jluster Thread

During my younger years I worked as an ME's assistant in a small town out in the boonies. We had little to do, mostly car accidents, the odd workplace death, once or twice a suicide, and - of course - anyone dying in medial care because that's the law.

As death professionals we're the least superstitious people on the planet. We know that dead people are dead, we don't have the usual fear of bodies and gore, and those who come to us as fresh new employees shed whatever fears they have or move on quickly.

One evening we received a freshly deceased male in his late 50s. The man had been hauling freight from Galveston up into the heartland on an 18-wheeler, apparently done his body no service with a mix of trucker speed, smokes, fatty diner foods, and beer by the barrel, and one night it all just caved in on him, leading to the cleaning staff of the motel he'd stayed at finding him when he didn't check out in time.

The autopsy had already happened a few days ago, cause of death was determined, and he'd been moved to one of the walk in coolers we used to store bodies for transport home. The walk in was this big industrial cooler they use in restaurants or warehouses with those rubber curtains and a massive lockable door.

I grabbed the key from the ring to tag the body and bag it for transport (we bagged every body back then because Southwest Airlines was our main air transport and they didn't have the pressure boxes bodies get put into to prevent, errm, seepage). The picker-upper was on his way and I had 30 minutes to get everything done, paperwork, tagging, double-checking we had the right person, all that. With the MEs papers in hand I went to bag our trucker, opened the door, slid his metal slab onto the cart, wheeled him into the autopsy anteroom, and pulled the bag onto him. There's a science to doing this alone, humans are freaking unwieldy and heavy.

After putting him in and readjusting his slipped face (the ME makes an incision around the back of the head and pulls all the flesh down from his cranium to open the skull and inspect the brain) I zipped the bag shut and went to grab the outer tag I'd printed before. One-use body bags have a double zipper, one at the bottom and one at the top. When a body is moved, no matter where, the mover has to check the name and number on the paperwork with the name and number on the bag and the name and number on the toe tag.

I left the room and when I came back the top of the bag was standing open, exposing the trucker's face. With the slipped face and his jaw ajar as it would be when all muscular function is gone, he looked like he gave me a crooked smile. I zipped the bag shut, scolding myself for not doing my job right, checked paperwork against toe and the new tag, zipped the bottom shut after checking, placed the tag, and wheeled him back.

A little later the driver arrived, I handed her a cup of coffee and the paperwork and went to fetch the body. When I opened the cooler the trucker smiled at me again. Had I pulled the bottom zipper too wide and the top one open? I did the whole "check all tags and paperwork" thing, closed the face part, and wheeled him out.

We sat in the break room for a few minutes while the driver finished her coffee, talked about the Rams and a disastrous Cowboys game a few days back, and she walked out. "Dude, you sure you're done with him," I heard her holler. Outside, her standing at the entrance to the room, my bag had opened again, a toothy crooked grin looking right at us.

I know for a fact I'd closed the bag. The scientist in me says it was a faulty bag with tension issues. The rest of me.. yeah, I am not so sure.