He is a red man all over, everyone can smell it. Even through the jasmine oil I apply so liberally before each shave he reeks of rusty iron and musk like the heavy gate to the bull’s field that was left open last year. I prattle on about the weather and tug my comb through his beard with my fingers crossed. Every time I snag on a knot I wince, afraid by the size of his huge hairy fists and the bulk of him sprawled across my biggest chair.
The crowd watches as she walks forward and unthreads a pale rose. Its thornless stem, shaven into meek concave depressions, fits her fingers. White faces fan her then turn slowly back to the flat green oblongs laid out on the grass, disappearing neatly into the pit.
Now the box is lifted. It is large and long but even though it is full it is not as heavy as it looks. Ten days makes a difference to weight.
Silent men hold its corners lightly. With the green oblongs pulled taut the box is lowered below ground. Sightlines are interrupted and resumed with a sigh.
Soil is offered and thrown down in handfuls. She imagines seeds too far underground, shoots never reaching the light. Years from now worms finding new richness in the earth. She lets the rose drop. Turning away from the men with their eager shovels and empty palms. Waiting.
I think you might like...
They all saw her. Standing on the boardwalk outside the old woman’s house, smoking.
The old woman was dying of cancer. Not from cigarettes, but still. They did not approve.
In the house, the old woman frantically peeled potatoes, scraps of skin flying everywhere, sticking to the sink, windows and her woollen clothing like a plague of starchy warts.