THE COOL ROOM 

/ morbid (morgue) love / short /
written by jack richardson

CLARA, a lonely mortuary owner

TOM, a lonely young mortician

LISBETH, a jealous dead girl

                                                                                                                                                           

 

CLARA in her office. LISBETH on a slab. TOM somewhere between them.

 

CLARA            Tomas was a quiet man. I loved him between his words.

 

LISBETH         Tom was alone, but never lonely. We had each other. Time spread out before us when we lay together, side by side. We

                        held our hands in a perfect moment, in a world away from hers, two degrees above zero.

 

CLARA            He worked beneath my feet, down in the basement, embalming like my husband had before him. I moved through the old

                        house above and I felt him move below, another heart that shared my roof. Beating out of time.

 

LISBETH         I felt him through the walls, felt him pulsing through my bloodstream. His touch brought the spark alive and set us both on

                        fire. He was made for me, and I was made for him, my / Tomas…

 

CLARA            (From the top of the basement stairs) Tomas love?

 

TOM                Yes, Mrs. Welt?

 

CLARA            Be a dear and clear the fridge? We’ve a van come from the hospital. Pile-up on the freeway.

 

TOM                Right away, Mrs. Welt.

 

CLARA            Clara, please, Tom. Are you done with Mr. Lionel?

 

TOM                Sculpting eyebrows, just now.

 

CLARA            Thank-you love, his viewing’s at two… I’ll send his son along to help you…

 

TOM                (Pulling open the freezer) Mist escapes in a wave, low and slow across the floor. Overweight man, thick with emphysema.

                        Red-haired lady, skinny hips and hypertension. Kid on his bicycle, collided with a semi truck. Shuffle them aside. Moving

                        deeper. Deepest now. Undiscovered country. Vinyl bags hang across in an inky shroud. My hand touches her wrist and

                        fire, like a /

 

LISBETH         Excuse me?

 

TOM                I’m so sorry, I was /

 

LISBETH         No, it’s all right /

 

TOM                Just reaching past you, and I /

 

LISBETH         I know you, don’t I?

 

TOM                I brushed you, with my hand and /

 

LISBETH         We’ve met before, haven’t we? We have. When I arrived. You helped me down the stairs…

 

TOM                The lift was broken /

 

LISBETH         I remember. You gave me a look.

 

TOM                You looked so peaceful. Like you were sleeping.

 

LISBETH         I liked it. It was secret and naughty. Do you work here?

 

TOM                I assist. I do my work.

 

LISBETH         Do you talk to them? Your workers?

 

TOM                Sometimes. They play tricks. They don’t speak the same as you do. They need more work.

 

LISBETH         Is there a trick for me? Do I need work?

 

TOM                You’re beautiful the way you are.

 

LISBETH         I’m so cold Tom.

 

TOM                I can warm you.

 

LISBETH         Warm me now. Show me how.

 

TOM                The night moves around us like a velvet blanket, tucking us beneath its edges and warming us in its folds. Lisbeth, cool

                        against me, my skin hot and alive. For one clear moment, everything shines under the glow of a halogen bulb, which to us

                        looks like the moon /

 

CLARA            (Coming down the basement stairs) Good morning there, Tom. I didn’t hear you come in.

 

TOM                Sorry, Mrs. Welt. I let myself in. The service door. My key.

 

CLARA            Working early? We’ve only two on this morning, and we set the Sun Room last night…

 

TOM                Waiting on a shipment. Formaldehyde. Ours expired.

 

CLARA            You sure look after me, don’t you, Tom?

 

TOM                We manage, Mrs. Welt.

 

CLARA            Clara, Tom, please. I was wondering, if you’re free later, perhaps /

 

TOM                I’ve left a man out. Defrosting.

 

CLARA            Of course. Of course, I didn’t think so. I’ll send something down. A ham sandwich, or something sweet. Something /

 

LISBETH         Sweet Tom, to fill me up. Fill me up and make it run in me, make me whole, give me life…

 

TOM                Nine parts sodium sulphate and three parts liquid acetone…

 

LISBETH         Oh yes, Tom, please, push it harder, make me whole…

 

TOM                Formaldehyde for freshness and corn-syrup to keep your colour…

 

LISBETH         And all of you, Tom, all the other parts of you, in you…

 

TOM                Take them from me, Lisbeth, drink them deep inside…

 

LISBETH         I need them, Tom, I need all of you, to make me live forever…

 

TOM                I love you.

 

LISBETH         Then make me whole Tom /

 

CLARA            Tom dear, are you down there, are you --- Tom?

 

TOM                Mrs. Welt?

 

CLARA            Are you all right?

 

TOM                You just… surprised me.

 

CLARA            Is that the McCormack girl? I thought we laid her last Tuesday?

 

TOM                I did. I mean, we did. This is the Kingston girl. An aneurism.

 

CLARA            Such a shame, so / young.

 

LISBETH         Young and so willing…

 

CLARA            You’ve a real gift you do, Tom.

 

LISBETH         A gift for giving / life…

 

CLARA            So life-like.

 

LISBETH         Fuck me Tom.

 

TOM                I can’t.

 

CLARA            What’s that dear?

 

LISBETH         Fuck me.

 

TOM                I’ll fuck you later.

 

CLARA            Excuse me, Tom?

 

TOM                Later, Mrs. Welt.

 

CLARA            Later you’ll what Tom?

 

LISBETH         Fuck me.

 

TOM                Later please, I told you. I’m busy. I’m sorry.

 

LISBETH         What’s the matter, Tom? You’ve changed.

 

TOM                Nothing. It’s nothing. I just /

 

LISBETH         Who’s that woman? That hag?

 

TOM                She’s no one, she’s nothing.

 

LISBETH         You’re scared of her.

 

TOM                I’m scared of you. I’m scared because I look at you and think this can’t be real. That your beauty shouldn’t live and that I

                        can’t sustain it.

 

LISBETH         Then fear me, Tom, please. Fear me first and love me after.

 

TOM                I /

 

CLARA            (In Clara’s office) I made honey joys. Tom. Please? Come in, sit with me, just for a while. Feels like ages, hasn’t it? Weeks at

                        least? Since we had a tea and talked. How are tricks? Are you keeping?

 

TOM                I’m… busy. Lots to do.

 

CLARA            Not too hard I hope. You’ve been… quiet. I’ve noticed. Busy with your… girlfriend?

 

TOM                No. Down in the cool room.

 

CLARA            It’s just the way you talk sometimes, I hardly see you, like you have… You have someone else on your mind. You have…

                        everything you need down there? Not wanting for anything?

 

TOM                Orders are fine.

 

CLARE            And there’s nothing else you /

 

TOM                I’ve got work. I should go.

 

CLARA            Never anywhere without them, are you?

 

TOM                What?

 

CLARA            Those rubber gloves. Seems I see you all around with them these days. Like they’re stuck to you. Sewn on.

 

TOM                I never noticed.

 

CLARA            I hardly ever order them anymore. They’re never used. Boxes and boxes of them stacked up in the storeroom. My husband

                        obsessed about them, the neatness of them. Said he felt the smell of all those people on him, those dead souls on his

                        hands. Walking round down there was like wading through curls of shed skin. You wear the same pair though. You keep

                        them with you, don’t you, Tom? The souls?

 

TOM                I have work.

 

CLARA            In the cool room. Of course.

 

TOM                I’d stay, but I /

 

LISBETH         Where were you?

 

TOM                I was nowhere, on my way to you.

 

LISBETH         I can smell her, she’s on your hands /

 

TOM                She’s no one.

 

LISBETH         You used to touch me. I thought you loved me. Why won’t you touch me?

 

TOM                I touch you and you’re cold.

 

LISBETH         Then make me warm again. Make me live.

 

TOM                I hardly feel you, through this fake skin…

 

LISBETH         My heart breaks, Tom. It bleeds for you. I cut myself open and watch it pool all around me. Do you see it, Tom? Can I

                        bleed?

 

TOM                You’re not alive.

 

LISBETH         Then neither are you. Show me. Bleed for me.

 

CLARA            At night I stay late. Listen to the sounds of the house around me. A dead house, full of dead people. My heart beats for no

                        one, and in the silence I hear voices, a man’s voice, moving through the walls, from the floor beneath my feet. The house

                        talks to me and it speaks to me, it speaks in Tom’s voice, it says,

 

TOM               (Speaking for Lisbeth) Bleed for me like I bleed for you, filling you with my life, loving you through my death, loving me when

                        you’re lonely and alone,

 

CLARA            And it’s like a dream I might’ve had, when I’ve wanted arms around me. When the house I live in is a tomb and the only

                        heart that beats there is the one embalming the one that’s still.

 

TOM               In my dream I lie with Lisbeth, her arms around me, her skin cold and smooth beneath my hands, under the glow of the

                        halogen moon. I share my heart with her, I bring her back to life.

 

CLARA            He lies beside her on the gurney, her heart caged in her open chest. Each drop of blood he’s shed fills its open pipes,

                        flooding her empty chambers. The blood pumps from his heart in a stream and it seems his blood is speaking, his mouth

                        unable to form the words,

 

TOM                I love you, Clara, all alone you in your graveyard house,

 

LISBETH         Although he can hardly speak at all, because the blood never lies, and / he was dead, and so was I.

 

CLARA            He was dead, and so was I. All of us in the basement, two degrees above zero.

 

End.

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