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Marigolds


by Gary Moshimer


The husband cut the hardscrabble with a shovel before the gravestone. Dust rose, that of the wife's parents, Joe and Kathleen, as well as that of her brother Kevin, who had died young of a heart attack. The couple breathed it in, and so did Katy, Kevin's adopted girl, now six-years-old. Katy sat down next to the two red geraniums and the three yellow marigolds and held the water jug between her legs. 

The sun beat upon the husband's neck as he loosened the dirt and rocks. "Why didn't we do this last year? How did it get so bad?"

"I was sick," his wife replied. "Remember?"

He managed to make a trench for the geraniums and placed them in. Katy had lost interest and hopped, studying stones in the next row. 

"This one has only one date," she said. "What does that mean?"

The wife went over to look. The stone said: ESME VIOLET POUND September 21, 2016.

"It means," she said, honestly, "that she was born and died the same day."

"Her angels are all broken, too." Katy held the two ceramic angels which had their heads broken off. There was nothing else at this grave, and they were dirty.

"Dale," the wife said. "Put the marigolds in here."

"Should we do that?" Dale said.

"I think it's a baby. Why not? Looks like she has nobody."

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In Wendy's arms baby Esme was holding very still. Very still. Wendy wondered why they called it that: stillborn. It was so much more than still. She was forever sleeping. 

Wendy stood at the window overlooking the city and said, "Look Esme, the whole city is yours. The whole world and all of heaven. You are so free. I'm a little jealous. I'm stuck here without you."

Somewhere down there the father ran his skateboard with a knife in his belt. Wendy did not need or want him.

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Eventually this father tracked down the grave, stomped butts into the ground, snapped the heads of the angels. With death threats he chased Wendy off to Idaho, to her mother's, where she waitressed at a diner.

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They planted the marigolds in front of Esme's stone and the wife said a short prayer. Katy fit the heads of the angels back on as best as she could and leaned them against the stone. The husband scraped the rough part of the stone with his palm so he could feel pain.

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During her break Wendy sat with a complete stranger, a woman whose age Wendy wasn't sure she could reach. During their chat the subject of kids came up, and Wendy thought of the abandoned grave and how someday she would get to it.

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