DEAD RIGHT – There was a hearse, police car and ambulance parked outside number 33, so I pulled my truck onto the neighbour’s grass verge. The old house had a wide veranda and an air of neglect; the worn wooden steps and decking had seen better days. A mournful looking old dog with a grey muzzle lounged, head-on-paws, on a tattered rug beside the front door. It eyed me dolefully as I climbed the steps. I wasn’t expecting the three services to be here. The police had broken a double hung sash window to gain entry and, after dealing with the necessary tasks, called Secure Glass to repair it, and there I was. Just another day at the office really, so to speak. Turned out the ambulance wasn’t needed; a bit late really. They needed the two ambos for another task.
Before I could knock on the door, it opened and a burly ambo backed out holding one end of a stretcher. I backed away to make room but, naturally, couldn’t take my eyes off the sheet, the clear form of a body under it; you know how it is. The sheet had been pulled all the way up over the face. I knew what that meant. It also explained the odour that assailed my nostrils. I removed my cap in an instinctive gesture of respect and watched them expertly manoeuvre down the steps to the open back of the hearse, where a lean, cadaverous man in a dark suit oversaw the corpse’s placement into an awaiting coffin.
The dog hadn’t moved, but its chin was now on the deck, managing to make it look even more mournful. I guessed that had been his mate they’d just taken out. I reckon it knew what was going on. I gave its head a friendly rub and it looked sadly up at me; I could feel what it was going through. I went in and introduced myself to the policewoman. She was cheerful enough and happy for me to go about my work so I sized up the job.
It turned out poor old Uncle Ernie, 88 years old and living alone with no family in town, had quietly died while snoozing in his favourite armchair. As he didn’t go out much the neighbours hadn’t suspected anything was wrong. Four days later, after his third phone call in so many days went to message bank; his nephew up in Mt Newman guessed the worst and rang the police asking them to check up on Ernie. They spotted him through a chink in the blinds looking a bit still-like in his chair. Having no response to their knocking and with the front door securely locked, they made a forced entry.
I got down to business: hacked the glass out of the frame, fetched a sheet of glass off the truck, re-glazed the window, puttied it in and tidied up. I didn’t linger long after that; the place had a funny feel to it. Maybe it was just the lingering odour or perhaps my mind playing tricks on me, but I needed to leave. I took the time to make a fuss of the old dog on the way out though. He made me feel sad too. The policewoman said the nephew was going to take care of him when he came down. Hope he’s a dog lover.
Zach and his 24 hour emergency repair work