Parkland and Sons 1814 – Maxfield Francis Goldman
August 11, 2023
Toeing the edge of the dirt-encrusted yellow subway platform, her ballet flats dangle just over the line; stained with puddles of months past’s rains, Evelyn gyrates her ankle as she tells me her grandmother would be saddened if she heard my french— and that she would smack my hands with a deer-bone ruler if she witnessed my “blasphemous” pronunciation of “eux” sound.
Her starched manilla envelope held tight between that grip of her inner bicep and outer breast—like a chokehold. Within it swam seven resumes, all of which catered to imaginary careers which Evelyn hasn’t actually pursued, but continually parades to the eyes and ears of her prospective employers her great success within each discipline she has so gracefully mastered:
1. “chef de cuisine”
2. “fashion photographer”
3. “senior sales associate”
4. “luthier apprentice”
6. “literary agent”
Here is the thing, Evelyn knows, just as well as I do, that she can’t do anything. I’ve slept on the woman’s floors for almost six years now, and her being just now at the end of her 27th year, has done nothing within this period of life. No job, no degree, nothing. She had just flunked out of Smith when I met her. Being a junior in high school I didn’t really have anything either until she came around, in the Rhinebeck public library, and stepped on my shoe as I waited impatiently in line to check out a copy of Swann’s Way I wouldn’t read for years. She sat me down on the bench as she waited for her taxi back to New York and asked me for my email. I wrote it down on the cover page of Proust and tore it off for her: “ ————@ ——–”. The car took too long to come and she told me about dropping out, her parents’ death, and how she was living off their life insurance, and for whatever reason, after having known me for only about 2 hours, told me the exact amount the payoff was… $6,000,000. This is why Evelyn hasn’t done shit.
I wait outside or in office lobbies as she hands each and every slutty secretary and overweight receptionist her Helvetica Neue curriculum vitae of falsified merits, I sit and smile as I pray that when she gets a callback, she will have it in her to actually work the job. So as I sat there, location after location, watching each sullen victim of Evelyn Dupont’s languid prevarications, I wondered if they knew they had each fallen casualty to her occupational coup d’état. Watching her cut through revolving doors with an envelope and one sheet of paper lighter, I can catch a glimpse of hope flickering in her bloodshot ambergris eyes.
Evening fell: she broke down and screamed in the bathroom about her parents, how they were gone, and so was their money. After last week’s “moment,” all the razors got removed from their comfortable homes and placed into their new ghettos: our kitchen trash bag. So, nothing really to worry about on that end. But until the witching hour I heard her wailing, during the interim, I lay on the uncarpeted wood floors of her apartment, picking up and putting down books- feeling my erection through my unwashed jeans and thinking about the few times she has actually let me sleep with her. Seldom has this happened. She insists we stay platonic, because of our age difference and such. I fell asleep a few minutes after she came out of the bathroom, her mascara shadowing her swollen eyelids like a crow and her hair all fucked up from her pulling on it. She ran her hands across my shoulders and said goodnight as she laid down on her mattress placed directly on the floor, pulled her Patagonian sheep fleece blanket over her chest, up to her neck, and mumbled “sleep well” to me as I leaned back my head, propping it up on her knee and leaning into her just a little bit. I crossed my arms and prayed that she would be okay.
Dawn didn’t do jack shit to wake us up the next morning; but the baby tooth white VTech-CS6114 voicemail tone did, repeatedly. Seven times. On the last we both woke up to a message from a funeral home in TriBeCa, saying she should come in for an interview, today ( at 1). It was 12:26.
Dressing in black stockings and a tartan she slipped on her un-worn Celine Flats and buttoned her wrinkled white button down, looking in the Gregorian mirror which was the sole furnishing that was ever hung on the south-facing wall, she asked me if she looked beautiful. I said “yes, you look beautiful,” and tied my dirty shoelaces just so I could walk her out the door. As we walked into the elevator she held my hand, my fingers more particularly, and honestly, just their tips, sliding right off of my recessed half-moon cuticles and right back into the pockets of the denim jacket I let her borrow her years ago which even now she wears whenever she gets scared, she’ll never say it, but I know it true. Red nail polish, against the static indigo grain of my old jacket wrapped around her shoulders all, contrasted with Evelyn Dupont’s ghastly white skin made her glimmer the tri-color flash of the American flag; after all, her birthday always fell on the fourth of July. I watched out of her large east-facing windows as she crossed the street with her arms tucked in the jacket. She looked like a nun, maybe a starved angel, or some kind of B-grade supermodel (if such a thing exists).
Downtown, Evelyn found herself overshadowed by a half-dilapidated neoclassical limestone, which held in front, a gate reminiscent of Auschwitz, with a bronze plaque inscribed above the entryway simply saying “ambulare pro mortuis in caritate” and beneath, emboldened by a risen sect of the sign, an inscription in cursive, saying “Parkland and Son’s Mortuary est. 1814.”
She ran her fingers along her waist and rehearsed the scarce facts she remembered from her resume— her “mortician” resume.
A man at a large, dark wood desk stood up to greet her as she made eye contact with the ominous large portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the front corridor. A gaunt north-African mortician’s apprentice named Buckley, a recent NYU grad, asked for the girl’s name, in a mumbled way, she wasn’t listening, Evelyn never really did, when Buckley spoke it was drowned out like the teacher in Charlie Brown, nonexistent and unimportant— but, no one will lie, her episodically dissociative mannerisms brought her a girlish charm that everyone picked up on.
Some are more pleased with it than others.
William Parkland held the back office and J.C Parkland the near, upon meeting them Evelyn regurgitated all which she (fake) knew about the delicate art of embalming and her comprehensive view on post-mortem anatomical biology. She drowned out their voices as she filled out paperwork and shook hands. She was hired, and her first day was tomorrow.
The subway home brought peace offerings from fake birds which spun around her head like a cartoon concussion: a peripheral flash of a salt and pepper-haired man in a Miami Dolphins hoodie which for a split second, she thought was called Dad. Newspaper clippings shown adjacent to her stage-left seat told quick, cheap stories of stabbings in the Bronx and fires back upstate. She smiled at the advent of reading these little texts still legible from the other side of the train. Because after all, Evelyn Dupont just landed herself at one of the finest mortuaries in the entirety of downtown New York, and for the first time, had something.
Now I’m not going to talk about the four times she’s been sent to Bellevue since I’ve been with her, or how she managed to blow her parents’ seven-figure life insurance policy in merely half a decade, but I will talk about how she can fake her way into… well, anything. See Evelyn, in her greatly dissociatively yet feminine ennui, seems to know everything already, which lets her do stuff, do, really anything. This is funny, because, in the time that I have known her, as I said, she has chosen to do practically nothing. I think it might be the reason that I have followed her around since I was a teenager, just kind of watching her disintegrate into a world that has no regard for people with her mannerism of existence. But nonetheless, she is okay or at least is trying to be. This all lead to her, tomorrow morning at 10:11 am, dressing and embalming the victim of a rape-and-run whose funeral was to be that day at 1:35 PM, and spending most of that day deciding if she would get put in handcuffs for dressing this beaten 40-year-old mother in winged eyeliner and blush for her burial.
So when dawn showed its face through her Chelsea lofts windows, Evelyn got up, dressed, and went down, to Parkland and Son’s, walking through the big doors, faced with the steely gaze of former president Jackson, and met with a light brush of the shoulder by J.C who would make a habit, every day, of touching her back in a lower, and lower spot.
The backroom glowed in semi-familiar Proustian pastels that to anyone else would’ve just brought them back to easter eggs and robin shells, but she looked at the hues and remembered him, the book I had that day we first met.
And like a lens of well-tempered German glass, freshly out of focus, Evelyn found her footing as both J.C and William left her in the back room, with the naked body of the woman passed, accompanied by three dresses, which the family couldn’t choose from, and delegated to the likes of a professional whose taste and delicacy was most certainly to be trusted, and in this case, it fell to Evelyn Dupont, the un-dead girl who does nothing.
A radiance of metallic breath filled her space in the room, the pale body on the shiny table looked straight up with eyes closed. And as Evelyn went through these three dresses, one red, one white, and one blue (but all the wrong tones), she saw the woman’s body beautiful and supple despite its ever-frozen age laying softly like a pose for a photo. In the fabric of the Navy dress slept her wishes of her mother’s laughter, her cooking, her singing along to Pavarotti on Sundays when she swept the foyer, deeply within these little interwoven moments of thread Evelyn fell into a dream all her own as she began to reach an understanding with the cold, sodomized woman beside her, that they were one and the same.
A fateful decision of the white dress led in steps of 3, a waltz if that, in the hand of the corpse as she dressed it in the gown, which fit tight along her waist, and a little too loose in her bust. Dumb answers to Evelyn’s life sang loudly in the graceful fault lines which wrinkled the dead woman’s skin. Within them lay Evelyn’s home videos, VHS tapes of her riding a bicycle, and crash zooms of her father grilling outside in the lush greenery of the upstate summers she once knew so well. And as the fabrics slipped onto her shoulder, flesh like Turkish porcelain and finer than silkworm’s vomit, her tears fell hard into the clavicles of the woman.
Outloud Evelyn spoke “thank you mom, I love you.”
Immature makeup caked her face, and as the suggestively revealing dress gloved her vessel, they closed the casket and carried it out like the funeral processions you see done on television for people like the president or Saudi oil families. Buckley, William, and J.C sashayed in their walk, they staggered and stopped intermittently, letting lactic acid build up in their muscles and tiresome thoughts cloud their brains, but Evelyn walked behind them as they brought the casket out to the great room, shrouded in pine and mahogany, images and color began to fall into place—for her, the world had just started to make sense. And as the family poured in like looters in a jewelry store, and gazed into the half-open coffin, she watched as they cried tears just like hers into those great creases in the woman’s skin, all of which combined salts at the moment of contact, selling their former owners’ souls to one another, in a way only Evelyn could understand.
As Sons and Nephews spoke cliche words of retrospective praise and quarter empty nostalgias, Evelyn fell ill to the sickness of understanding. The recognition of time passed skunk deep in her starved stomach, letting it feel hungry for the first time in a long time, and as she pushed through the crowd of mourning family members populating the great room of Parkland and Son’s famous mortuary, Evelyn Dupont cried greater tears of joy. She poured rain from her eyes onto the petticoats of all those around her, and pushing through the door looked out onto a street brand new.
And when coming up the elevator, soaked in her own tears, I asked her
“How was the first day on the job?”
And she said,
“Good, I quit.”