His Father's Grave

Jon wondered if only stoners were into those Planet Earth, hippie harangues or if the fad would eventually integrate into the hoi polloi. He got his answer when, three weeks later, his sister came home on her birthday with a Bonsai tree, saying today was her “rebirth-day” as well.

To top it all off, she wanted to talk about their dead father, a subject Jon disliked talking about. So he avoided her all afternoon and evening, even going so far as to sit down and listen to his Uncle Harry’s fabrications about how successful he was in his new window business, when everyone knew he was filing bankruptcy. Jon just made sure he had a lot to drink, but in the end his sister got him anyway, sitting him down on the back patio of their stepfather’s Arizona abode, where they always gathered for birthdays.

“Why not come to daddy’s grave, just once?” Her soprano voice pleaded. “I was planning on laying down the tree I brought home, give daddy a little bit of peace.”

“What are you talking about? I think if he’s dead, that’s guaranteed housing with nothing but peace until the earth’s end,” Jon quipped irritably. He always disliked discussing this.

“My roommate did it on her grandfather’s grave and you know what she swears? That there’s been fresh, green grass over the plot ever since and even little buds of rosemary.”

“For remembrance?” Jon quoted automatically.

“What?” Julie stared.

Jon replied with a level gaze, “Never mind.” He couldn’t help adding, “Are you sure they’re teaching you at Vassar, or is it all botany?” Julie had no reply to his, but stalked away into the house during some didactic muttering about “emotional availability” and “walls,” or some such. Jon nursed his drink and stared out at the Arizona backyard.

It was all plains. From their stepfather’s moderately wealthy estate, it was all flat land for about a half a mile out until orange mountains kicked up. Just mounds and mounds of burnt soil and conglomerate rock made up the horizon, and there weren’t any of the skyscrapers Jon was used to seeing in Atlanta. All the trees were dead; life was all dried up out here.

The rough length of the spade scraped Jon’s hands as he increased his force, driving the spade deeper into the hard, compact ground and then swinging it over his shoulder. Night sounds surrounded his work as the hours went by. Six feet came and went. This grave would be worthy.

Numbly, Jon locked eyes with the skyline. He sipped again from his drink. The wise thing to do would have been to tell Julie, or his mother, what exactly had transpired between he and his father on his death bed – of the promise he’d forced Jon to make. The old Injun had a policy about secrets though, and Jon just didn’t like to share. Swigging a warm Heineken, Jon thought of his father’s real grave, where he rested truly.

Locking eyes with the mountainside, he remembered one thing his father always said to him and his sister: “We’re only borne of the world, you two. We’ve colonized and proceeded history, but the world is us; I am still a part of the mountain, I know that. Someday, you two will find where you belong to this earth, too. I will help you to it — guide you to it.”

Jon thought about his mother’s West Hollywood condo and the opulent pool she and her second husband had installed. The Arizona house was an amenity to marrying someone rich and his mother couldn’t be more thrilled. Taking another swallow, Jon kept his eyes to the hills and the skyline, knowing that in all his lifetime, he’d never visit his father’s grave again.

His Father's Grave

M.S. Hanson

BROOKLYN, United States

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