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Gift Shop at the OCME photo

At the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, I browse the gift shop. It’s scented lavender from a leg-shaped diffuser in the corner.

I like an OCME kitchen magnet, the key fob, the autopsy snow globe. I look inside the snow globe. A medical examiner stands ready to incise the vic, the perp. Shake the globe and the examiner’s coat flies open. He wears a silver Speedo.

I want this book, Autopsies for Dummies. It’s on special, two for one. The man at the register says it’s a great stocking stuffer, but if my loved ones have small stockings, there’s a short version: Autopsies One Two Three.

My loved ones are the reason I’m here today: Grandma had the arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, at least that’s what the report said. Also a fusiform aneurysm, familial hypercholesteremia, and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. But what got her was the botched blepharoplasty (eyelid lift)—

I like this cocktail book, Stiff Drinks. The pages are glossy and slick. I look through the recipes: Red Death, Hell’s Fury.

Great for coffee tables, says the chatty register man. He wears an OCME t-shirt: Never too late to visit. He says I can’t get both books together: Autopsies for Dummies and Stiff Drinks—don’t resect under the influence! But I can get one book now, then buy the other one at the drive-through. Loophole. He winks.

These mugs are nice: I 🖤  My Medical Examiner. In two days there’s a raffle. First prize is a date with Brad, the new assistant medical examiner. My purchase constitutes an entry. Brad’s areas of interest are the chancre, the condylomata lata, the coitus. But not the ecchymosis, the erythema, the erectile dysfunction. There’s a life-size cardboard cutout of him in the corner by the leg diffuser. He wears a rakish smile, a blood-spattered apron, and brandishes a hacksaw in his right hand. Last month Boris, that agitprop artiste, he left me for his new intern. So why not give Brad a try? I put a mug in my shopping basket along with Autopsies One Two Three.

I get a phone text. My meeting with the medical examiner, not Brad, is delayed for reasons beyond her control. In the meantime, she recommends a quick survey—use the tablet by the window—what are my preferences for my personal post-mortem milieu? The options are impressive: aromatherapies, musical favorites, colored lights. The survey was Brad’s idea, to foster client inclusivity. He will personally consult my file should I arrive through the loading dock. This consideration on his part feels so benevolent, I take three more mugs.

I’ll buy this crocheted gallbladder, a cross-stitched message: It’s not the same since you left. When I check out, the register man gives me a punch card with three holes already gone.

Come again, he tells me, handing me the bag with my wares.

I’d never thought this would be so much fun. What a surprise. And Grandad, he has that upcoming pectoral augmentation. Might not go so well. And even if I don’t win the raffle, Brad will be here. I could wait round back at the loading dock. Browse for gifts between cigarettes.

I have a new text. It’s Brad.

Thank you, I say to the register man. I think I’ll be back soon.


image: Creative Commons