weren’t expecting it. This last twelve months had been a bonus. The boss had done his best, telling them all to look for work elsewhere. He’d said it was easier to get it while they were still working, but most of them had thought things would pick up. Jim had tried but it was well nigh impossible. 

He collected his pay packet knowing it would be months before they got their redundancy pay. He’d have to find something. The dole money didn’t go far. 

The next morning he had his breakfast and headed straight for the job center. 

He passed the “White Lady Funeral Parlour” on his way. ‘Stupid name,’ he thought. Why Bill had let his wife talk him into changing it, he never knew. His Mary had said it made you feel as if a ghost was hovering over you. Quite scary and he knew she was right. His Mary was always right. He slowed down. He could hear Donnie Winters coughing. He really should do something about that cough. Couldn’t be good for business or could it. He did sound as if he had one foot in the grave. He grinned. Just part of the scene. Dead right for a funeral parlour. 

He finally arrived at the job center and met some of his mates coming out, shaking their heads. 

“Now’t doin’, Jim. We’re all going for a pint at the Swagman.” This was their favourite watering hole. “Are you coming?” 

“No,” said Jim. “I’ve some business to see to.” 

The lads ambled off, muttering. Mary would murder him if he came back reeking of beer at this hour of the day. 

As he made his way back, he stopped at the funeral parlour. Donny was still coughing and Bill was arguing with him, telling him to go home and go to the doctors. 

“Get that cough seen to. It’s enough to bring them corpses back to life and we can’t have that, you know.” 

Jim laughed. Great sense of humour had Bill, but he really was right. That cough was bad. 

“I can’t,” stammered Donnie between coughing. “I’ve got to pick up old Sam Smithers.” 

Jim strolled towards them, shaking his head. 

“Go home, Donnie. I’ll collect Sam for you, his sons will be there, they’ll help me.” 

Bill gave a sigh of relief. “Thanks Jim.” 

“Now will you go? You can trust Jim, he’s helped before.” 

“Okay,” said Donnie ramming his hat on his bald head. “Anything for a bit of peace, but I won’t get that when I get home. You know Aggie, nag, nag, nag.” 

“Alright Donnie, now straight to the doctor’s and ring me and tell me what he says.” 

Donnie left, still breathing heavily, red in the face. 

Bill turned to Jim. “Are you sure you can do this, Jim? What time do you start work?” 

Jim laughed. “Haven’t you heard, Bill? Factory closed down last night. We’ve all been made redundant, so if I can earn a few dollars until I get my redundancy pay, it will help.” 

“Good,” said Bill, “but I can’t pay you much because I’ll still have to pay Donnie. He’s been with me a long time.” 

“That’s okay,” said Jim. “Every little helps. I guess I’d better slip home and put me dark clobber on. Can’t arrive looking disrespectful.” 

Mary was pleased her Jim wasn’t a proud chap. As long as they could pay the rent and feed the family, he’d be happy doing anything. 

Jim didn’t like handling dead folk, but as his dad would have said, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” 

Jim went along and Sam’s brothers were all there waiting for him. They helped Jim put him gently in the van. They had washed and shaved him and put him in his best suit. Jim thought he looked better than he’d looked in years. 

The back of the van had a nice soft eiderdown for him to lie on and he was settled in gently. 

He chattered to Amy, his wife, and she said she would be along later to choose the coffin and Sam would nestle in it comfortably in the chapel of rest until his funeral. 

Jim went back and helped Bill and an hour later Bill had a telephone call from Donnie’s wife. Donnie was in hospital. The doctor had insisted. He had bronchial pneumonia. He could be off for months. 

“Now that’s put the cat among the pigeons,” said Bill. “Harry Somers won’t last ‘til morning. His wife rang while you were out collecting Sam. So mi lad, it looks like I’ll need you full time. I don’t reckon we’ll see Donnie for a while, if ever. Can you stand this racket? It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Jim. We are busy and even if Donnie does come back, we need another man. How about it lad?” 

“I’m game,” said Jim. “It beats the dole,” and that’s just what his Mary said when he gave her the news. 

“A new beginning and funeral parlour’s never close shop.” She laughed. “Here today and gone tomorrow. That’s life, Jim.” 

Jim settled into his new job a little warily. His mates pulled his leg saying, “You know, Jim, this is another dead end job.” 

“Ha, ha,” said Jim, but at least he was working and learning a new trade. 

Bill was teaching him how to make the corpses look presentable, a touch of make-up and he intended teaching him about embalming. Things could be worse. His mates had stopped pulling his leg. They hated being on the dole. 

It was Monday afternoon and Bill had asked him to take old man Smithers along to the funeral parlour. 

“You’ll have to take him in the hearse, Jim, the van’s in for servicing and for God’s sake watch that catch on the back door.” He laughed, “We don’t want him rolling back down Swan Hill, do we? Come on, mate, he’s in his coffin. I’ll help you get him into the hearse and meet you down at the chapel of rest in about half an hour.” 

They quickly got him in the hearse and off went Jim. 

Bill had tested the lock himself at the back of the hearse, so Jim didn’t worry about it. 

It was at the top of the hill that Jim heard the bump. He thought he’d hit a rock in the road. The workmen had the road up and they were not over cautious about leaving stuff around. A bit further on at the traffic lights he did, however, glance round. 

“My God!” he gasped. The hearse was empty! His heart missed a beat. He must find somewhere to turn the hearse round and go back. That bump. That must have been it. 

He soon found an entry, turned the hearse round and headed back up the road. 

Jim’s heart was in his mouth. Oh Lord don’t let the coffin be smashed, and old Smithers be hanging out. This was the end. All his plans for a holiday with Mary and the kids down the drain. 

At last the top of the hill came into view. 

Slowly he drove down, looking carefully on both sides of the road. 

Halfway down he spotted it. It was swaying on the edge of the ditch outside Benson’s property. He pulled up, but quickly realised no way could he lift that coffin into the hearse, not without help. But he couldn’t leave it there, half on the road and half in the ditch. 

Oh Lord, the school bus would be coming up shortly with all those cheeky kids hanging out of the windows. He had to do something and quickly or the whole town would know and be gathered round. 

He pushed and pushed until the coffin was fully in the ditch. It was on its side, but it couldn’t be helped. 

Sorry, Mr. Smithers, but you can still be seen from the road and that means from the bus. 

He looked round. They had recently been trimming the hedges and had left all the cuttings, so he hurried back and forth, covering the coffin, until at last he was satisfied the coffin could not be seen. 

Bill would be waiting at the chapel of rest, wondering where he had got to and he would damn well go berserk when he found out what had happened. 

Well, he had done his best and it was Bill who had checked that lock on the door, so he got into the hearse and drove off, and as he did so, the school bus followed him, but not a peep, so he had covered it well. 

When he reached the chapel, Bill was pacing up and down. 

“Where the hell have you been, Jim? Having a pint with your mates?” 

Jim was not at his best. He had mud on his shoes and his clothes were filthy and his hands were dirty and scratched. Bill was jumping up and down. 

“Where’s old Smithers? What have you done with him? His wife is coming to view him.” 

“Calm down,” said Jim. “You will just have to put her off or bring her out to the ditch at Swan Hill.” 

Bill’s face was ashen. For once he was speechless. At least that gave Jim time to tell him the full story and he ended by saying, “Bill, it was you that checked that lock on the hearse, not me.” 

Bill looked at Jim. “Sorry lad, my fault. What are we going to do?” 

“First you ring her, Bill, his missus and put her off, then as soon as it gets dark, you and I will go out and bring him back. It won’t be easy, because I covered the coffin up. You know them school kids. It would have been a nine-day wonder. We will take a torch and gumboots. It won’t be easy, Bill, he’s in the ditch.” 

“You are right. Sorry,” said Bill again. “It was my fault. I should have had that lock fixed months ago. You did your best, lad, more than your best. I can see that now. Go home and get cleaned up and come back as soon as it gets dark.” 

That night around 7pm, as Bill said everyone would be having their evening meal, they left in the hearse to collect old Smithers. 

Of course, it proved to be more difficult in the dark than they have anticipated. 

Jim couldn’t quite remember where he had left the coffin. It was so different in the dark and they were almost at the point of giving up when Jim found the spot. 

“Eureka!” he yelled. 

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