Also Henry by Tom Sheehan
Jim Hedgerow was the boss of Riverbank Cemetery’s burial crew, and this morning he was scratching to make sure he had enough help to “open up” a few places for “quick deposit.”
“Monday,” he said to his gang, “is a pain. You all know that. We’ve got two late shows to open up and I have heard whispers there’ll be a third. So we have our work cut out for us today.”
He looked casually at his number one man, Bill Blakeslee, and said, “Bill, take a peek in those trees down at the end of the river road. I’ve heard some rumbles about nighttime shenanigans going on down there. Fellows sleeping out there will be gone come the cold weather. I know they fold up and hide their few blankets and an old shelter half once in a while so we won’t find them. They’ve done that all summer. Hell, I know there’s a few old vets in that group, and I won’t chase them out on a bet, even if the Police Chief or the Board of Selectmen tell me to do so. We owe them.”
He sent off a slow salute to the far end of the cemetery. His crew understood the acknowledgement.
The following morning, Blakeslee said, “Jim, some of that ground near those first two we dug yesterday seems like something’s been in there. Maybe an animal. A big one. Dirt is scattered from under the green tarps we use to hide it during the final services, but I can’t figure it out.”
Hedgerow said, “Will the cement vaults fit down in there okay? That’s all I worry about after the hole is dug, of course.”
“Oh, yeah, that looks fine. I was just curious, that’s all.”
The burials went off that week as smooth as ever, and all “insertions” skidded like grease. Hedgerow was pleased at his crew and their dedicated efforts. He told them, at day’s end, “If you guys aren’t in a hurry to get home, I’ll treat everybody to a few pints down at Spud’s place. A quick stop. A quick thank you, so there’ll be no noise at home.
Six days later, all the sites were fitted with memorial stones containing appropriate inscriptions, grass seed put down on the exposed earth, and the initial watering completed.
In the morning, Blakeslee, at the completion of his morning stroll to make sure all things were okay and still in order, called Hedgerow to one of the new sites. He pointed to a newly inscribed stone that said, “Herbert Sendall 1932-2010” and on the next line, “Sarah Sendall 1936-“
On the stone was also inscribed, with a dull drill of some sort and inlaid with a black paint, the words, “Also Henry.”
“What the hell do you think that means, Jim?” Blakeslee said.
Hedgerow mused a bit, nodded, and said, “Probably kids. It’ll go away, unless the relatives make a stink about it. Might cost them for a clean-up. Let it rest.”
A few days later Hedgerow was in the diner down the street. One of the homeless vets he knew spent some of his nights in the trees by the cemetery, and worked as a dishwasher in the diner, was talking at the kitchen door to someone outside. “Yeh, a few nights ago, we had a service and had to put old Henry down. But he’s safe now. Out of all the hullabaloo.”
Hedgerow saw him toss off a quick salute.
In some cases, eternity may be twice as long as forever.
© Tom Sheehan
Bio note: Tom Sheehan served in 31st Inf. Regt., Korea, 1951-52 and graduated from Boston College in 1956. His books are This Rare Earth & Other Flights (poetry); Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; A Collection of Friends and From the Quickening. He has 20 Pushcart nominations, 325 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine, work in Rosebud Magazine (5), The Linnet’s Wings (6), Ocean Magazine (8), and many internet sites and print issues including Nervous Breakdown, Eskimo Pie, Faith-Hope-Fiction, Subtle Tea, Danse Macabre, Deep South Magazine, Best of Sand Hill Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Dew on the Kudzu, MGVersion2datura, 3 A.M. Magazine, Literary Orphans, and Nazar Look, etc. His work has been published in Romania, France, Ireland, England, Scotland, China, Mexico, Canada, etc. His newest eBooks from Milspeak Publishers are Korean Echoes, nominated for a Distinguished Military Award, and The Westering, 2012, nominated for a National Book Award by the publisher. HIs latest eBook is Murder at the Forum, released January 2013 by Danse/Lazarus/Anvil Fiction in Las Vegas.