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Henry

October 28, 2014

CountyMorgue

When I was in high school, I had a summer job with the County’s Department of Buildings and Grounds. I worked with an amazingly hysterical group of guys (who did not know they were hysterical in any way). I have to write about someday them , but for this quick post, in light of Halloween week, I will only mention Henry.

Henry was the master janitor. All the other janitors employed by the county took orders from him. He was a short Latino gentleman with long, black hair that completely covered his ears. He was good-natured, and well thought of by everyone he worked with. He had such an easy and gentle way about him, I liked him immediately.

He was of the kind of boss who wouldn’t ask his men to do anything that he wouldn’t do…except clean the county morgue. That job he always delegated to someone else. Under no circumstances would he ever set foot in the place.

One day I asked him if it was true that he wouldn’t go into the morgue, and why. He looked at me and, without hesitation, and in complete seriousness, gave me an answer I will always remember. He said, “Ernie, let me tell you something. If a guy comes at you…” He put up his hands in a defensive manner. “You can punch him…” He demonstrated a couple of punches. “You can scratch him…” He curved his digits, and sliced at the air. “You can kick him…” He shot a foot out to illustrate his point. “But…if a dead guy comes at you, there’s nothing you can do! HE’S DEAD!”

As everyone knew he had this fear, I think Henry’s biggest concern was that someone would inevitably play a practical joke on him. And the thought of seeing a sheet-covered “corpse” rising from a gurney was too much for him to take.

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