Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2018  Vol. 17 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Grave by the Lake

Jim was like a dad. He told me to stay,
I jumped from the truck. Followed to a plastic
tub in the gravel lot. Its opening white
and fanned as dead leaves. Backlit,
we could see the case held a body. We gloved
our noses. It burned to breathe, like ice in your nose
or inhaling chlorine. Jim crouched beside it,
some pit mix. A pet left there meant no money
to cremate. No yard to bury in. We lifted
the tub. Hands under both sides. Top wedged
with my chin. I could see his body
had been stuffed to fit, as if placing him
in a box made up for his abandonment.
Digging a grave requires a permit.
Our company provided a dumpster
for carcasses. Half a mile from headquarters,
downwind. There was what we had to do
with the dog and what Jim knew I wanted.
He turned to me, exhaled, drove away from the dam.
We found a field without security cameras
and lugged the mutt out. Fingers cut
through grass. We dropped the box in a shallow hole.
Covered damp dirt with gravel. Projecting
what the family would have wanted,
we said a few words. Unclipped and hung nearby
his heart-shaped tag. Jim was a dad, he knew
to set a flowery weed. Those were the ways
he made work light for me. Said if someone were here
with his daughter—standing by the flat
water, old blood on her baseball hat—
he would want him to tell her not to come back.  

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