Murder Dog and Trash Panda are gravediggers at the Leaning Birches Cemetery right here in Washington state and they have both been keeping grounds there for over 30 years.
Murder Dog ( Mundy Wolf ) and Trash Panda ( Elspeth Sung) used to tell people they took on those names back in their wild days as Punk rock musicians back in high school. The truth is, they were both honor role students.
But the girls assumed they would never get jobs digging graves with names like Eli and Muni so they made up the wildest nicknames they could think of, and lo and behold they got the jobs.
They dug graves, ran heavy machinery, helped the Funeral Directors in the embalming room and they trimmed and mowed and kept the grass and trees and shrubs looking neat- but not to perfect.
Doc Treason ( that’s Docia Treason, the sole proprietor of Leaning Birches ) was very picky about that- the grounds should look natural, wild a little separate from the world around it.
Doc had all sorts of wild ideas about death- but she paid well, she never had a bad word to say about anyone living or dead and she was a soft touch when it came to people without a lot of money to see their loved ones into the next world- so whatever she said pretty much went.
Her staff on the other hand lacked her general temperament.
Sometimes Murder Dog and Trash Panda would see a Funeral Procession winding it’s way down one of the two roads that cut through the cemetery and before the hearse passed them their tools would be stashed behind a tree or in the maintenance truck’s bed. Their sunglasses would be stashed in their back pockets and their hair would be pulled back into ponytails.
Sometimes as the hearse slid by, one of the directors would casually drape their arm out the driver’s window and they would give the Gravediggers the finger.
Murder Dog and Trash Panda, their heads bowed would roll their eyes up and mouth, ” Same to you ”
“How’d you like to bury that son of bi…” Trash Panda would start.
” With my bare hands.” Murder Dog would finish.
That’s about as normal as things got at Leaning Birches.
Murder and Panda were catching the bright winter sun in the old part of the cemetery when Panda asked Murder, ” Remember that service we did for that baby, you know, the one born with one eye in the middle of her face and no mouth, what was her name?”
” Madeline,” Murder lifted her face to the sun ” Madeline Faulkner.”
” Yeah. Madeline. Remember her Great Grandma, she died liked three months after Madeline.”
” She was like a hundred right?”
” I don’t know, the point is the Great Grandma, we buried her right?”
” Yeah. ”
” I mean, we dug the grave and put her into it, right?”
” Yes Panda, we buried her. That’s what we do. We bury dead people.”
” There’s a few live ones I’d like to…”
” Your point Trash Panda is?”
” I saw her.”
” Who?” Murder Dog pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head.
” Madeline’s Great Grandma.”
Trash Panda said slowly. ” I. Saw. Madeline’s Great Grandma at The Food Bazaar. She was in the that section where they sell candy and stuff in bulk. She was bagging some yogurt pretzels.”
Murder Dog started to walk away from Trash Panda and then she walked back and whispered into Trash Panda’s ear. ” Never say anything like that out loud again. Really Panda. That’s the kind of talk that gets you sent to Greenlake for an extended vacation. You know what I mean?”
” I saw her, the lady we buried, in the bulk food section at the Food Bazaar. Deal with it Murder Dog.”
A few weeks later Murder Dog did have to deal with it because she saw Mr. Denny Pearce dead at age 46 from a boating accident and Laverne Simon age 84 taken from this world after a brief illness waiting for a table at the Terrace Lighthouse Restaurant.
Murder Dog and Trash Panda were pruning the trees on Sunrise Hill when they both stopped working and they looked around the cemetery from the ladders they were standing on and both of them wondered,
” Is anybody home?”
Murder Dog figured it would be OK to ask Doc about her views on the dead returning to the land of the living. Doc as I shared earlier had some off the wall ideas about death and everyone at the Funeral Home knew it.
She had those ideas because she was always willing to listen to whatever people wanted to share and with that Doc Treason has heard a lot.
The opportunity to share her idea came one morning when Doc Treason asked Murder Dog to help her in the embalming room.
” Say Doc. I have this idea about ghosts. Want to hear it?”
” You know it Murder Dog.”
” Well. In all these movies and TV shows only certain people can see ghosts, right?”
” Right. Here, help me uncover Miss Bixby. ”
Murder Dog went on, ” I have this idea that might not be true.”
” Seeing ghosts?”
” No. That only certain people see ghosts. What if we can all see them? I mean, would there be anyway for us to really know who the dead and who the living are?”
” Maybe.” Doc Treason said after a minute ‘We’re not supposed too.”
Murder Dog looked down at Miss Bixby. Then she looked up into Doc’s dark eyes and smiled.
Murder turned to the embalming machine and before she did she said, ” See you soon Miss Bixby.”