Taking several steps down, I find myself in a small family room with a kitchen off to the side. The body of the deceased, Mrs. L., is in a hospital bed in what used to be the dining area. The dinette set is probably gathering dust in the garage. Families don't just devote massive amounts of time and physical labor to the dying. They also sacrifice square footage.
I make an official pronouncement of death and sit beside Mrs. L's three adult daughters. The patient's son, John, remains standing in the unlit kitchen. The daughters and I engage in the usual small talk as we wait for the funeral home to arrive.
"Do people sometimes take it out on you when someone dies?", asks John.
"Well, yes," I reply. "But it doesn't happen very much. Most families are very nice."
Zip... click! John has pulled out a switchblade. I see the glint of a four inch blade reflecting from within the shadows of the kitchen.
"Would anyone here like to take a few stabs at her?", asks John, looking at his sisters.
I quickly glance at the sisters. They sit motionless; their faces without expression. I determine that they're not interested in taking John up on his offer to stab the hospice nurse. Somewhat assured, I turn sharply to my left and stare at John with the coldest, dead eyes that I can muster. It's time to size up the situation.
John is thin and no taller than I am. He's going to have to either make a heroic leap over his mother's death bed or an awkward run around it in order to get to me. I have no weapons, but I'm more than willing to sacrifice my company's, crappy laptop to use defensively or to bash his brains out. John isn't moving. He still stands, in the dark, holding the knife. He has an idiotic smirk on his face. I look back at his sisters:
"That's just his sense of humor", says one of them.
"If John gets any funnier, I'm calling 911", I return, flatly and coldly.
The knife quickly returns to John's pocket and we all wait in silence for the funeral home. There's nothing left for me to say to this family. Right now, I'm fresh out of conversation... and compassion. I'm also busy thinking about my life insurance and disability benefits. Because one of these nights, one of these "comedians" just might get me.