The people of this town were just waiting to die. That was Maggie’s favourite thing about it, there was always business. Her husband used to go out at night and dig up someone who wouldn’t be missed. He’d have the body on the table in the basement before midnight. Maggie would strip the corpse of its clothing and its valuables. The clothes would be washed and resold, the valuables pawned off or kept depending on her mood.
Her husband would clean the body up and just as the very first rays of light were creeping over the horizon, a man with a cart would come by and take them away. It was a good living. Maggie and her husband were comfortable and proud of having such an efficient business.
Normally, the work never got to Maggie, but every so often she would buy a candle or a leather purse and wonder if it was someone she knew. That was silly of course, but every time it happened she couldn’t shake the feeling of ghosts hanging around her for days. Her husband understood, and together they’d sit by the fire and sip whiskey until the ghosts went away.
Those days were gone though, just yesterday her husband had keeled over at the breakfast table. Stone dead, just like that. If Maggie had been a superstitious woman, she would have wailed and tore her hair, but she was not a superstitious woman. There was no kin to notify, no children to break the news to, there was just Maggie, suddenly alone at the breakfast table.
She wished for a moment that she had never given up on God. This was the sort of time that called for prayer. She stared hard across the table, ignoring her cooling breakfast and tried very hard to remember those things she had learned in church a long time ago. The bits and pieces of memory she could scrounge up were not helpful at all, and eventually, frustrated, Maggie whisked the plates off the table and did the dishes.
After that, she dragged her husband’s corpse from the table and slid him down the stairs to the basement. He went with an awful hollow thumping as he hit each step his body folding over itself. Getting him up onto the table in the basement was another challenge. Maggie wasn’t strong enough to lift him straight onto it, but she finagled him up after a half hour with a blanket and a set of chairs. He was starting to get stiff by then so Maggie got his clothes off before his limbs could seize.
She tossed them into the laundry basket. The stain might never come out of the pants, but the shirt at least was salvageable. Cleaning him didn’t take as long as she had imagined, and soon he was laid out quite presentably. Maggie combed his hair the way he liked it but she didn’t dare take a razor to his stubble. The thought of accidentally slicing into his dead flesh was too much for her to bear.
To take her mind off of it, she cleaned the house from top to bottom. Scrubbed the floors, did the laundry, dusted the sitting room and when that was all done she went down stairs to sit with the body. Maggie considered talking to him, but since he couldn’t answer back, she didn’t see the point. So, she sat in silence and thought about the future.
Midnight came and went, and just before the first rays of light could touch the horizon, Maggie heard the sounds of hooves. She met the cart driver at the door, and after the requisite small talk they carried the body up the stairs and loaded it into the cart. Maggie was the one to cover her husband’s face before she watched the cart rumble away, money heavy in her pocket.
In her head, she could hear the echoes of his gruff voice confiding in her ‘Love, whatever happens, don’t let me get on one of those carts. Put me in the ground proper.’ For a moment, Maggie felt a flicker of guilt but she pushed it away, after all, business was business.