Monday, July 23, 2012

Stories on Demand: Part Three

Submitted words: dilettante, Rastafarian, pissed, librarian, shell, confession, gangbanger, myrrh, bingo, luminous.

Harvey ran his hands over the words several times, just to make sure they were real. Cellar door. Did it qualify as vandalism if it contained no profanities and made no sense? He pictured the time it would have taken someone, lying in the dirt, to etch each letter into the stone. It certainly hadn’t been a group of slightly bored gangbangers who’d gotten pissed and decided to leave their mark with painstakingly tedious gravesite graffiti.

There had to be more. Pulling aside the small tufts of grass at the base of the headstone, he scanned each inch. Bingo. At the very edge was a small arrow pointing to the right.

He carefully surveyed everything in that direction. There was nothing. Not a tree, not another grave, not a suspicious clump of sod suggesting that something had been either deposited or removed. There was only the hill and the luminous reflection of a now-brutal midday sun off the town beyond.

He rocked back on his haunches, the stitches in his pants screaming. Was it a prank? A few furtive glances assured him that he was, as usual, alone, free to talk or weep or offer any manner of confession to the deceased without judgment. The wind seemed to quicken with his breath.

Harvey was not a learned man. He didn’t claim to be an expert in anything or even a dilettante. He had a particular set of skills that earned him a decent living, one of which was being able to follow directions. So the arrow seemed simple enough.

Sweat was pouring off his face by the time he coasted back into town. Once there, however, he found himself unsure where to begin. A search of cellar doors could take ages in a community established in the 18th century. After wheezing a few moments in a patch of shade, he decided there was only one place to go.

The librarian was a stout woman with a lisp who was all business.

“Thellar door, hmmm?”

She accepted the challenge as seriously and humbly as if he’d presented her with frankincense and myrrh instead of an apparently amorphous phrase that was potentially total bullshit.

“I’ll be right back.”

Harvey stretched his arms across the large table and waited, content to feel the cool wood through his damp shirtsleeves. Because he also put his head down, he didn’t see the tall Rastafarian approach. He heard only the soft clink of the man’s necklace, a colorful mix of beads and shells.


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