The Things We Bury

Miriam slapped my hand, leaving a smear of mud across my knuckles. “I told you I don’t need any help. Keep those hands young.”

I rolled back to a sitting position, and watched her dirt-encrusted fingernails rip a weed from the ground. Soil drizzled from between the roots. Her fingers looked like she could push them into the warm soil and roots would sprout out of her gnarled knuckles. Her back hunched like the trunk of a Live Oak, and the wisps of white hair dangled like Spanish Moss.

“How old are you, Miriam?” I smiled when she snorted. “You’ve had some rough challenges in life, haven’t you?”

She stopped and looked toward the angel statue near the mound of Forget-Me-Nots. “I suppose I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak.”

I followed her wistful gaze to the inscription on the base. “Angela. Who is Angela?”

She wiped her palms on the faded green apron, then held them up to show me, trembling. “These hands used to be soft and beautiful. I held my soul-mate’s hands with mine on our wedding day. I wore a braided wood ring that he made just for me. Even when my hands swelled like giant pickles I kept that ring on. These hands stroked my sweet Angela’s cheeks.” She stopped to press on her chest. “We lost her.”

“Oh Miriam…”

She waved my sympathy away. “After that, I got sick. Bob just couldn’t handle losing Angela. I’d changed, mentally and physically. I got so thin, one day the ring just fell off. That was what did it. He thought I was making a statement.” She rolled her eyes. “After he left, I buried the ring under the statue.” Miriam smiled. “I still miss that little pig.”

“Wait. Your ex-husband or your daughter?”

“Daughter?” Miriam chuckled. “No. I never had kids. But Angela was the sweetest pot belly.”