The Gravediggers

27 Jul

I was eight years old when we went to the cemetery on the outskirts of the city. It was one week after the earthquake of ’77. They had already buried my friend Tavi whose building was leveled the night the temblor shook us out of bed and swung us on the 8th floor like a pendulum along a weird sine wave. My mother held my hand and we walked through the graveyard, winding up and down little hills. It was beautiful. It could have been a park just as easily. We were there to see her high school friend go into the hole. She had died in the rubble of her apartment building. The collapse triggered a gas explosion from lines which ruptured, and she was incinerated. They identified her by dental records. She had a huge amount of mercury in her teeth, from work having been done on cavities.

I asked to be left on a bench about a hundred meters from the grave and the entire pomp and circumstance which went with a burial. My mother went up the little, grassy hill and disappeared quickly. There were two men, gravediggers, working on a hole just in front of me. They were both peasants. They smoked. One of them had front teeth missing. They dug into the hard earth and laughed. They told dirty jokes. On the ground, next to them, there was a clear bottle of home made tuica. They stopped frequently and took long hits from it. I sat on the bench and watched them. They seemed happy. From time to time they would spit into the freshly-dug grave. I watched them for a long time. They drank and laughed and spit. It was cold. It was March. And somehow they were happy.

My mother came back with a bottle of red wine and a slice of coliva–crushed wheat grains boiled in water and sweetened with powdered sugar and mingled with nuts. It was charity given by the family of the deceased. It was tradition. I didn’t want any. I took it to the men who were digging the hole and they tipped their hats. The one with no teeth tried to kiss my hand. When we left them, they were still thanking us, bowing. Then they went back to their job, spitting into the grave and laughing.

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5 Responses to “The Gravediggers”

  1. Anonymous 27/07/2007 at 6:10 PM #

    I really like this line “It was tradition. I didn’t want any” because how you put it together, without the sentence that follows it, it takes on a whole new different meaning. This story is very much like early Hemingway. I love the mood you create. And this seemingly detached way which you write in, but with so much underlying emotion, makes me think and want to reread over and over again.

  2. dr. zombieswan 27/07/2007 at 7:21 PM #

    Hey, what happened to the poem from this Morning that wouldn’t allow any comments? Huh? I liked it. Or rather, I guess is was labeled prose, if I remember correctly.

  3. Lx 27/07/2007 at 7:26 PM #

    it stayed on for a few hours, then i took it down.
    i replaced it with this story.
    thanks for liking it.

  4. Anonymous 27/07/2007 at 7:52 PM #

    I liked the deleted post too. And this new one as well. I feel a special kind of energy coming from these kinds of stories. Like the first commentor, I too read this one more than once.

    Eh

  5. Lx 28/07/2007 at 12:23 AM #

    hey eh.
    haven’t seen you around in a while.
    thanks for the kind words.

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