The Museum of the Dearly Departed
“There had been a leak.
Deep in the basement and then through the walls and floors of the building, gas had poured, scentless, at two a.m. After the fire trucks and news trucks and gawkers had dispersed, after one body had been sirened away and eleven more secreted out under sheets, the building sat empty for a week. The only survivor died in the hospital, never having woken. All twelve of them, that meant, died in their sleep. There had been no calls to 911, no bodies sprawled halfway to the door—just the mailman’s cry for help the next morning after three poisonous minutes at the lobby mailboxes. Despite the earnest reporters’ enunciation of “deadliest” and “perfect storm,” the public was not as horrified as it pretended. “That’s really the way to go,” people murmured to their TVs.
On the eighth day, the hottest of July, the old Hungarian couple returned from Cleveland and stood staring at the yellow tape, suitcases by their sides, taxi waiting to be paid. They hadn’t heard.”