The Sexton wasn’t always alone.
He had a long-time loyal girlfriend
who broke it off when he traveled to the funeral
of a past lover. Someone from his somewhat murky
pre-Sexton era. The deceased still had kids home.
Sympathy for them is what spurred him
to drive to Saginaw over firm objections
to pay respects and tolerate one more eulogy.
He didn’t plan to live alone for these off-ramp years,
strength sapped after a little digging. That’s life
in the cemetery business. Isn’t it?
The Sexton economized, spent his remainder
on ritual. Schedule in the place of decisions.
Incisions in sod and six-foot holes
tamped firm after, filled. Zen koans reasoned
to the background om
of a sputtering Briggs & Stratton mower
rolling between the rows and columns
of headstones. Same drill early, middle,
late summer. Right up to the frost the Sexton
thought of how he could’ve saved the love,
but pared down the elements. He carried on
without a confidante. He stayed in his lane.
Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. Mercer won 1st, 2nd & 3rd place at the Dyer-Ives Kent County Poetry Competition, and he won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Contest. His chapbook Life-wish Maintenance is posted at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in The Lake, The Magnolia Review, Praxis and SOFTBLOW.