Jim was sixteen years old, tall and lean, with sharp features, a thick neck, and hard wiry biceps (I never actually saw him naked).
All he had to do was stay in the office overnight to answer the telephone, take down the information about someone who just died, and call the mortician to arrange a pickup.
Most nights, no one called, so Jim just camped out in the office: there was a television and a couch where he could sleep. Down the hall there was a kitchen, with lots of leftover hors d'oevres in the refrigerator.
No one said Jim couldn't have friends over. On more than one occasion, he had just enough time to shoo everyone out and dispose of the pizza boxes and beer cans before the mortician arrived with a pickup.
Seventh graders were all in awe of the boy who had a brother who worked with dead bodies! Was it gross? Was it creepy?
Could we see one of the dead bodies?
We asked, but Jim refused: "I could get into a lot of trouble."
"Come on -- you let your friends visit all the time."
"Yeah, my friends. Grownups, dig? I could get into a lot of trouble letting little kids run wild in the funeral home. What if you knocked over a funeral urn, and scattered some poor guy's ashes all over?"
That only made us more anxious to go.
Finally, one Friday morning around Halloween, Jim gave in. "We just had a new pickup last night," he told Craig. "That boy who died in the car accident down in Coal Valley. He's still in the embalming room. You guys come over tonight around 10:00 pm, and I'll give you a tour."
10:00 pm? We had to be in bed by 10:00! This would take a little strategizing:
1. Brett, the cute dark-haired boy I danced with at the canteen, invited Craig, Bill, and me over for a spur-of-the -moment sleepover.
2. At 9:00 pm, Brett's older brother and his friend offered to take us all out to Happy Joe's for pizza. They said "We might be back a little late."
3. At 10:00 pm we parked on a side street and, talking and laughing to cover up our nervousness, walked up to the front door of Larson's Funeral Home.
Jim let us in, told us to wipe our feet, and showed us around.
The lounges, the music room, the library, the coffin room.
Jim demonstrated why Barnabas Collins, the vampire on Dark Shadows, was never filmed getting out of his coffin. There's no way to do it without looking ridiculous.
That was interesting, but we wanted to see the dead body!
The small chapel, the large chapel, the kitchen, the office.
"Ok, I saved the scariest part for last," Jim said loudly, stopping in front of a tan metal door. "I just want to make sure you're prepared. Sometimes the eyes are still open, and they follow you around the room. And do you know what rigor mortis is?"
We shook our heads.
"No way!" I exclaimed.
The rest of the story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood