Another entry for January’s Half-hour Challenge on The Inkwell, under the theme “Bells”.
In the days before medical science understood brain-death, the prospect of finding oneself interred alive was very real. Of course, it is impossible to estimate the numbers who met this unpleasant end. Physicians continued with impunity in the knowledge that any death certificate mistakes were well buried. The phrase “saved by the bell” alludes not to pugilistic exploit, as many imagine, but to the erstwhile practice of installing bell mechanisms within coffins to permit premature interees to summon assistance. The relationship of trust that must have existed between undertakers, sextons and their customers intrigues me. Imagine your emotional state if you woke from a coma, in a coffin already buried, heaved a sigh of relief that you paid your undertaker to arrange a bell, then discovered that the sexton had neglected to connect the linkages necessary to make your bell ring. Now, what was plan B?