A Little Dead Boy and His Bear
It was my seventh birthday. I heard her through the hard packed earth. She pressed her mouth against the ground and screamed. She made mud with her tears. She whispered, keened, crooned. She sang me Happy Birthday, then sang me a lullaby, sat Eddie there against the stone to keep me company, and patted the mound I lay beneath to tuck me in.
I recognized the rhythm of her love pat as it vibrated down in my bones.
She promised to come back tomorrow. I waited so long for tomorrow. It never comes. The sun warms the soil of our old family plot, the moon drips dew on the grass, but tomorrow never comes.
At first I rested there, in my bones, as the flesh fell. My face split in the middle, lips swollen. The skin burst, sliding off to either side, sludge on my satin pillow. I hid there, down in the deep-dark, wanting her, scared to come out, not knowing I could come out, until I was all white-skeleton and dust.
My fingertips were wearing away. As the first phalanges fell to melt in my grave-grime I fled. I wanted to cry there, but the eyes goggling in smooth sockets were glass and dry, so I fled my bones.
Hovering small in the corner of my coffin I watched the last bits of my body broke and tumbled loose until I didn't want to see, or be alone anymore. I was tired of the dark. I turned to stare at the moldering lid of my box, wished my way through the satin and wood, pushed myself away from my rotten remains.
The dirt was wet and alive, full of the wriggling children of worms fed-fat on my flesh. I was warmed, surrounded by the smell of clean soil, instead of the stench of decay. I almost rested there, outside my bones, somewhere between there and free. But, I knew if I could get to the dirt, I could get to the light.
So again I fled. This time I fled the earth, inching through the worm tunnels and up the tendrils of weed roots. The ground grew warmer and tougher the higher I climbed, baked to a crisp by the sun. I longed for the sun. I threw myself against the crust of ground again and again until it cracked and the light winked through the dark.
Light. I held on to the tiny point of light penetrating my grave dust, and used it to pull myself out. Out of the quicksand, out of the prison, out of the muck and morsels of myself.
Out in the light I was blinded by the afternoon, deafened by the wind, flooded by smells as sweet as the grave was sour.
I danced there, atop my own holy ground, worshiping the light, until I noticed Eddie. He was still there, propped against the stone where she'd sat him that day. His fur was matted and drooping, the white darkened to a mildew-spotted brown. I threw myself at him in a remembered pattern, a hug.
I fell, through his fur to the damp fluff and insect nests inside.
It was soft like a sponge inside Eddie, my old bear. I decided to stay, stretched myself out in his plush body, tested his stitching, and looked through his plastic-button eyes.
The plot was littered with pinecones and needles. The grass grew high. The gravestones of my Grandma Bea and Papa Donny were growing thick carpets of moss, blurring their names away. Next to me there was a stone where there was no stone before.
I read the writing on my stone. Patrick William Flannery. That was me, once. June 8th, 2001 - June 4th, 2008. Beautiful Boy.
I read the writing on the stone next to mine, where there was no stone before. Mary Teresa Flannery. March 12th, 1976 - June 9th; 2008. Mourning Mother.
I peer with Eddie's eyes at the earth beside my earth and wait for Mother. There is room inside my bear for two.
She was bigger than me, and maybe it takes longer for mothers to melt and long to leave their bones. Still, she should be along soon, to find the light.