Lonely Funeral

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They worked beneath the trees, one young and one old, thrusting the shovels into the pile of soil and scooping it up and throwing it into the hole. The work always fell into a rhythm and this had happened and they worked now like the ticking of a clock.

The younger one broke the rhythm and leaned on his shovel. “Someone ought to have been there,” he said.

The older man kept working. “What?”

“I said I think someone ought to have been there.”

“Well they weren’t. Keep shovelling.”

The young one frowned. “Don’t it bother you?”

“That no one was there for it?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know,” said the older man. Still he had not stopped. “I don’t think about that stuff no more. Now keep shovelling.”

“No more?”

“Been doing this years, kid.”

“So?”

“Christ. So these things happen more than you think, maybe.”

“Still ain’t right.”

“Maybe not.” The older man threw dirt into the hole and plunged the shovel into the mound. “But what if he was such a bastard that no one wanted to come?”

“You don’t know he was.”

“You don’t know that he wasn’t.”

“Either way. Someone ought to have been there for it.”

The older man stopped and rested on his shovel. His chest moved up and down. “We were there.”

“No we weren’t.”

“Kid, we were sat in the truck just over –”

“It ain’t the same. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah. All right.”

“Maybe I’ll start goin’.”

“What?”

“Maybe I’ll start goin’,” said the young man. “To the lonely funerals.”

“The what?”

The young man looked at the ground. “The lonely funerals. That’s what they are, ain’t they?”

“You’re a strange one.”

“No. People do it. I’ve seen ‘em.”

“Yeah. And those people are strange.”

“Who’ll go to yours?” said the young man.

“I don’t know.”

“There must be someone.”

“Shut up,” said the old man. He went back to work.

“I’d go.”

“What?”

“I said, I’d go.”

The old man stopped and looked at the young man. They said nothing until the older man said, “All right… All right,” and then they resumed their shovelling, and soon the rhythm came back, and they said nothing else.