Back in Johannesburg after the war was over, Shorty got engaged to be married. The party to celebrate this took place at a rather raffish nightclub (it was probably in Hillbrow).
Because of one of those complicated arrangements which we all remember from our wild years, one of the guests had arranged to collect his car at the party, but the person who had dropped the vehicle off had taken the keys home with him to ensure that the car wasn't stolen. So someone had to fetch them.
"I'll go," cried Shorty, already fairly drunk. He got directions, got into his own car, and zoomed off to find the relevant flat.
He found the flat and the keys fairly easily, let himself out, feeling the satisfaction that comes from a job well done, and noticed a light at ground floor level a few buildings down.
Being interminably curious and friendly (and drunk, of course), he wandered off to investigate, and found an open door and a flight of steps leading down into some sort of basement.
Further investigation revealed an office with a desk, and a man sitting behind the desk. Shorty sat down too, and they started chatting.
The man wanted to know what Shorty was doing in these parts, so Shorty explained about the engagement party, the car and the keys, and that it was indeed he who was getting married.
"Congratulations," said the man. (Well, I have reason to suspect that it came out more like "Congrashulashunsh"). "Have a drink!"
And he produced what was left of a halfjack of brandy from one of his desk drawers.
Shorty accepted this very kind offer and they sat there, drinking and chatting, for some time.
Eventually, Shorty's curiousity got the better of him again.
"By the way, old chap", he said, "what is this place exactly, and what are you doing here in the middle of the night?"
"Well, actually, it's the morgue," said Shorty's new friend, "and I'm the night mortician."
"Really!" cried Shorty. "Do you mean you have dead bodies here?"
"Yes," said the mortician.
"Gosh," said Shorty, "do you think I could see some of them?"
The mortician ummed and aahed and muttered about how he might get into trouble, but eventually he succumbed, took Shorty into the cold storage room and started pulling out drawers.
Shorty was entranced.
"This one's nice," he said, and then as the next one was put on display, "No, don't really like this one."
Then the mortician produced a particularly appealing specimen.
"This one's marvellous, absolutely bloody marvellous!" exclaimed Shorty, and after examining it for some time, he turned to the mortician and said, "You know, I really, really like this one. I don't suppose there's any chance I could have it, is there?"
"Oh, no," said the mortician, "I'd get into terrible trouble. I might even lose my job. If it was just up to me, but..."
Shorty pleaded some more, but to no avail. The mortician was obdurate.
Eventually, Shorty came up with a brainwave.
"Look," he said, "I really like it. If you can't give it to me, do you think I could possibly borrow it? Just for a day or two?"
The mortician ummed and aahed some more, but eventually Shorty persuaded him, and between the two of them, they managed to lug the corpse up the steps from the morgue basement, and to bundle it into the back seat of Shorty's car.
At about this point in the proceedings, Shorty remembered that he was supposed to be at his own engagement party. He thanked the mortician profusely, they had one last drink for the road, and then Shorty weaved away in his car.
He hadn't noticed how late it was, but by the time he got his bearings and found the nightclub, it was after 3 in the morning, the club had closed, and his fiancee was standing on the pavement outside with the man whose keys Shorty had gone to fetch. Both were irate.
The key owner snatched his keys and stalked off, and Shorty's fiancee climbed into the passenger seat and started berating him.
"You'd better have a very, very good reason for this," she said. "What's your excuse this time?"
So Shorty told her how he had spent the latter part of the evening.
She got even angrier. "I've never heard such a load of rubbish in my life!" she snapped. "Now, I want the truth!"
Penitent and quaking, Shorty pointed into the back seat.
"But......but.....there it is!" he quavered.
And there it was.
She made him take it back of course, but the most baffling aspect of the story is that she actually went ahead and married him!
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