The Art of Burying

Burying a body was hard. First, Clinton had to find a good spot. He chose the soft patch of dirt, just outside the cabin where the roots of trees jutted up from the ground and the forest began. The body was wrapped in white sheets and tied with rope. He opened the door to the cabin and picked the body up. With a grunt, he carried her out, arms straining as he descended the wooden stairs. He wasn’t a small man, he was burly with a close shaved beard and small but gentle eyes. Clinton was strong. But holding her body in his arms made him weak.

The leaves on the ground crunched and cracked as he made his way around the cabin and to the soft patch of ground. He stopped a couple of feet away from the spot and rested her down before grabbing the shovel that sat up against the cabin wall. It was next to an old pink tricycle, faded and grimy with time. The pink tassels at the handles’ end had all been torn away. Rubbing his eyes and wiping his face, he went to the soft patch of ground and began to dig. He didn’t wear gloves. His big hands were calloused from years of chopping wood.

Clinton forced the shovel into the ground, wrenched the dirt into the mouth of the shovel and scooped it to the side.

There was an art to shoveling, a rhythm his hands, arms, shoulders, back, hips and legs found. His biceps bulged as he struck the earth, he exhaled in one motion; inhaling as his stance changed, his back tensed, a canvas of muscle, bunching as he flung pounds of dirt into a pile that grew larger. Droplets beaded his forehead, and soon dampened his chest, stained his armpits and darkened the back of his blue shirt an Indigo hue.

His hairy fingers reddened with his tightened grip and soon his knees ached, but he did not stop. His muscles cried for a break, but he kept shoveling, glancing, in those hard moments, at the wrapped body that lay a few feet away. The golden light of evening shined through the trees, and the hole was finally big enough that he had to stand in it to keep shoveling. He glanced at her body again.

The wind blew and one arm moved under the sheet. He stopped, breath caught. He wiped the sweat from his eyes and watched. The wind blew again and stirred the sheets into movement. He went back to digging, his eyes colder than before.

Burying a body was hard. A proper hole must be dug; one slightly wider than who was being buried and deep enough that the only animals that could get to it would be worms. His hole, however, was not meant for a coffin. His famous coffins. He could not bear to build her one. She told him once what kind of coffin she would like. Something pretty, a lacquered red wood with the inside pink and plush. A place fit for a princess to rest.

The cicadas would soon cry.

Panting now, he tossed the shovel up and planted his palms just outside the hole and hoisted himself. His arms shook and his body strained then gave up. He fell back into the hole, hot breath beginning to fog. His eyes stung from dirt and sweat. Clinton sat in the hole and wondered if he belonged there instead.

The sky grew darker and the automatic outdoor lights buzzed to life. He sat till his breathing was silent and his heart no longer pounded in his ears. He stood again and placed his hands outside of the hole and cried out as he pulled up and dragged his body from the hole. His clothes were muddy, and dirt dried under his fingernails. He wanted to lay down, to forget, to pretend, but he looked at the body, wrapped in horse printed sheets and went to it.

He scooped her into his arms, staring at where her face would be. There were no right words, so he laid her in the hole then grabbed his shovel. He did not just push the giant pile of dirt back into place, but instead, scooped each pile into his shovel and dropped it inside. His body, moving like a machine, knew the pace.

When burying a body, it is always harder to fill the hole. Every second her body was less and less visible.

Clinton thought of Mr. Fluffs, who died when she was twelve. They had a bunny funeral, just the two of them.

The white sheets had disappeared beneath the dirt. He kept going, till the crickets chirped and the white light of electric lanterns made his damp face shine.

One last scoop. He placed it on top and patted the earth down then placed his shovel back up against the wall, next to the pink tricycle. Clinton went back inside, into his room and changed out of his muddy clothes. He took the hottest shower he could then dressed. He lit the fireplace, even though the cabin could never be warm enough. He went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and grabbed a cold beer then went into the living room and sat in his recliner before turning on the television. A football game was on, Houston versus Pittsburgh. He opened his beer, then took a long, hard drink before looking at the window to his left.

Outside, he could see the soft patch of land, near the edge of the trees. He pressed his lips together, nostrils flaring and fingers pressed tight against the bottle of beer. The television roared as Houston scored. He looked back at the TV, then turned it off and drank his beer in silence.

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