Pigeon Food

Week 40: Written October 4, 2016

The gravedigger scooped the last mound of dirt and tossed it aside. Larry Potter was now a full six feet under the ground, fully, completely dead. Nothing but a dead guy in a box. Dead. Totally, unapologetically dead.

But the gravedigger felt a tinge of sympathy for the corpse. So good was Larry the man that his completely inoffensive body had to be kept six feet below us, to be walked on by anyone and everyone who pleased. Though he’d buried north of 500 bodies in his career, it didn’t come easy to the gravedigger, who never took pleasure in seeing the dead to their final resting place. If anything, he thought, it was the living that belonged underground, where they could do no further damage. No more wars, no more violence, no more pollution. The dead deserved the surface, where they could decompose in peace — and perhaps feed a hungry animal to boot.

And if the opposite were true, that the dead needed to be buried for various obvious reasons, the gravedigger couldn’t follow the logic of that, either. Stuffed in a cushy coffin, dressed to the nines, all for what? What exactly were we protecting? Even religious folks believed the body was just a vessel and death meant that the soul had finally moved on to “a better place.” What point was there to saving “the worse place” in a mahogany casket and preserving it all in the earth?

There was cremation, his friends would argue. You could be burned up in an oven, the ashes collected in a decorative urn. The gravedigger, though, found that option even more absurd. Leave his remains in an elaborate ash tray? Never. He’d rather be buried.

Someday, he dreamed, he’d die as he worked, a shovel in his hand and an open grave at his side. He’d fall into the hole, right then and there, and God willing, there’d be nobody to cover his body in dirt. He’d rather be pigeon food.