The sidewalk cracks blurred beneath the feet of Mr. Lux as he strode purposefully toward the diner, a bulging manila envelope in the crook of his arm. Tall and gaunt, he was dressed in the neatly pressed black suit of his trade. Silver hair hung to his shoulders while the sun glinted off his bald pate. Pale skin, beady eyes, a large nose and bloodless lips completed a look that many in town felt resembled Mr. Lux’s clients too well.
Unseeing, or perhaps uncaring, he strode on, townsfolk quickly sidestepping to avoid his path. He was met with looks and stares of surprise and unbelief, but never anger. No one could remember the last time they had seen Mr. Lux beyond the confines of the Gallows Road Funeral Home. In his wake, they whispered.
Yanking the diner door open, Mr. Lux took one long stride inside, and let the door bang shut behind him. He surveyed the room, nose acting as pointer, until he saw what he had come for. Ignoring the waitress, he approached a young woman sitting in the last booth. She had dark hair, large blue eyes behind stylish glasses and wore conservative business attire. Before her was a cup of coffee and her laptop.
Mr. Lux sniffed. The woman looked up and shock flashed across her face. “Ms. Fennell?” His voice was like old leather.
“Yes,” she smiled but her eyes were calculating as she gestured Mr. Lux to sit. “Please, have a seat.”
He folded himself into the booth opposite her, placing the manila envelope on the table, resting both skeletal hands on it. “As agreed,” he pushed the envelope across to her.
“Let’s just take a look,” smiling again as she opened it, pulling out a pile of loose papers, napkins, post-it notes and a chunk of cardboard.
Her smile faded. “What is this?”
“Hrm,” Mr. Lux sounded like brick dragging on brick, “the book you agreed to buy.”
“This?” Ms. Fennell was incredulous. “This isn’t the normal way to submit a book to an agent, Mr. Lux.” She fingered the pile of papers, pulled out a post-it. “It says, ‘Mrs. Jones told me that her husband had been taking money from the town treasury to pay his gambling debt.’ It’s dated, February 20, 1987. What is this?” She began digging through the pile in earnest. “Is it all like this?”
Mr. Lux showed his teeth in what Ms. Fennell hoped was a smile. “Hrm, yes, it is all things my customers have told me.”
“Customers?” She was holding a handful of papers in each hand, “aren’t you the … ?”
“Mortician?” He showed his teeth again. “Hrm, yes, I am.”
He stared at her, unblinking, watching her think.
“Wait,” she dug through the pile again and found the first post-it. “When did Mrs. Jones die?”
“Mrs. Jones? Hrm,” his face contorted into an approximation of a smile. “February 18, 1987.”
Dropping the papers as if they were alive, she whispered, “She was dead when she told you this?”
“The dead have many tales to tell,” he said as if it were an everyday thing.
“But,” Ms. Fennell scooted to the edge of the seat as if to bolt. “But, that’s not…”
Spreading his thin hands, fingers splayed, Mr. Lux’s eyes bored into hers. “Normal?”
I was going to submit this to a Trifecta writing prompt for “Normal.” The piece had to be between 33 and 333 words. This clocked in at 551. I like it the way it is – I don’t want to cut it. So, no Trifecta again for me this week. Enjoy the story anyway.