Welcome back to Member Monday! It’s a pleasure to feature our beloved Writers Forum President, Larry Watters.
Author’s Note: Larry has a thing for cemetaries, and sometimes lets his imagination fly. This is from a members read in 2010. Visit us at our next meeting on December 8 for our twice-a-year readings. See info on our calendar page.
Too Many Graves
by Larry Watters
Matt shook his head in frustration. The first time he counted he thought he had made a mistake. He just as easily could have signed off on the tally, but being a perfectionist, he just had to get it right.
But when the second go-around came up with the same number, he got concerned. “Boy,” he said aloud to himself, “there should only be eighty-one graves, not eighty-three.” Then he giggled at the thought of what someone would think if they overheard him; a mass murderer maybe.
Matt Wampler was the supervisor of the, some would say gruesome, job of relocating graves before water started covering them next month. Matt had won the bid for relocating the old Brandy Creek Cemetery to higher ground before the waters behind the new dam started flooding what had been the old communities of Brandy and Bourbon, both so named from the freely flowing kegs of yore.
It was a mix of old and new graves. Some of the sites dated back to the Gold Rush days when the area was host to California’s second major gold find. It was said that gold was on the surface back then, needing no picks, or even shovels, to gather it up.
Others were fairly recent. While the soon-to-be-covered towns were technically ghost towns, the cemetery was still active, popular with descendants of the early pioneers.
But having two too many graves was unsettling. He had hired a crew of five to dig the new graves, dig-up the old and rebury the remains. He suspected that his crew had got a little over eager when digging fresh sites with the backhoe and had simply lost count. He had let them go; except for Paul. He briefly considered that he and his sole helper could uncover all to find the empties, and then decided that they didn’t really have to go to that extreme; that they only needed to poke a rod down to find the empty ones.
They didn’t really need to check all either; only the twenty-three that were unmarked. Well, now twenty-five. The rest had markers.
He rang Paul on his cell, and explained the mystery. Paul said he’d be there the next morning with a couple of long rods for probing.
Contented, Matt decided to call it a day and enjoy the beauty of the new location. Situated on a small rise above the dam, it overlooked the soon to be lake. Scrub pines and oaks with their raucous Scrub Jays filled most of the hill side. But in clearings a cavalcade of color ran riot. The native wildflowers were in bloom.
Sighing, Matt pulled his lunch from his backpack in the shade. He ate the same thing most every time when he was working at the site; cheddar cheese from a local creamery, salami from a local meat locker, and Ritz crackers. It was a meal that seemed made for graveyards. Well, not really. But it was one that he was used to.
He fondly remembered being with his dad on road trips, and how it was almost a rule to have that same snack on stops. Sometimes roadside, but most of the time dad detoured off and found an old cemetery. After wandering to see who found the oldest grave, they would sit on the tailgate of the pickup and chow down; Matt with his sodas and Dad with his beers. Matt had outgrown sodas, preferring water these days.
He wished his dad had outgrown beers, but alas, it never came to be. Hal had never been one to get drunk, but Matt could never remember when his dad didn’t have a beer can stuck between his legs while driving, sitting on a tree stump when they stopped, or perched on the tail gate eating.
Listening to the birds, Matt sliced his salami, cut his cheese, and piled each on crackers. Cracker by cracker, he polished off the tube. He had a sense of being watched. Maybe it was the squirrels expecting a hand out. He hoped so any way.
Not many people shared his love of eating with dead people. It was an oddity that he could not explain. But today was different.
He really had the feeling that more than squirrels were watching. It was a sense that had saved his life back in ‘Nam.
“To be continued sometime in the future. I promise”
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Nice piece, Larry. Sets us up for more!