Ashes to Ashes and Dust to DustbySuperHeroRalph©
This is a Earth Day contest story. Please vote.
Earth Day means different things to different people, but few hold the meaning that Earth Day means to Henry.
Henry worked as a gravedigger for the town. He spent his day digging out holes and filling them. After a funeral, once the family left the gravesite, he'd fill in the hole he dug and bury the dearly departed with loving and respectful care, as if he was burying his own. Piling dirt in a hole was a sad ending to a life lived whether long or short, and/or good or bad. Since he knew everyone in town, those who died were all either his acquaintances, friends, neighbors, and/or relatives. Filling in the graves of such a small, close knit town gave him closure.
When not digging graves, he worked as a volunteer fireman, spending his nights and weekends fighting fires. After a bad fire, especially with those folks who lost everything and were homeless, he'd do whatever he could to help the family find food and shelter. Knowing that the others would do the same for him and his family, even if he had to board them in his house temporarily, until they got back on their feet and found another place, he felt it was the right thing and the neighborly thing to do.
If you asked him why he worked two jobs, one job he wasn't even paid to do, he'd tell you that he loved helping people. He'd tell you that he loved his relatives, his friends, his neighbors, and his town. He'd tell you that working so hard was his way of giving back for the good life he had been so blessed to have. If you asked anyone about Henry, they'd tell you that he was a good and kind Christine man, who'd literally give a person in need the shirt off his back and whatever money he had in his pocket. They'd tell you that he wouldn't have to wait to get in Heaven.
Standing at graveside, nearly a weekly witness to death and with the spiritual belief there he go before God, fortunately, there were more births than deaths in the town where he lived. Being that he lived in a small town, where everyone knew everyone, whenever someone died, he couldn't help but feel, as if he lost a family member and a friend. Most times for funerals, the whole town turned out to pay their last respects to a neighbor, a relative, and/or a friend. That's just how it was living in a small town. Just as was a wedding, a community support party, a small town funeral was another reason to gather and to spend time with neighbors and friends.
Because of his job, he's seen more sorrow, grief, and tragedy than others would see in a hundred lifetimes. He's buried children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents that have succumbed from diseases, accidents, suicides, violence, illnesses, and natural causes. All of them lived a life and, whether happy or sad, with no two alike, they all had a unique story to tell. Literally and figuratively, burying the dead is a dirty job but someone had to do it and he did his job with kind sensitivity. After a while, he's seen so much death, misery, and sorrow that it desensitized him, especially when it came to burying his own.
A day he hoped would never come but always feared that it would, wishing and hoping he'd be the one to go first, it was his turn to bury a loved one. Today, Earth Day, even though he was excused from grave digging duty and ordered to take some time off, he wanted to be the one to dig his wife's grave and bury the mother of his children. After she spent her life loving him, caring for him, and doing so much for him, obligated to the memory of her and owing her an immeasurable debt for making him the man he is today, he felt that burying her was the least that he could do, under such tragic circumstances. Being that he was the one who buried everyone else in town, it was befitting that he'd be the one to bury her, too.
To say that he loved his wife, Kathryn, was as gross an understatement as asking him if he missed her. Married much longer than he's been single, she was more than just his wife. She was his life. She was his beloved partner and his loving wife.
In his eyes, while he had her and she was his, women didn't get any better than her. Kind, giving, caring, and sexual, she was the only woman he intimately and sexually ever knew. With her in his life, he never wondered about the hidden charms of another woman. She was everything he bargained she'd be when he took his forever vows, 'til death do you part at the altar, before his friends, neighbors, and family and before God. The remainder of his life would never be the same without her, another understatement.
When he went to bed that night, after her funeral, after his final good-bye, after his reality check of covering her coffin with dirt and knowing that she was really dead, gone, and buried, and after all his friends, family, and neighbors left him in private to grieve, he thought the worst thing about no longer having her in his life was sleeping alone. No longer having her there to talk to, while lying in bed, to kiss goodnight, before closing his eyes, and to spoon, when he turned to her in the night for comfort and for warmth, he felt the absence of her immediately more, when he tried to fall asleep and couldn't. Even if awakened from a deep, sound sleep, instantly knowing she wasn't there, but feeling she was somewhere, he wondered where she was in the vast universe.
Was she watching over him? Could she see him? Could she hear him? He talked to her, as if she was still there and could still hear him. He missed her with a suffering sadness that broke his heart, ached his soul, and hurt his bones. Only, he quickly learned that he was wrong. The worst thing about no longer having her in his life was waking up without her. Having to start his day without the smell of coffee and the sound of her voice asking him what he wanted for breakfast, something he smelled and heard for 30 years, he felt he had died, too, the day she died.
Eventually, he'd fall asleep and for those few hours, soundly sleeping and in his dreams of her, not knowing if she was alive or dead, he'd have a peaceful sleep without the horror of missing her. Yet, as soon as he awakened, with her forever gone from his bed, but her voice always in his head, the loss of her hit him all over again. Having to go through his whole day digging more graves and putting out more fires, while knowing that she's dead, was worse than he could have imagined. Even when he forgot about her for a few moments, out of nowhere, she'd pop in his head, and he'd hear her voice. There was always something or someone to remind him of her, a friendly face, a song on the radio, a sudden memory, and every time he remembered her, he'd say a prayer that her departed soul made it to Heaven.
"Hail Mary, full of grace...Amen."
If he prayed to Mother Mary once in the course of his day, he prayed to her a hundred times. He missed his wife. She was a good woman. More than her voice, more than the fragrance of her perfume, more than an errant strand of her hair on her pillow, and more than the memory of them making love, her laughter haunted him the most. He could hear her laughing, as if she was sitting there with him on his digger. He could hear her laughing, even over the siren of the fire truck. Wherever he was, he could hear her joyously laughing. She was always laughing and always happy. Even when he was sad, she injected him with her happy spirit and made him laugh, too. She had to die for him to realize how much he loved her and how much he'd miss her without her in his life.
The quiet without her there in the home, was as if the house was holding its breath waiting for her to return. Dare not to breathe, dare not to talk, dare not to make a noise, he didn't turn on his television or radio for fear that he'd miss hearing her voice, if by chance she spoke to him from the dead. With more than half of the house consumed by fire and the rest structurally compromised and beyond repair, when she died, it was fitting that the house died, too.
Still, it stood, as if a sad, leaning, and crumbling monument to her. Just a smoky remain of what their house used to be, half of it was already a pile of rubble. Not wanting to build again on this empty lot and content just to sell the lot, without her here to share his life, this was no longer his home and he collected what he could salvage, before the town tore it down and filled over the land in the way he dug and filled in so many graves.
Nearly the entire town showed up to help him go through the debris hoping to find something he'd cherish, something that would ease his pain, and soothe his suffering sadness. Respectful of his possessions, it was the townsfolk unspoken way of helping someone, who had helped so many in their time of sadness, grief, and sorrow. There were so many people carefully stepping through his crumbled home, as if afraid to break anymore than what was already broken, he couldn't have salvaged all that he had without their help.
They found things that, in his grief, he would have missed. The sight of the huge work party was eerily chilling how no one spoke but just worked picking through the pieces of his life, as if the charred remains were a giant jigsaw puzzle with every piece looking alike and nothing worth anything, but to him. As if looking for the borders of a puzzle, they searched, so that he could have a helping clue on how to start his life anew.
Just as she was the one who kept him grounded, she was the one who made his life meaningful. Missing her when he walked out his front door, he couldn't wait to return home to tell her about his day over a cup of coffee, before dinner. She was always interested in that part of his life she didn't share. Then, long before she died, all that changed. Long before she died, their marriage had already died, too. Only, not there for the funeral of their long relationship, not even knowing his marriage was terminally ill, he didn't know, until his broken heart was already buried beneath the rubble that their life together was over.
He stood across the street from where his house stood looking at what was left of his life. How could he be so happy before and so sad now? In the blink of an eye, his life went from perfect to ruined. Blinded by love, he was blindsided by her infidelity.
He should have known something was wrong, when she no longer asked him about his day. He should have realized then that she didn't care. He should have read the signs that she didn't love him anymore. Only, he didn't know that she loved another. How could he? He trusted her.
Now, as if it was Chinese water torture, the ticking of the kitchen clock was unnerving. Still hanging on the kitchen wall, somehow, the clock remained unscathed. With the wall split nearly in half with a deep crevice that ran as long and as deep as the crack in his heart and as wide as the gash in the back of her head, the tick, tick, ticking sound drove him so mad that he tore it from the wall and threw it in the pile of rubble.
Tick, tick, tick, tick, imagined or real, still it ticked and as if the sound of it was amplified, he could still hear it ticking. With her out of time, he couldn't stand his clock counting down his and he smashed it with his foot. Now, it was official. With their clock stopped, a wedding gift from her mother, and with her dead, 'til death do you part, their marriage was official over.
Before cemeteries, people buried their own on their property. Having worked for the cemetery for so long, he couldn't help but feel that this cemetery was his private parcel of land, an extension of his property. He bought her the best plot in the cemetery, one beneath an old, oak tree to shade her from the hot sun and to shelter her from the rain. So that she wouldn't be cold, he even planted bushes to protect her from the chill of the wind. She was his world and now that she's gone, his world is crushed, as is his heart. Being the one to literally bury her, digging out and filling in her grave helped bring him closure. Now, after grieving his loss, he can get on with his life, especially after having received a six figure life and house insurance settlement.
A fairytale love affair, he met his wife, Kathryn, more than 30 years ago at an Earth Day celebration. They were just 18-years-old, when he held her hand and kissed her for the first time. So long ago, now that she's gone, dead and buried, just as it feels as if it was yesterday, by the same token, it feels as if it never happened.
Surrealistically, it all feels as if he dreamt the whole thing and it's not until he visits her grave with their children that the sadness of her demise returns. If he could, he wished he could turn back the clock to a time when they were the happiest, a time before she fell out of love with him, and a time before she took a lover. Knowing what he knows now, he would have been a better husband and given her the attention and affection that she obviously still needed. In those last few years, expecting her always to be there, expecting her always to remain faithful, and expecting her always to love him, he took her for granted. If he was to put the finger of blame on anyone, he'd blamed himself.
So sadly prophetic that they met on Earth Day, and 31 years later, he buried her on Earth Day, too. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, if there were trades that subscribed to the evidence of that epitaph, it was gravediggers, firefighters. and holy men. Only, even though his reality was digging graves for others, he never thought about digging a grave for his beloved wife. With him being so overweight, he always figured he'd be the one to go first.
Just as she did every year since they met at that venue, she was manning an Earth Day educational booth and passing out flyers. Earth Day was fairly new then and she took her job of educating the public about recycling, conservationism, cleaning up the environment, helping to preserve the planet, and other quality of life issues very seriously. She had real passion, when talking to people about things that were important to her and, besides Thanksgiving and Christmas, Earth Day was her favorite holiday. Most people don't even know there's a day devoted to the Earth, but if it was up to Kathryn, she'd educate the world.
She was so stunningly attractive. With her long, mahogany hair, rich brown eyes, and a shapely body with 36C breasts, she resembled a younger and taller Raquel Welch. After getting up the courage to ask her out, and after having a torrid, six month romance, they married.
Madly in love with her, he was the happiest man in the world. Just as every married couple has, they've had a few bad patches, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with a dozen, long stem roses, a romantic dinner, a bottle of wine, and some hot sex. With Kathryn being such a sexually, adventurous woman, there wasn't a room in their house that they didn't have sex.
Where he was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, preferring to have sex in bed and in the missionary position, she was the sexually uninhibited type, especially after seeing the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. When she saw that kitchen scene where Jack pushes Jessica back on the kitchen table and takes her right there with the baking flour flying everywhere, well, that's all Kathryn needed to see to light her fire. Hot for him for weeks to recreate that steamy sex scene with her, she had a sexual fire that matched any man and dwarfed his. Working two jobs, he was too tired to give her what she needed every time she needed it. While her sexual libido was peaking, his was dwindling.
Finally, in a moment of horniness, he relented to do her on the kitchen table, along with tossing a flour filled, stainless steel bowl off the counter. Now, with him being well over 200 pounds, he never was a small man. At 5'6" tall and 135 pounds, Kathryn was more proportional in height and weight. Even though it supported their more than 350 pounds of combined weight at first, once they started humping and rolling around the table, laughing through the whole thing, they broke the kitchen table, while laughing some more. It was a memory he'd have for the rest of his life and, unfortunately, a memory that had become sullied and tarnished by her.
From that moment, Kathryn was hot to have sex in different positions and in every room in the house. They had sex in the bathroom with her bending over the bathroom sink and him fondling her big breasts and fingering her hard nipples. They had sex standing in the shower and not giving a care to how much water they wasted. They had sex with her sitting on the toilet and blowing him and with him cumming on her tits. They had sex in the cellar, in the garage, in the attic, in the backyard, on their front porch, and in every room of the house. They even had sex in his car, while parked in the driveway. As if still on their Honeymoon, even after being married for a dozen years, there was not a place in that damn house that he didn't have a memory of them making love to his beloved wife. Now that she was gone, every room inspired a sad memory.
While standing at the kitchen sink in the early morning, she especially liked it when he surprised her and took her from behind. Lifting her nightgown to her waist and parting her ass cheeks with his cock, it made her wet with desire, when he reached up and cupped her breasts, while fingering her nipples and making love to her doggie style. Not that he's had a lot of sexual experience, but based on how his friends complained that their wives were frigid, she was the most sexual woman he's ever known. Rather than going out for fast food with someone else, when having a full course, gourmet meal ready at home, whenever he wanted it and wherever she wanted to do it, never is when he'd ever cheat on her. He had no reason to desire any other woman, while he had her always so ready and willing.
She was into role playing, too, and made sex fun and erotic and never routine and boring. She had wigs in every color, costumes in every style, and she enjoyed pretending she was some celebrity. Caught up in her excitement, he gladly went along with her and played dress up, too. Even rehearsing her dialogue and copying their body language, she had him believing that he was having sex with Cher, Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, or Natalie Portman.
Playing dress up was erotic fun because she made it that way and he never knew if he'd be coming home to Christina Aguilera, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts or dozens of other actresses and singers. There was never a dull sexual moment with Kathryn and because of the way she loved him, made love to him, and made him feel so special, he never thought she'd cheat on him, but she did. All the woman he wanted and needed, he thought that he was all the man that she wanted and needed, too. He truly loved her and he thought she truly loved him, but she didn't. He was devastated, when he discovered differently and the fact that she gave herself to another man tore at him, as if he discovered he was an orphan. It was that kind of shock to be so betrayed and to feel so alone and abandoned.
Still, now that she's dead and buried, it didn't matter that she had been unfaithful to him, he missed her. If he could bring her back, he would. Wishing he were dead, after having buried so many people, he couldn't help but wonder what it was like to die and to be dead. He wondered if there was life after death. He wondered if there was a Heaven and a Hell. For sure, if there was a Heaven, she'd be there knocking at Saint Peter's door and he'd be admitting her to Heaven. She was a saint and his angel, that is, up until the recent time, when she was tempted by the Devil. That was when she lost her wings and turned in her halo for the love of a vile and evil man.