A tan arm wipes the sweat off a tall man’s forehead. Coffee brown eyes glance at the clear blue sky. A few crows flies past, squawking at the man working below. He grumbles as he gets back to work, digging a hole for a funeral that will take place in 4 hours. He shoves the tip of the shovel in the dirt, flipping it on top of the pile he’s made. Wiping more sweat off, he looks down into the hole, picturing himself being lowered into one. Shuddering, he finishes making the hole deep enough for the casket.
The man finishes just as a priest and a woman walk towards him. Their heads are close together and they are in deep conversation. He leans against the shovel, sweating and catching his breath as he watches the two.
The priest notices him and smiles. “Steven, thank you for preparing Anita Smith’s gravesite.”
“Not a problem, Father Miles,” Steven says, tipping his head to the priest. He glances over at the woman standing beside him. “Hi, I’m Steven Thompson.”
“Nice to meet you, Steven. I’m Trisha Knowlens,” Trisha says, eyeing the sweaty man.
“We just hired Steven to be our new grave digger since Theodore passed a few months ago. Steven just moved here to Oklahoma from Maine two months ago.” He looks at Steven, patting the dirty man’s shoulder. “And Trisha here works at Peaceful Time Assisted Living home on Palm Avenue. She was working at the time dear Anita passed. Trisha has been there for 10 years and has seen a lot of the patrons leave us. Just the other day, though, she has been promoted to night manager.”
Steven raises a brow. “I am sorry for the passing of Anita, but also congrats on the promotion.”
“Thank you and also thank you,” Trisha says, looking down. “I just came over to see if everything will be ready for the funeral.”
“The hole is dug. I just need to set up the chairs, the big picture and wreath, get the machine in place to lower her coffin into the ground, and everything will be ready,” Steven says, looking around, ticking off what still needs to be done in his head. “So if you two will excuse me.” He picks up the shovel and places it in his wheelbarrow. Grabbing the handles with his gloved hands, he nods to the two and heads off to put away a few things in a shack at the end of the cemetery before he tackles his other tasks.
Father Miles and Trisha watch him walk away before they look at the hole. Trisha sighs and nods, the two leaving.
Steven glances back to see Trisha and Father Miles leave. He leaves his wheelbarrow and heads for the crypts where the richer occupants have been buried. Steven strolls the paths around the crypts. He chews on his bottom lip as he imagines the riches buried with the dead inside. And soon those riches will be his. Steven just has to keep his head down for a few more weeks and then he can steal it all. Steven will disappear, never to be found again.
Glancing at his watch, Steven curses under his breath and takes off back to where Anita will be buried. He needs to finish the tasks. Steven doesn’t want to get caught not doing his job and get fired before he can get his hands on the loot.
After another hour, Steven stands at the back of the funeral, leaning against a tree. He eyes the crying people there for Anita’s funeral. He daydreams about pick pocketing them all. Steven half listens to Father Miles talk about what a good woman Anita was, about her life growing up, and how he loved visiting her at Peaceful Time. Father Miles talks for almost another hour about Anita praying with him or, when she felt up to it, would go to church on Sundays. Steven yawns and closes his eyes, crossing his arms across his chest. He cringes as the sounds of crying hits his ears, seeming to be louder.
Father Miles finishes the funeral with a prayer. Those attending stand and walk over to the exposed coffin. They drop pink flowers of all kinds onto the coffin since pink was Anita’s favorite color. Peering at everyone through half-closed eyes, Steven watches Anita’s family and friends leave. Father Miles and Trisha are the last. Trisha stands by the gravesite, still clutching the pink roses she brought.
“Thank you for everything, Father Miles,” Trisha says, wiping away tears with a tissue.
Father Miles smiles and pats her on the shoulder. “You’re welcome, Trisha. See you in the hall for the funeral reception.” Father Miles leaves Trisha and walks to Steven. “Once she is done saying goodbye, please cover the coffin and clean up.”
“Of course, Father Miles,” Steven says, and he goes around the tree he was leaning on to retrieve his shovel.
Father Miles leaves to join the others in the hall for the funeral reception. Steven carries his shovel over to Trisha and stands beside her, leaning against the shovel. Trisha wipes away more tears and tosses the roses with the others.
She glances at Steven and smiles through her tears. “Thank you, Steven. You did a wonderful job fixing up everything for us.”
“My pleasure, ma’am.”
“Please, call me Trisha.”
“Alright, Trisha. The others are waiting for you in the hall. And I need to cover Anita so she can rest in peace,” Steven says, placing a hand on her shoulder.
Trisha nods and walks away. Steven puts his shovel down by the open grave, and cleans up around the grave first, putting away the chairs and everything else. He returns once he put away everything and tosses the dirt into the hole, covering up the flowers and the coffin. Steven wipes away the dirt from his face and looks around to see he is done. He places the shovel on his shoulder and walks away.