Things in the story are wrapping up. We are coming to the end of the beginning. A few more posts now, and we'll be done. Let me know if you've enjoyed the journey so far. I'd love to know if I've kept you entertained.
Welcome to the End//Part 29 -- The Girls
I can’t leave Bethany or Britt. It just doesn’t feel right, so the next morning I get up and start digging a grave for them. Just one. It’s set a bit away from the graves for Walter and Maggie. For some reason it seems better to keep them separated, even in death. They don’t deserve the prime locations, not close to the others.
I had a horrible dream last night. It was of what happened here that night. I saw the wailers get Walter. I saw them get Maggie. I saw the two of them fight. And I saw Bethany and Britt run, and even though I know it’s a dream, it’s made me mad. I’ve sided with Caroline. I feel obliged to give these girls a burial, but I don’t feel an obligation to give them more.
I get their hole dug in a couple of hours. I do it in the early morning, as the dawn gives way to day. I want to have the whole project finished by the time that Caroline wakes, so I dig fast. I’ve pulled off the coat I’ve been wearing for what feels like months. Awake. Asleep. It hasn’t come off. But if I don’t take it off now, I’ll sweat through it.
The hole is narrow and only about four feet long once I’m done with it, but it doesn’t need to be big. With the condition the girls are in, it will do.
I lay the shovel beside the hole and the pile of removed dirt. I head out into the park to scavenge a wheelbarrow. It’ll be easier to use that and a shovel to move the girls to the grave.
It’s not until I get out into the park looking for the items on my short checklist that I begin to consider how matter of fact it all sounds. I need a wheelbarrow and a bigger shovel so I can move two bodies.
I’m moving bodies. A lot of this experience of the last month or so has been surreal. And a lot of it are things that you get used to, things I never thought I’d become accustomed to seeing or doing. Like bodies. It was remarkable how quickly I got comfortable with seeing a dead body. It’s not like they littered the streets, but they haven’t been uncommon. Going back into downtown I’d see a couple a day maybe. Prior to this, I’d only seen bodies at a funeral, when they’d been cleaned and dressed and neatly positioned. Here, these were bodies where they’d fallen, and there was something more oddly normal about that.
This job, though, moving Britt and Bethany feels different. Maybe it’s because I knew them a bit. Or maybe it’s because they are in such a condition that I feel like I need a shovel to complete the task. Maybe it’s just all of it. Everything that’s happened has accumulated to the mental levels that it all seems a bit absurd now.
Whatever it is, I instinctively smile then laugh in a way that I can’t control. I look around for Caroline. I don’t want her seeing me, to think that all of this is a joke. I’m alone, and I let myself get overcome with the feeling of absurdity.
I step through a crumpled spot in a fence that separates a back part of Fair Park from the public areas as the fit of funny passes. I find what I’m looking for. I don’t know why we haven’t seen this before. It’s some sort of storage and staging area for the park’s grounds crew. There are beaten electric carts that can be used to haul material all over the grounds. There are rakes and shovels and wheelbarrows.
I climb behind the wheel of one of the carts and hope beyond expectation that it will somehow start. The keys have been left in the ignition, and I go to start it. I’m trying to talk to the cart, telling it that it’d be great if it could turn over. That I want it to fulfill its purpose, like it’s some animate object that has a higher duty beyond hauling lazy humans and gardening equipment across a park in Dallas.
It doesn’t start.
I try two other carts with the same results before I give up and start rummaging through a shed looking for a shovel bigger than the one I’d used to dig the three graves. I eventually find one that is comically large.
Everything I find is oversized. The tub in the front of the wheelbarrow looks like a small wading pool. The wheel in the front isn’t some plastic or rubber number. It’s a tire that requires inflation, and it’s about half flat. My arms are spread uncomfortably wide to reach the handles on the back. The large shovel I’ve tossed in the tub is sliding around as I wind my way through the park to where Britt and Bethany are. It’s taking twice as long as it should since I’m having to navigate around piles of destruction.
I pass the old football stadium. It’s half gone now. The concrete grandstands, lying in crumbled heaps. The field is getting overgrown.
I reach the girls. They look worse than the day before. Something has gotten to them, and it reaffirms my decision to leave. Whatever this was, it wasn’t small. If there are things like this roaming our park, or at least coming into our park, Caroline and I don’t need to stay.
I pull the shovel from the tub and work the front lip under the girls. It takes some pushing to get it there, and the resistance makes me gag. I try not to think about what I’m doing, but trying not to think about it only makes the thoughts about what I’m doing more clear. I’m shoveling bodies. Human bodies. Into a wheelbarrow.
I finish the job and wheel Britt and Bethany over to the grave I’ve dug for them. I tip the wheelbarrow up and let their bodies fall in. I use the shovel to even them out so they evenly fill the space then start dropping dirt back into the hole.
I pat the dirt smooth then toss the shovel out into the field.
Three graves. Four bodies.