512 Words

The Gravedigger's Love Song

Steven Duggar

Black-sleeved elbows on the fence, alone, Matthew watched. The big wind he imagined was God's wind ruffled the trees far off and the shady branches over him. He squinted serious. The others were gone now, the last taillights had blinked out over the gravelled hill.

Do shovels move in parabolas?

Men digging at the graves of other people's people---what do they think of? From the road, he could not even see if they spoke or not. Their shoveling reminded him of a poem from high school about a man and his wife, he is digging their son's grave and she's mad because he digs like he does not love the child. (Thinking of poetry always made his mouth dry---so sickly sentimental). The men might be debating where to cool off after they had finished, looking forward to patting the finished bump of soil with the backs of their shovels. That's okay, he told himself. Suggest bars and your family's home or mine, okay, like me thinking of poems and parabolas over a fresh grave.

The gravediggers said nothing when he had stood by the hole---he said something but they said nothing. He wanted to force them to tell him what they think of.

Matthew turned and put his hands in the small pockets of his dress-pants. Not wanting to look anymore, he stared up at the clouds to free his mind.

Those who had gone back home over the hill asked him gentle questions with worthless small assurances. Angry, he did not want to see their eyes on him. Sitting on his bed in his room, waiting for the clock to let him leave, he fantasized that Mrs. Edenburough might walk up to him right before the service and ask him if he would finally mow her lawn, its been two weeks. He wished she would---then he would be a young victim worthy of sympathy, wouldn't he? Standing there second parent dead and her asking him about lawns. Horrible old heartless woman, everyone would think. And Poor Matt. (It was strange there in his room, trying to figure out what the funeral would be like; he could have been any other room because they were all his now.) A funeral is something you cannot figure out, he decided. Foolish Matthew, fool. Don't think, feel. She had not asked him to mow and weed-eat, after all.

He paced to his car, measuring each step. Before he drove off, he read the sign there by the fence: BEFORE DIGGING CALL 1-800-555-5068 FOR PIPELINE INFORMATION. The white rocks rattled under the car and he wished he were not going home.

At the kitchen table Matthew began writing in the journal he bought on the way to the house:

The funeral was today, July 6th 1998.

He tried hard to not think about anyone ever reading his words.

I have not cried.

The four words felt good to write. No condemnation fell. No weeping sister to tell him how he must cry or not love them. Nothing.

He felt like a gravedigger.

Copyright ©1998 Steven Duggar. All Rights Reserved.

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August, 1998
Issue #28

512 Words