One Afternoon at the Cemetery

She winds the strands of her beaded necklace through delicate fingers. Tilting her head back, she exhales, and points the ember in the direction of the couple yelling at their dog.

“What is it with people and their dogs? I mean, dogs are swell, but why bring your dog to the cemetery and then yell at it for running through the grass and sniffing at other folks?  For God’s sake!  Get that dog to a park, let it run and stop yelling at it.”

“Gladys, you’re dropping ashes on your dress. Shouldn’t you be more careful, dear?”

“Thanks, Margaret, but you know I’ve got more dresses where this one came from. It’s just a dress. What kind of pie are you making today? Lemon chiffon? Banana cream? Or blueberry? I love hot blueberry pie dripping with real cream – not that stuff they call cream now-a-days.”

“Hey, Gladys. You sure they can’t hear us? You sure I can skate off of these grave markers? Nobody’ll care, right?”

“Jon, I’ve told you.  They can’t see us. They can’t hear us. You can ride that wheeled board wherever you want. Why must you keep asking me?”  She brushes an ash from her hem and says, “Does that kid ever pull up his pants?”

 

“Give ‘im a break, Gladys. He’s only been on this side a couple days. You remember what it’s like to get used to being here. He’s just a kid.”

Basil leans back against a marker and takes a bite of his sandwich. He flips the clasps on his black lunch box and opens the lid. “Want some coffee, Margaret? Just ignore Gladys, kid. She gets cranky looking down her nose all day long.”

“What do you mean by that, Basil? I don’t think I’m better than you, I just have more experience. Don’t listen to him, Jon. What kind of life experience can a miner possibly have? I’ve traveled. I’ve been places.”

“Well we all ended up in the same place, didn’t we Gladys.”

“That’s enough from you, Basil.”

“Thank you, Basil. I’d love some coffee.”  Margaret wipes her hands on her apron and reaches for the tin of coffee.  “Jon, I made a banana cream pie. You need some meat on your bones. Come and join us for a piece of pie.”

 

“This place is crawling with ‘em. How come they hang out at the cemetery when they could be skating?”

“They’re all misguided, Jon.  The Living, that is.  They think we are hanging out here waiting to see who remembers us.”

Basil tucks the last bite of sandwich in his mouth, “Ignore her, Jon.  Gladys thinks the men are still pining away for her.”

Margaret sips her coffee, “Jon, honey, they are paying their respects. It’s a big weekend for that. It’s Memorial Day weekend. They come to plant flowers and show the Living how much they still remember the Dead. Come and have some pie.”

Gladys lifts the filter to her lips and hesitates before inhaling. “You know, if I were still alive, I wouldn’t be hanging around digging in the dirt.
I’d be ….”

“We know, Gladys. You’d be dancing or traveling or boring some poor slouch with your stories of dance and travel. We know.”

“Well it’s better than spending my days in a mine, like you did.”

“I had a family to take care of.”

“Yes, Basil.  Taking care of family is a noble thing. You were – are – a noble man.”

 

 

 

“Poor dear. Look at her. Struggling with her cane and a box of flowers. Where are her children? Has she outlived her husband? Has she no one to help her?”  Smoothing her apron with her hands she says, “Oh, dear. That’s the hard part to see – the Lonely Living. I don’t like that part. Have another piece, Jon.”

“Maybe she didn’t plan on being lonely. Maybe she thought she’d be married forever. I’m never getting married. How do you have time to skate if you’re married. No thanks.”

“Uh, Jon…”

“You realize there’s no chance of that now, right?”  Basil pours more coffee in the lid of his Thermos.  “I said I was never gonna get married, too, and then I met her.  I stopped being interested in fishing or cards.  That’s how I was able to work the mine all day.  I knew what I got to go home to at the end of the shift.”

“Well, I never got to decide.”  Jon reaches down and spins a wheel on his board. “That stone there looks slick. I’m gonna try that one. You’re sure they can’t hear me, right?”

 

Gladys jumps down from the stone she’s been perched on and snuffs out her cigarette. “See that couple there, Basil?  The one that can’t stand to look at each other? Is that what you went home to every night?”

“Knock it off, Gladys. You’re just jealous. Besides, I didn’t have enough time to get to the point where we were sick of each other.”

“You two start getting along. How can anyone argue while eating banana cream pie?”

“Margaret, everything isn’t about pie. Look at that couple. You think if they had some of your banana cream they’d feel better? You think if they had pie and coffee and time to talk that they’d look at each other again?”

“Yes, I do, Gladys. Yes, I do. They’ve lost sight of what’s important.  They are distracted by pettiness and small hurts and annoyances. They think if they plant some flowers and look the part, everything will be fine. It’s not about making it look nice. It’s about talking and listening and… well…  it’s about pie, too.”

“She’s right, you know. They are too busy worrying about how stuff looks to notice how stuff feels.  I miss how things felt.  How she felt.  How grass felt.”  Basil rises to brush off his pants.

 

“Why do you worry about brushing off your pants when you have dust from the mine on your face and hands?”

“The dust doesn’t come off, Gladys. You know that.  Just like the ashes don’t come out of your dress.  Just like every single time, Margaret makes banana cream.  It doesn’t change, Gladys.  Jon will learn that they can’t hear us but he’ll have his skateboard with him every time you see him.”

“Until I don’t see him. I know. I know.”

 

She grabs her beaded clutch and says, “Margaret, are you coming? I can’t watch these folks anymore They should be dancing or traveling or kissing or…  or eating pie. Let’s get out of here.”

Basil snaps his lunch box closed. “Jon?  You comin’?  Let’s go, son.”

 

The four make their way to the edge of the cemetery and Gladys lights another cigarette.

“Have you all figured out why the Living are so fascinated with vampires?”

 

 

 

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7 comments

  1. I LOVE this little story!

  2. Pat,

    Thanks. :)

    I hope we see Basil, Gladys, Jon and Margaret around here again. I like them.

  3. I hope to see them again soon. Loved it.

  4. Z,

    Right now I see the four of them standing – arms folded across their chests – looking down at your ex and plotting…

  5. LOL! And I see my grandfather, cousin, and uncle with their shotguns…

  6. Hi Jesse,

    What a wonderful post! It has the feel of Our Town (Thorton Wilder). It reminds me to get my dancing shoes on.

    Warm hugs . . .

  7. Hi Lynn,

    Yes, I believe there should be more dancing – lots more dancing.

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