This isn’t so much a short story as it doesn’t really have an ending or a traditional conflict. The story is about someone walking around a cemetery and seeing the generations of the past and how things were then, how they are now, and musings about life/death.
Where I’m Going, Where They Are
Mary’s name is carved in small plain lettering in the upper right hand corner of her gravestone just above the large fancy lettering describing the hole of her life which absorbs seventy five percent of the stones surface. The whole of her life, that which will be conveyed to anyone who stands before her gravestone; Wife of Carl M. Webber. But Mr. Webber does not lay beside her. He has taken her face in stone, a clear presentation of the type of man he was in life, and had not the courtesy to lay beside her in death.
There is another stone here, Mary’s child Ronald. 1890-1891, he’d died one year before Mary did. Both grace the Webber family plot with their eternal presence, but the husband, the father, where shall I find him? Not far by footsteps of the living but miles in the dirt of the dead. Eight headstones down to be exact is Carl Malloy Webber. Carl Malloy Webber, 1822-1909, lays next to yet another claimed woman. Rebecca written in smaller plainer lettering than Mary in the upper left corner of her smaller stone next to Carl’s. Wife of Carl M. Webber is written large in the center again. Rebecca Webber, 1841-1911, somehow he’d touched her stone in death. Had she not seen the stone of Mary in life? Perhaps it was of her choice or possibly just their times.
There’s a lot to see here in the cemetery. Among the long fields of stone trees I can find my Grandfather, Grandmother, Mother, Father, my aunt and three cousins. So it could be said that my family is relatively new here compared to the Webbers five generations of plots.
One of the Webber plots is only a blank red stone. Death’s next victim? Perhaps a cancer patient who knows their day is near. It seems odd to see an empty gravestone that is clearly, by the light weathering, a few years old but still fairly new. Well-kept unlike some of the other gravestones here. But as I recall my father had bought his grave long before he died so it is not as odd as initially felt. I remember driving past the cemetery at least once a month on errands with my father and seeing him always pointing up the hill as he said, “That there! By the soldiers on the hill, that’s where I’m going,” Like he was looking forward to it. So now I look from the Webber plot east up the hill to the four white soldiers. Stagnate statues holding guns; all facing away from a square. I’ve never ventured to the small square. Not that I am not curious about it. I’ve wondered what they guard since I was a child. It is rather that I fear the proximity of soldiers. They have been white devils of my father’s impending death since before I was born. I’d once thought that I too would lie near the soldiers.
So I begin to walk west to see my Mother’s stone, a small obsidian block that sits by itself. It is odd that there is so much room around her that you could place eight caskets in the ground but then I expect she wanted it that way. After having spent eight years caring for her parents and then five caring for my Father I’m sure she just needed to be alone. She was never in life.
Or maybe it was her way of punishing Dad for having bought his plot and not one next to it for her. By the time they’d gotten back together in 1985 Dad had owned his plot here for six years. He hadn’t intended upon marriage or children. Not until he reunited with Mom at least. They’d been high school sweethearts but Vietnam had torn Dad away from her. She married another in his absence but that was long before my time and rarely was Mom’s first marriage ever mentioned. Her stone reads Sandra M. Clutiare, loving Mother and wife. It should say, Sandra M. Clutiare, she who gave her life to those around her. So perhaps I will buy the plot next to her so she will not rest alone. That is if it is not already taken.
Far behind her grave to the north are little headstones. Small ones with overgrown grass brushing against their edges and moss growing on them. I hadn’t noticed them before today but then I’d never noticed the Webbers either. I’d never come to a cemetery just to look before. Only for funerals. There are more stones visible the closer I get to the back fence which holds off the encroaching woodland. Scattered vines reach out to grip the long row of dilapidated headstones. Many of the stones are absent names or dates. Their cheap build allowed the weather to destroy all memory of the men and women they once represented. I wonder if some are still fully readable under the thick moss on their faces.
It is difficult to see that there are a select few grave stones which are readable along the back row. This select few were spared aged beards of moss. There is only one stone in this row with flowers. A rose bush sprouted from the woodland behind it. The rose bush grew short, just barely higher than the headstone of Rose G. S. whom died in 1902 lacking of a date of birth and full last name. The clearest headstone of the row is Rose’s. Had Rose’s rose bush grown wildly as I assume her life did or was it specifically planted, set to life by someone who’d wished Rose hadn’t ended her own. As I walk back west down the row I can’t help but think of Rose and how I too have had many thoughts of joining her row. How wonderfully easy and comforting it would be to lie next to those nameless forgotten folk.
And then at once I find myself upon the soldiers standing in formation. But in their center where I’d often dream of finding something I find nothing. No tomb or grave or even letters. Just a wide slab of polished white granite. Had I wastefully feared these statues as a boy and as a man? Now I stand before my Father’s grave and read what my stone will similarly say, Richard T. Clutiare and some meaningless numbers.
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