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One Foot in the Grave

HEATHER O'CONNOR

Honourable mention in the 9th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

Dig in the dirt, never know what you gonna find. Old coins. A boot. Freedom, sometimes.

Old Joe, they calls me. Don’t ever use the name her daddy give me. Truth be told, there’s lots I can’t bring to mind no more. But I do recall that day, clear as fresh spring sunshine.

Miz Adams, she as sweet and sunny as the daffodils. Sun hid behind the clouds, though, ever since she married that no-account husband of hers. Never woulda happened if her daddy was alive. This old house sunk into a heap of trouble since then, and just old Joe left to dig her out of it.

I seen her arms all a-shadowed, her pretty pink lips puffed up like a bee stung ’em. And with her puffed up, too, fit to burst with that baby.

Liquor takes some men like that. Not me. I just grits my teeth when I sees it. When I hears it. Can’t do nothing about it, neither. I tells her to leave, but she just shakes that lovely head and cups her belly.

The day that baby come, I’m digging in her flowerbed, all bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots and sweet red roses. Her window’s open wide, but I don’t hear no sound ’til that little one hollers.

Sunshine, I calls her, when I sees the child. Just like her mama, and peach-soft and honeysuckle-sweet. And I sinks to my knees to pray.

Her man, he been prayin’ at a different temple. Shambles home from town that afternoon. Learns the Lord’s give him a daughter and spits on His gift. A son, he wanted. Then I hear something smack against the wall—never forget that sound till the day I die—and that poor sweet girl screams, what never screamed all day.

I had to bury that child, right when spring was come. Done a heap of digging that night. Hole the size of her heart. Then another. Them bleeding hearts still come up every spring in that very spot.

Thought I’d never see the sun again for the tears. I did, but it took a good long time.

Townfolk say that feller tipped over the bridge that night, half-blind with the liquor. Never found his body, though. Just one boot set there, neat as can be.

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