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Being dead proved a bigger problem than Reuben had prepared for. In fact, he’d prepared all wrong. This didn’t happen to Reuben. He normally bought the right thing, the perfect thing.

Reuben had accumulated so many fine things, hand-selected items that better painted the picture of the man he was. Then a doctor exposed that picture for its one flaw, and Reuben began to make different preparations.

First he planned the diaspora of his beautiful things, the stars that formed his constellation. The 1964 Porsche 356 Speedster went to his younger brother, Tim, because Tim would learn to care for something if it was beautiful. The frescos and the glasswork became his mother’s, and the penthouse went to a buyer. The precision of its corners were chosen to house the contours of Reuben’s needs alone, and he would be gone.

When the ink dried, Reuben summoned the last of his vigor and planned his send-off. The flowers were lilies- no primroses or carnations. He demanded bluebells arranged into one bouquet and also chose a live quartet with a penchant for holding notes a half step long. He then had a fine suit tailored to his new dimensions. “Why spend so much?” said Tim. “You’ll be dead.” Reuben, with a tired smile, put a gaunt arm around his brother, “I appreciate your candor Timothy. Everyone else is walking on eggshells.” He never answered the question.

The final item brought Reuben the most joy. “Think Rolls-Royce,” said the director. “There’s nothing like it.” “Why not,” said Reuben, who’d already studied the full spectrum of casket catalogues. “I’ll take it.”

The funeral went as planned. Reuben’s favorite aunt saw the bluebells in a single bouquet among hundreds and began to cry. His shimmering oak box was lowered as his chosen prayer was intoned and in its surface, every person Reuben ever loved watched their reflection get smaller.

The earth settled and Reuben awoke. He was not prepared for this. He’d planned for a finite death. He’d planned to leave the world behind.

The smell got him first: formaldehyde and something else. Hours later it was the density: the titanium, oak, and six feet of earth. Sound didn’t travel. His screams died in front of his face. Still, he didn’t suffocate. It seemed he didn’t need air at all.

It took four long days for Reuben to realize he was rotting. The smell grew dense in the airtight box. His cold and plasticky skin lost its constitution– and that wasn’t the worst thing. The worst part was the echo in his still functioning brain, the words being paired with the grim smile of the funeral director. The words repeated themselves over and over in his fetid head. “Quality?” the merchant said, “this casket is indestructible, it has a thousand year guarantee.”

Reuben pushed every silken inch. He’d punched, kicked, and clawed till his fingernails dislodged. There was no pain then, just the words repeating themselves: a thousand year guarantee.



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