If there was any place Marcus disliked visiting more than a graveyard, he couldn’t think of one. But it was Memorial Day, a hot, muggy Memorial Day, and grandma needed tending.
He was the only one around anymore who could do it – take the geranium to the cemetery, clip the crabgrass around her headstone, spade up the mushy soil, and make a little green and red garden on her plot. It was what she would have wanted. She always did have a green thumb; she loved gardening.
“That’s probably why,” Marcus thought, “instead of being cremated like grandpa, and scattered to the winds like he was, she wanted herself, well, planted.”
He’d had to steel himself to do his duty, though – he’d stopped in for a beer at the dive down the street first, wanting to have a slight buzz on before walking through those rusty cemetery gates. He hated walking across the grass-covered graves, always wondering what was down there beneath his sneakers. And the eerie silence, the stone angels, the ancient obelisks.
Grandma’s stone was plain and simple – a granite rectangle with “Alice” carved in sans-serif letters. Marcus could still remember her face; she’d died less than a decade ago. Grandpa had died earlier, when Marcus was a toddler, and that face was lost to him.
He started to clip the cowlicks of grass from around the stone’s edges, looking up from time to time to observe other people tending the graves of their own dearly departed – all of them silent, or muttering softly about the time their Uncle Harry said such and such, or the what their Aunt Vicky thought about so and so.
“I shouldn’t have had that beer,” Marcus muttered, as he dropped the geranium into the hole he’d dug in front of grandma’s stone. He had to pee, bad, and there were no restrooms in this garden of eternal rest.
As he got to his feet, he noticed someone standing a few feet away, on the edge of the path that split the cemetery in half. It was an old guy in overalls and a flannel shirt rolled up to the elbows. A fringe of gray hair was visible around the edges of his baseball cap, and he was smiling as he gazed off toward the horizon, where some dark clouds were massing. “Must be the caretaker,” Marcus thought.
“Gonna rain soon, I’m afraid,” the man said in a wistful voice, to no one in particular, though Marcus was the only person nearby. Then he turned and spoke to Marcus directly: “Gonna get wet,” he said.
Marcus shifted his weight from one foot to the other. It was the wrong thing to say to someone who had to pee.
“I’m not sticking around,” Marcus said. “I gotta go. I really gotta go.”
The man smiled. He had a kind, crinkly face. “You know what they say,” he said.
“No. What do they say?” Marcus asked.
“All the world is a man’s urinal.” He pointed toward a thick clump of bushes and trees at the edge of the graveyard.
“Watering the garden,” Marcus thought, trotting off to the bushes. – Michael Gates Michael Gates is a frequent contributor.