The scene opens in the chapel, where Joe is getting Genevieve Sher ready for her funeral. Mrs. Sher is in her casket, and Joe is primping her and making her look her best. He has a curling iron in his hand, and is putting the finishing touches on the wig that Malinda brought in for her. On the table beside him are brushes, cosmetics, a small towel and some hairspray. The room is lit for a chapel service, with pink, flattering light. Simona enters. She is moody, quiet.
JOE (Not looking away from his work.) Hey Rascal. You recovered?
(Simona approaches, looks down at the casketed body while Joe works.)
SIMONA Yeah. Sorry. I freaked out.
JOE You seem a little quiet. Not your usual, pain-in-the-ass self.
SIMONA I didn't really sleep last night.
JOE (Shows only mild interest.) Oh yeah?
(Pause.) Hey, do you ever think about what happens to you after you die?
JOE I know what happens. You decompose.
SIMONA Well, yeah, but do you think there is something else? Like, somewhere else you go, or somewhere else your spirit goes? JOE Sure, why not.
SIMONA Do you think this lady can hear us right now?
JOE (Looks up, incredulous.) What the hell has gotten into you, kid? I'm worried about you.
SIMONA I think it's all just getting to me. All the death... sadness.
JOE (Nods agreement.) One of the hazards of the job, I suppose. It's not easy to go to funerals every day, even if you're getting paid to do it.
SIMONA Sometimes… I also wonder, like, what if they aren't really dead when they get here? Like, what if we make a mistake and bury someone who isn't dead?
JOE Heh, never had that happen. In all these years…
(Looks up, reflective.) One way to tell is to just yank out a coupla nose hairs…
SIMONA Oh god. That's your scientific method?
JOE Look kid, they come here dead. The doctors, or the coroner, they got their ways of checking that. You don't need to trouble yourself over these… imaginings.
(JILL enters the scene and eavesdrops on the conversation. Neither Joe or Simona notice her.)
SIMONA I feel like they aren't imaginings, though. I mean, I dream about them. And, in my dreams, they, like, talk to me.
JOE (Looks up.) Whoa. Kid, do you need help?
SIMONA Maybe I do. I just want to know what happens after all this is over.
(Gestures to body.) There're a million theories, you know? I guess I just want to know which one is right, and if it's the same for everyone. Do you know what I mean?
JOE (Sighs.) Not really.
SIMONA Ok, I guess I want to know if everyone goes to the same place when they die, or if there are different places depending on how you live your life. And how you die.
JOE (Looks up.) It’s not the dead that are gettin’ to you, kid. It’s the living, and all the things we put in each other's heads!
SIMONA You're right, it's the living. But it's the dead, too, Joe. I mean, ok, let me give you an example. The guy who came through here last week, the one who was in a fight and got stabbed a bunch of times… Remember him?
SIMONA I looked in at him and I couldn't look away. I mean, he had that big puncture wound in his cheek and slashes all over his hands, it was just, just… I ended up dreaming about him for like three days. I would dream I was on the bus, and there he'd be. Or I would dream something else, like I was standing on the street corner, and there he’d be. And sometimes, I would be on the bus, and he'd be telling someone about his new baby, and I'd be listening…
JOE Get to the point, kid.
SIMONA So after the third day of dreaming about him, I thought, OK, is his spirit still lurking around? Is that why he's in my dreams?
JOE Kid, you're thinkin’ way too much. All that spiritual stuff is enough to make you crazy. You’ll never know for sure, until you die. Right?
SIMONA I guess…
JOE And all this thinking about all these dead people and what they leave behind... that is really going to drive you nuts.
SIMONA I try to turn it off, but it’s hard.
JOE Well, sure, some stuff is gonna get to you. I once picked up a kid who blew her head off at her grandpa's house while the poor dude was watching a movie in the next room with his lady friend. That got to me, because I saw how much it hurt the guy... And the girlfriend! Can you imagine being old and tryin' to give a kid a leg up and the kid offs herself in the next room? Fuck! I'll never forget their faces. It still gets to me. Back then, it really got to me.
(Pause.) But I don't think about it too much anymore.
SIMONA So how do you keep from thinking about it?
JOE Scotch helps...
SIMONA Joe, I don't want to become an alcoholic over this job!
JOE Oh, come on. I'm just giving you a hard time! You’re gonna be fine. You just gotta find a way to deal with things. Don't think so goddamn much - it keeps you from doing your job. Jill has her eye on you, kid, and not in a good way.
SIMONA (Abrupt, brushes off Joe's comment about Jill.) Do you ever miss your parents?
JOE (Exasperated anew.) Sure I do.
SIMONA Do you think they’re watching over you?
JOE Shit I hope not.
SIMONA Would it be comforting to you…
(Pause.) What if you knew they were?
JOE Kid, I got a lot of work to do.
SIMONA Please, Joe. Just tell me. Would it be comforting if you knew they were still, like, around?
JOE I hope they're doin’ what they never got a chance to do when they were alive: Rest.
SIMONA It just seems so pointless sometimes, you know? I just think about all the pain and challenges and hardships… It's a wonder more people don't kill themselves.
(Jill, still unseen by Joe and Simona, exits silently.) So, if you had to do it all over again, would you be an embalmer? You know, work with all this every day?
JOE Good question, kid. I don't know. Not sure what else I would do… I wouldn't want to be a farmer, like my dad. Too much work. But then again, this job is a lotta fuckin' work, too. Your time isn't your own, really. You can't just let a dead body set there… you have to go get it, and it doesn't really matter if it's three in the morning.
SIMONA I wonder if I am going to regret working here someday…
JOE There you go, thinkin’ too much again.
(Pause, studying the body.) Kid, grab me some wax and a pink lipstick from the prep-room, wouldja? I gotta fix this lady's mouth.