Richard Standring : Grave Speak : Fiction : June 2019

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Richard grew up in the north, moved to Tennessee in 1992.  Later moved to the Charleston suburb of Summerville, SC where he enjoys sweet tea and grits (rhymes with “as good as it gets”).  

Grave Speak

“Gee Paw, mommy thinks you are getting too old to take care of this place,” Celia said. The place was Greenhaven’s only non-denominational cemetery just inside the town limits on Highway 220.  The only other cemetery in town was beside the Baptist church in town.

“You tell your mother, I’ve been the caretaker here for forty years, and I intend to keep taking care of all these graves until I die.”

“Is that because they’re your friends?” she asked.

“I’ve buried many of them, so I guess you could call them past acquaintances.”

“What’s the difference?”

Only a child would ask such a question, he thought.  “A past acquaintance is somebody you might see occasionally and say hello, but you don’t know them well.  Maybe just their name and where they might live.”

“If you’ve been working here for forty years, I would think they were all your friends.  I’ve only been coming here for three years, and I know most of them.  They talk to me, you know.”

What an imagination! “Yes, I’ve heard you talking to some of those old stones, but you don’t expect me to actually believe the dead are talking back to you, do you?”

“Mister Carl E. Smith in section six told me you’d say that.  He’s been here for twenty years now and he misses his grand-children.  Did you know that?”

“I know he’s been in the ground here for twenty years.  Yes, I know that much.  I trim the grass around his stone every week and see the names and dates.”

“But you didn’t know about his grand-children, did you?”

“No, but it is a reasonable assumption.”

“Gee Paw, do you think I’m making this up?”

“Well, Celia I think you have a very active imagination.”

“Jean Black in section four says that you sometimes talk to yourself, but not to her.”

“If she said it, then it must be true.”

“It’s okay if you don’t believe me.  They sure have a lot of stories to tell.  I’ve been coming here since I was seven, and there are a lot of stories I haven’t heard, yet. And, did you know there’s a mule buried here?  His name is Jesse.”

“Did he tell you that?  Did you speak with him?”

“No, mules don’t speak, especially dead ones.”   

“You’re probably the only child that isn’t afraid of being in the cemetery, with all these…  buried bodies.”  He would have said people, until the mule was mentioned.”

“I’m not afraid.  They won’t hurt me, they’re my friends.”

“Uh huh.  I still don’t think you should be here, unless I’m here with you.”

“Okay. Are you afraid of ghosts, Gee Paw?”

“I might be, if I ever see one.”

“I’m going over to visit misses Godwin in section three.  I haven’t spoken to her in a while.”

“Tell her I said, hello.”