How was your day, baby?”, Julie Carter asks her husband. It’s after nine on a Friday night, and the three of us — Carter, husband Troy J. Schoeller, and me — are at the Allston Malaysian restaurant Aneka Rasa, waiting to order.
“Okay,” says Schoeller. “Four bodies. One girl was definitely cancer. One guy died of some kind of cancer-related something — he was all like skin and bones.” He sighs. “I got blood on my shirt,” he laments, looking down at his Fred Perry sweater vest and the white dress shirt beneath it. “I was hypo-ing tissue- builder into a wound. I put the instrument in, squeezed the tissue-builder fluid, pulled it out, and it went — ” he makes a spltttttt sound, a noise meant to explain how some dead dude’s red plasma spurted out so quickly that it missed Schoeller’s apron and hit his shirt.
Julie is empathetic. “I hate when stuff like that happens! I just went to put on my sneakers and realized I had blood on those too.”
The casually mandatory how-was-your-day check-in is usually among a couple’s most mundane interactions. But with a pair like Carter, 26, and Schoeller, 30, even routine pleasantries quickly become the stuff of reality TV.
Carter cuts apart dead people for a living. Schoeller works part-time putting them back together. And they have a year-old “baby”: a hairless cat named Spooky, who looks like an adorably wrinkled gremlin, knows how to flush the toilet, and has his own MySpace page.
Carter is a pathologist’s assistant at a New England hospital (one she’d rather not publicize due to the confidential nature of her work), where she performs autopsies, often on homicide victims.
Schoeller, whose nickname is Rot (he has the word tattooed on his back), is a licensed embalmer and funeral director who’s been working in the death industry for 13 years. He also fronts two bands: Beware!, a thrash-metal foursome that’s performed not only in priest collars, but shirtless and covered in fake blood; and Hardly, a more serious hardcore four-piece that does song titles like, “Throw My Ashes in the River Charles.” (“That’s a song about a guy who kills a girl,” explains Schoeller. “Buries her under a tree. Burns himself. Wants his ashes thrown in the Charles.”) And a few weeks ago, Schoeller opened Horror Business, a retail clothing store on Harvard Avenue, in Allston, whose target market is “hardcore, punk rockers, skinheads, Allston metal dudes” — the sorts of working-class people, he says, “who can’t afford [Harvard Square’s] Hootenanny.”
Call them punk-rock, postmodern Munsters if you must, but don’t call Carter and Schoeller goths. They are neither pasty-skinned nor black-clad. They are just people who admit to having “a morbid fascination with death.”
Admits Carter: “Our whole lives are death.”
It’s a Wednesday afternoon at Horror Business, and Schoeller is behind the counter in a Madball T-shirt. Bloodied mannequin torsos donned in sexy vinyl lingerie burst through the wall. A coffin lies by the entrance. The shelves and racks are stocked with Dickies (marked 20 bucks until Christmas), Fred Perry sweaters, Kangol hats, flight jackets, Stop Staring rockabilly-esque dresses, and Doc Martens — all of which are priced with actual toe tags. In the corner, there’s a TV — for horror movies, of course.