M.S. Gardner: Flash Fiction: Oct 2021


Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’ve lived South of the Mason-Dixon Line for over 30 years, going deeper South with each move. I save my bacon grease, fry my chicken in lard, and make a mean shrimp and grits. My Southern born and raised husband proclaims my cornbread is better than his grandma’s.

A Year After Your Death

A year after your death, and grass still won’t grow on your grave. 

We’ve tried everything: Bermuda grass, crab grass, clover, Kentucky Blue. Not even monkey grass lasts more than a month, and you know how tough that stuff is to kill. Astro-turf lasted the longest; a whole month before it too was consumed. 

Your grave stands out like a scab on the immaculate grounds. 

Flowers don’t last more than half a day. The caretaker swears the flowers just wither, dry up right before his eyes. Not even plastic floral arrangements hold up much more than a week, no matter how good or cheap they are. The good ones fade. The cheap ones melt. 

The granite tombstone crumbled, its base eaten away. We tried a metal marker, the kind that lays flat on the ground. It corroded like copper in two weeks, your name, dates, and “Devoted husband and father” obliterated.

The cemetery tested the soil. High levels of sulfur, they said. But only in the one spot. Your spot. 

We’ve had a priest, an evangelist, a rabbi, a Buddhist monk, and even a shaman (we were getting desperate) come to your grave site. They each came to the same conclusion: They don’t know what’s going on, and they can’t help.

The priest’s holy water evaporated before it struck the ground. He mumbled something in Latin and hurried away.

The evangelist suggested a sizable donation to his ministry might help. It didn’t.

The rabbi had three opinions concerning the problem. All of them valid. None of them worked.

The Buddhist monk tried meditating on top of your grave. He got chemical burns all up and down his legs and fled, yowling like a scalded cat.

The shaman stopped five feet from your grave, turned, and, dropping his staff and the live chicken, he tore off, all heels and elbows.

The cemetery wants to move you, seclude you away in a mausoleum, or put you in a far corner where no one goes, where the homeless and the poor are laid to rest. Your grave’s on the side of the cemetery that faces the main road. It sticks out as people drive by. You can’t help but notice it. 

It’s bad for business, the cemetery manager tell us. It’s bad advertising. They’re losing customers to Pulanski’s Peaceful Acres, the competition across the river. No one is dying to get into their cemetery any more. Funeral homes no longer refer customers to them. They’re getting desperate. Other families are asking for refunds, or even free grave maintenance; people are afraid their dearly departed loved ones will catch whatever it is you have. You’re an eyesore.

The cemetery has even gotten to the point where they said, “We’ll pay to move him.” Mom’s considering their offer. She’s holding out for some form of refund though.