It’s around Easter when the Sexton wakes beside
a partly excavated grave, in daylight and on the clock. And a repeat
at the Nighthawk with his face on the Formica™ counter, fry cook
wasting good money calling paramedics. It’s only narcolepsy,
sudden-onset shut-eye, a new body-hassle to make plans around.
When the ground freezes hard, once burials are suspended
on account of winter layoff, he will step away,
sign up for Social Security. He’ll try to stay out
of the cemetery for a year or two, before the new guy
sets his stone, runs the backhoe overhead, polishes the craft.
It’s Labor Day, the Sexton’s lungs are weak. The sleep’s upon him
half his afternoons. A fever becomes the lever that pries his hand
from the vital work of making last spaces. The place a park,
almost, he so conscientiously superintended it. A park-like setting
the perfect place for passersby to find a man, so peaceful
as to appear asleep. And a shovel
next to where he fell from, also earthbound.
Todd Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Contest for 2015. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s recent poetry and fiction appear in: Bartleby Snopes, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Gravel, Kentucky Review, The Lake, Literary Orphans, Main Street Rag anthologies and Misty Mountain Review.