An essay by Nathan Williams, as provided by Nicole Tanquary
Art provided by Scarlett O’Hairdye
The door to the shop was open, so I walked in, scuffing the bottoms of my shoes against the welcome mat to get off the slush. Mrs. Mabel was way in the back, hunched low over her worktable. She had sets of pliers in either hand, and there were thin clinking noises as she twisted together metal circlets into what looked like the beginnings of a necklace. The clinking wasn’t just from the metal, though; some of it was the sound of metal-on-bone.
Mrs. Mabel had been running Mabel’s Maille for as long as I could remember, after all, and all that work had worn away the skin from the tips of her fingers. It didn’t seem to bother her customers … they were all from Deddville, so they had come to expect this sort of thing in the working dead. The important thing was that it didn’t hurt her at all. And, of course, there was no blood. Everyone knows the dead don’t bleed.
I folded my hands behind my back and cleared my throat. Her eyes shot up, and I got a good look at them, more than I wanted to: moldy-white except for the pupils, which she must’ve had surgical work on to keep clear and black. She needed good eyes for her work.
Mrs. Mabel set down the pliers and stood, smoothing out her sweater with her half-skin, half-skeleton hands. Then she walked stiffly over, gesturing at the display cases as she went. “Anything here that interests you, young man?” Beads and jewels glinted among the metalwork like fresh teeth.
“Yeah. I’m getting a present for someone. Today’s her death-day.” I pointed to a bracelet, carefully arranged on a velvet cushion. “Is that bronze?”
“It sure is.” Mabel smiled, and even though her gums were more gray than pink, it was a sweet smile. “What a gentleman, getting something for your girl for her death-day!”
I felt myself blush a little as she picked out the bracelet and tucked it delicately into a little white box. “It’s not … it’s for my mother. Today’s only her second death-day anniversary, so I figured I’d make it special.”
Mrs. Mabel let out a little gasp. “Oh, what a nice boy you are! Getting her a gift is a lovely idea. The first few death-days can be hard on a woman. It’s such an adjustment, you know.”
I nodded, thinking to myself, How could I know? I’m not a woman, and I’m still alive. But I guess these were small enough matters.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2018 collection.
Nathan Williams, at 23 years of age, is a currently unemployed resident of Deddville, Michigan. Growing up in Deddville, Nathan is the son of original Arthur Dedd followers Jonathan (deceased) and Martha (deceased and brought back), and lives with his mother in an effort to help her through the grieving process. He recently returned to Deddville after attending the University of Rochester in New York State and earning a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology, with a minor in Journalism.
Nicole Tanquary lives in upstate New York State, where she has worked variously as a geochemistry lab assistant, a teaching assistant, and a non-fiction editor and writer, and is currently employed as a writing tutor for Syracuse University. She has sold and published short stories to a menagerie of venues, the most recent of these including work with Fantasia Divinity Magazine, Grievous Angel, and Deadman’s Tome. Other things she likes to do include long hikes, playing with her pet rats and cats, and eating ice cream.
Scarlett O’Hairdye is a burlesque performer, producer and artist. To learn more, visit her site at www.scarlettohairdye.com.
“Deddville” is Copyright 2018 Nicole Tanquary
Art accompanying story is Copyright 2018 Scarlett O’Hairdye