Sacred Commodities: Adventures in Spiritual Dishonesty

By Matt Longo, (Illustration by Matt Espantman)
Chapter One: The Wolves of Anyplace/Anywhere
Sacred Commodities: Adventures in Spiritual Dishonesty

…in which our (sort of) dashing hero reveals his trade (and is introduced to the reader…say hello)

Sitting in his convertible, the vinyl purring beneath his bottom, Joel Colson leans back into the headrest, pressing his skull into the cushy material, losing himself in the words of How to Win, How to Conquer, tape two in a ten-tape set of motivational material he purchased several years ago. He scrunches up his nose, sniffing it all in.

“We all have desires, we all have wants…for once in our lives, let us try and achieve these goals,” the tape coos. “Let us reach our full potential, in whatever field we choose. Let us make our advances.”

And as ridiculous as all this sounds, our hero really needs it. He can’t just stroll into the funeral parlor and begin; he’s not a miracle worker. And his initials are J.C., but he’s not that J.C. This J.C.’s clean shaven, with one of those baby-faces, very cherubic, very inviting. Smooth skin, button nose, pursed lips. But he’s too stiff in his skinny, angular body, like a mannequin. Carved out of pale wood, with gelled black hair. Though some people could find that look attractive, given the right lighting.

Joel hurries to the front door of the funeral home, holding it open for a weeping, middle-aged woman, stepping to the side to let her by. “After you, ma’am,” he bows. In her grief, she barely acknowledges him, briefly peering up out of swollen, red eyes, before disappearing into the bustling main room. Following her in, he lurks in the reception area, peeking into the wake from around a corner. When he finally feels ready, he flashes his teeth to a young hostess seated near the entrance, the last obstacle before the casket. “Friend of the deceased,” he explains. “Sorry, I didn’t have time to call ahead.” She smiles back with a consoling click of her tongue, handing over a pass; he clips the “Visitor” tag onto his suit jacket, thankful for being so outwardly appealing.

The boss, Spatz, has always told Joel that his greatest asset is his face. “An agreeable mug, sort of like an innocent lamb,” is the way Spatz puts it, speaking only in terms of sales. Although, the man doesn’t really speak in any other terms.

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