Love and Neckties - Lacey Black

Chapter One


I adjust the small angel pendant on Mrs. Hammond’s suit collar one final time, making sure everything is just right. Soft, classical music pipes through the speakers, while the video montage of her life plays on the screen in back. The flowers and plants are displayed perfectly, and the family is ready to say their final goodbyes with loved ones who came to share their condolences.

Her visitation will begin soon, just a typical Tuesday for me.

I make my way to the main office where Elma, our assistant, types an obituary for our website. She struggles with uploading to the site, yet can type like a court stenographer. Elma came from the typewriter era, and while she’s the master at making sure the obits are worded correctly, she struggles with just about every other aspect of the process.

“Why does this line keep blinking at me? It moved up the page and now my words are typing in the wrong spot,” the older woman complains, jabbing at the delete button with her frail finger.

“The cursor is supposed to move and blink, Elma. If it’s not in the right spot, it’s because you moved it,” I tell her calmly. This is a daily occurrence and something I’m used to fixing.

“I just don’t see the point of these machines. The Royal Epoch over there was working just fine,” she grumbles, pointing to the antique device that hasn’t been used in more than two decades, yet refuses to let me get rid of “in case they come back in style.”

As I move to look at the screen over her shoulder, I’m assaulted with the scent of mothballs and Avon perfume. Timeless, I believe is what she calls it, though it really just reminds me of my grandma’s bathroom when I was a kid.

I move the mouse, demonstrating once more how she can do so herself, but she’s already getting up and moving on to filing. Elma’s the only woman to ever have stepped foot in the office of Hanson Funeral Home. Her late husband, Ernest, started the business in 1964, with Elma running the office with an iron fist. In the eighties, their son, Robert, joined the family business, eventually taking over a few years ago when Ernest passed away. Now, Rob’s son, Aaron, has finished school and joined his dad in their family legacy.

Unfortunately, Aaron doesn’t actually care about working.

That leaves Rob and me, the one the young Hanson leans on to do, well, everything. I don’t mind, though. I’m as dedicated to this business as the old man was before his heart attack, God rest his soul.

“The Hammond family should be here soon,” Elma states, as I complete the upload of our newest obituary to the website.

“I’ll meet them at the door,” I reply, heading toward the wooden front entrance of our funeral home. I stop by the fireplace first, checking the knot on my navy blue tie in the mirror. It’s already flawless, of course, but I always verify before meeting a family. Or before leaving the house. A perfectly executed double Windsor knot is on display, my favorite knot to tie.

I learned how to tie a necktie when I was seven, your basic four-in-hand knot. Over the years, I’ve learned four additional ways to display my tie, most of them named after British royals, and all based on the type of collar on the crisp dress shirt I’m wearing. I even took an online course on folding handkerchiefs. You never know when that will come in handy.

With my tie in perfect order, I head to the front door, holding it open just as the family arrives. I greet the grieving daughter and son-in-law, Debbie and Stuart, as well as their three children, handing them a small packet of tissues as they enter the funeral home. It’s one thing I’ve learned over the years: be prepared. Always.

I escort them to the entrance of the parlor, where their loved one waits. They slowly make their way inside to say their goodbyes, while I wait just outside the door. After fifteen minutes, they come out to take a breather.

“I’ll open the doors at four o’clock to the public,” I tell them.

“Thank you, Samuel. You’ve been most helpful during this time,” Debbie says, and I can tell already she’s about to hug me. Grievers always hug, and why they feel the need to hug me is beyond my comprehension, especially when a handshake will suffice. Handshakes are professional. Yet here I am, being wrapped in