In The Beginning, Nothing Lasts
by Mike Strahan
April 7, 1936
Beulah Irene wept as the workers pulled up shovels of rust red dirt from her son's
grave. She covered her dark face with her hands, not wanting the men to see her.
Thick bandages wrapped her arms from fingers to elbows, the skin underneath
burned and itched.
The four gravediggers gave her odd glances between pulls. They were all grim
men, with dirty faces and hands. Patches of sweat and red mud stained their
denim trousers and cotton shirts.
Irene removed her hands from her face and focused her eyes on the men, wanting
to watch until they finished. It was important to her, even though her son would
not die until yesterday.
His headstone was a pitiful thing, a small square of concrete embedded in the
grass and lined with dead leaves. A tall, worn, bent-back tree cast little shade.
Her husband's old grave was a few feet away, empty for decades.
She closed her eyes again, and remembered her son. He had always been a
pleasant child, and clever.
His first word had been coffee.
He took his first step when he was eleven months old.
His secret tickle spot was on the back of his thigh.
He was three years old when he died.
The memories had stuffed Irene's brain since her resurrection. On the surface,
they were pleasant thoughts, but time played funny tricks on her these days. Old
memories would crop up, pop in her head like long forgotten debts. They treated
her all the same, no matter where she was, what she was doing, she would often
turn to tears.
"We're done for the day, ma'am." One of the men interrupted her thoughts.
Despite the dust covering his face, his eyes and smile were bright. Behind him,
his friends were collecting their shovels and brooms, their jackets and lunch
"Thank you." Her mouth was dry. She turned around to look toward the eastern
horizon and was surprised to see the sun a hand or so from setting. The morning
was clear and hot, with a strong breeze tugging at the dry Oklahoma yellow grass.
Where has the time gone? She wondered.
"You okay, ma'am?" He asked.
Irene shook her head and shrugged, "Just nervous." Her bandages itched, they
were dirty again. Red dirt rimmed the frayed edges of the white gauze covering
her arms. It looked like dried blood.
"Reckon so. It's hard sometimes." The laborer turned and raised a hand in
goodbye to his departing friends. A spare denim coat and a dusty lunch pail
remained. "Don't know if you recall, but I was one of the fellas that worked on
your husband." His mouth creased, as though he wanted to say more.