Hello readers. In addition to poetry, I love writing fiction! Each month I will write a form of fiction, thusly named because of its brevity. Each story will have a Topeka connection. All characters and situations will be fictitious, but I'll include real Topeka locations. Enjoy and be generous with feedback!
The cemetery groundskeeper climbed off his mower and walked towards the mound of dark dirt topping a new grave. When a marker was eventually placed it would read “Delilah Estelle Jones,
November 12, 1922-April 11, 2017.
Her internment had been the day before. He’d turned his mower off when her funeral procession entered the cemetery gate. The line of cars had been very short.
He stood at her graveside now and admired the floral spray which had lain on her casket. It was an arrangement of yellow roses—her favorite flowers she’d told him once. The cool temperatures overnight had allowed the blooms to keep drooping at bay.
He’d met her a year before. She came to the cemetery every Friday. Her King James bible in hand, she’d sit on a bench to read scriptures out loud and pray. She would sing too—“Old Rugged Cross,” “Victory in Jesus,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” While she sang she would plant flowers around the markers of her two sons’ graves. It was the flower planting that caused them to become acquainted. As he mowed near her on the day that met, he noticed what she was doing. The cemetery did not allow flower planting and there were posted notices about this at several locations around the grounds. He had walked over to where she was— down on her knees, hands in the soil.
“Ma’am, he said gently, “did the office tell you that you can not plant flowers in the ground in this cemetery? You can place flowers in pots by the graves or put flowers in the vases of the markers, but no inground planting is allowed.”
She’d glanced up at him, “I may place flower pots,”she said, correcting his English.
He instantly felt nine-years-old which made sense later when he learned she’d been a grade school teacher.
“You may place flower pots,” he acquiesced.
“That’s better,”was her crisp reply, “now help me get up, please.”
He extended a hand which she took and stood with much less help than he’d imagined she’d need.
Rubbing her hands together to brush off dirt, she introduced herself.
“Yes, they told me about the no-planting rule, but losing my two boys was about as broken as any rule could get, don’t you think?”
He didn’t have a response.
She had continued, “The death of a child is out of natural order of things. It creates a kind of sad that makes your bones weep. Planting these flowers helps my bones weep less. How could anything be wrong about that?
“I’m so sorry, Delilah,” he’d responded.”
“Sorry” is not going to unbreak my heart, Young Man, and I haven’t given you permission to call me by my first name!”
“I apologize, Mrs. Jones—”
She cut him off with a wave of her hand and, “Call me “Miss Delilah.”” She smile and so did he.
“These flowers,” she explained pointing, “are Portulacas. They won’t grow very tall and no one will notice them.” He knew the discussion was over.
That day began their ritual. Every Friday afternoon she would plant flowers while he looked the other way and mowed. He’d let the flowers remain over the weekend then pull them up on his Monday morning rounds before the office staff arrived.
When he hadn’t seen her the previous Friday he worried. He considered asking the office for her contact information—just to call and see if she was okay. But decided that would be too awkward. A computer search a couple of days later yielded her obituary and confirmed his concerns. He was surprised to read her age; she looked much younger. But what confounded him most was there was no mention of her having any sons— deceased or otherwise. He wondered whose graves she had been decorating and why she had described them as sons.
It didn’t matter, he decided, he would miss her. He spoke a soft prayer at the gravesite and made his way back to the mower. The next day would be a Friday. He made a mental note to buy enough Portulica to plant around all three graves.
Annette Hope Billings