Isabelle, the early grave


isabelleA few years back I spent the summer working as the groundskeeper for a German Catholic cemetery just outside of Milwaukie. The only reason I landed the gig was because I lied outright to the cemetery’s assistant director during the second interview.

“Mr. Dupree, do you have any experience operating a backhoe?” he asked.


The following Thursday they offered me the job.

Most of my days were spent watering and manicuring the lawns, discarding dying flower bouquets, and digging burial plots with the backhoe. The backhoe wasn’t so tough to use once you got the hang of it.

At night I slept in a small cottage kept on the grounds. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d often wander in search of bums or high school kids. They were always around and they often had pot or a bottle of cheap booze that went straight to the skull.

After one night of reckless abandon I woke up shirtless at the bottom of a grave I had dug just the day before, which, in its own macabre way, seemed all-too fitting.

As I struggled to claw my way back up to the surface I heard someone scream. Looking up I saw that I had startled a beautiful woman who had been paying her respects at a nearby headstone.

“Pardon me, madam,” I mused, brushing some of the dirt off my bare chest with the both hands. “I am not dead, just hungover. Good day.”

“I almost wished you were,” the woman blurted. “Dead, that is. Wait. Shoot. That doesn’t sound right.” She paused for a moment, her porcelain cheeks turning beet red. “Sorry. I think I was looking for a clever way to indicate that you were handsome and that I might have died and gone to heaven. Oh, my. Did I really just say that?” She was self-conscious and nervous, both of which made her devastatingly gorgeous.

“Stay right where you are,” I said. “And please, for both our sakes, hold that thought.”

I ran back to my cottage to rustle up a change of pants and a clean, white button down shirt. Washed my hands. Fixed my hair.

I returned to the beautiful woman with a handful of flowers I snatched from a nearby grave, a blanket, and a picnic basket stuffed with a bottle of Prosecco, a baguette, artisanal Camembert, some Spanish olives, along a few other assorted odds and ends I had found around the kitchen.

Rather than flattered or delighted the woman looked horrified.

“Did you steal those flowers off of somebody’s headstone?” she gasped.

“Absolutely not!”

Though I was able to convince her to have a picnic in the cemetery with me it was all downhill from then on out.

I had hoped that the Prosecco would loosen her up a little, but it only made her quite drunk. She burst into tears and began telling me all about her dead nanny, whom she had come to visit that afternoon.

When I tried to console her with a warm embrace, she pushed me away forcefully. Her sobbing became uncontrollable. In a last ditch effort I tried to plant a kiss on her. She squealed and slapped my face. And if that wasn’t bad enough the woman then began smearing the Camembert all over her body.

“You creep!” she shouted. “Monster! Drop dead. For real this time.”

At that moment I knew I would be drinking for the rest of the day and probably pass out in a grave once again. A strange part of me hoped that when it happened I wouldn’t wake up.

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