Good Reading : May 2010
bite-guard, like boxers wear, to give toothless corpses a more natural look. A gentleman with pruned cheeks and pouched eyes stabs a cher ry tomato. Natalie says to study the lines of the face for expression, and to resist the urge to smooth them away in the prep room: they represent personality. I'm already seeing the world through a different, disturbing lens. It's not unlikely that I'll see one of these Paddlewheel customers again, on the embalming table. Winnipeg is a small enough town, and the demographic is right for Neil: elderly, white, budget- conscious. How would it feel to know that the man at the table next to yours at lunch will someday be your undertaker? 'Do you have to touch them?' one of my workmates asks. 'Who?' 'Dead people.' 'Sure,' I say. 'I mean, not all the time. Just in the prep room. And loading them into the retort, you have to check for pacemakers. And dressing them. So yeah, a lot, I guess.' 'What do they feel like?' I have to think about this. I look around the restaurant. 'Chicken breasts.' It’s not unlikely that I’ll see one of these Paddlewheel customers again, on the embalming table. Sarah Hopkins's family drama Vincent Lam's healing words A Sneak Peek at Dr Karl Kruszelnicki's new book What to read in Shanghai The links between novels and classical music ORDER YOUR COPY NOW! NEXT ISSUE on sale 26 May Tom Jokinen was a radio producer and video-journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before becoming an apprentice undertaker. Outside the world of journalism, he has worked as a railroad operator, an editorial cartoonist, and spent two years in medical school at the University of Toronto. He dropped out, but not before dissecting two human cadavers. Jokinen has built his own corteges with toy soldiers and matchboxes, and buried no fewer than six doomed pet gerbils. Coupled with a taste for immortality (his maternal grandmother was struck by lightning and sur vived ... twice) and the fact that he is a Finn (Finns, they say, are only ever truly happy when they're dreaming of their own funerals), Jokinen may well have been born to work in a funeral home. Curtains: Adventures of an undertaker in training by Tom Jokinen is published by UQP, rrp $32.95.