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O'Malley has Risen from the Grave
by Tony Owens

Paedric wiped the sweat from his brow. The mourners had gone; the priest was back in the rectory. Time for work. One shovelful of dirt on the coffin lid – the dull thud of finality, though Paedric was not in a philosophical frame of mind this morning. The high ambient temperature and a heroic intake of whisky the night before had put paid to any attempts at higher thinking.

Was that a knocking? Surely not. John Francis O’Malley had been dead for two days. A perforated ulcer finally did what any number of bookies, debt collection agents, loan sharks and jilted lovers had desired to do these past twenty or so years.

He turned to grab his water bottle (though water in name only) and was startled to see the aforementioned O’Malley sitting atop the casket, brushing dirt off the lapels of his burial suit.

"Paedric, you old soak. Close your mouth. It’s open like the tomb of our Lord on Easter Sunday."

The gravedigger glared at him. "Death certainly has failed to put a civil tongue in your head. You startled me."

O’Malley tried to stand up. "Me back is killing me. It’s a bit cramped in there."

"Be thankful they didn’t cremate ye. Anyway, what are you doing, showing up like you’re cock of the walk? Have you no sense of decorum?"

"Unfinished business. I think I might have left the gas on at home."

Paedric raised an eyebrow. "Be off with you. You’re more irritating dead than you were alive."

"Where’s your sense of humour, man? I’m just pulling your leg. But it is unfinished business I’m about. I need a favour."

"Mmmm?" Paedric said suspiciously.

"Tell me, do you have any ciggies on you. I’m gasping."

Paedric took a near empty packet out of his overall pockets and handed it to the late John O’Malley. The latter smiled ruefully. "The doc told me to give up smoking ten years ago and I did. What a waste of time that was."

"OK lad, out with it. What’s the favour you be asking?"

"Could you apologise to my darling wife for me. I suspect she knew about me and Maureen from the bakery."

"You think she knew. Don’t be daft man. I have a second cousin three counties away who knew about you and Maureen."

"I’m sure that’s true. And while you’re at it, could you have a word to Maureen too. She didn’t know I was married."

"Maybe I should whisper in St. Peter’s ear too. You’ll need all the help you can get where you’re going."

He leaned over to take a swig from his bottle and when he looked back, he was alone again. He peered into the open grave. Not a soul, literally. He sighed and reached for his cigarettes. Gone!

"Damn and blast you John Francis O’Malley. If you weren’t dead already I’d…I’d…" He sighed. It was getting dark. He started shovelling again.