It took them thirty minutes trying to make sense of the lanes and rows in the cemetery. Finally, they decided to just go right to left, south to north until they found the correct section. The gravestones were gray marble, with blackened engraving; a large one for Hugh spanning two plots, and a small one with an angel carved into the head of it. There was a bouquet of faded silk flowers between the two, and a tattered American flag on the military foot marker.
“Where’s Nancy Drew when you need her?”
stared at the tiny grave marker. Beverly
“You’re a little upset about this age thing, aren’t you.”
“Not at all.”
knelt down and held herself steady on the marble stone. “Nothing wrong with my doctor being an entire
decade younger than me. You’re a lot
younger than most of your patients.” Beverly
“You are upset about it.”
“Nonsense. Once you’ve given me a physical, you can mow my yard and deliver the morning papers on your schwinn bicycle.”
“Ouch! I’m going to go tell my mommy!”
“Can I help you?” The sound of the old man’s voice startled them both. It was the man from the café.
Beverly and Patrick looked up at him, speechless. The man pointed at the marker, “Did you know the family?”
Patrick blinked at her and closed his mouth.
“God in His wisdom meets out only a certain number of days to each of us. The days should be used for His purpose alone. Little
was perfect, and it only took a few years on Earth for her to redeem her soul
and be whisked off to heaven.” Beverly
Patrick put his arm around
’s waist, drawing
her protectively close to him. Beverly
“Now, this one here,” the old man pointed to Hugh’s grave. “I figure God finally decided that no matter how many years Hugh spent on Earth, he would never come close to being saved, so God let Satan have him.”
“We didn’t mean any disrespect.” Patrick tugged
off the grave
area. “You obviously knew this family.” Beverly
He nodded, “My sister’s husband and child.”
realized her voice was too high, but she felt she had to say something –
anything. This man was her uncle and she
had no idea he existed before today. “Did she ever remarry –I mean, she was
widowed very young.” Beverly
“I don’t know. I went to prison in 1970. Never heard from her. By the time I got out in 95, she’d disappeared. Can’t say I blame her.” The old man smiled sweetly. “Going to prison was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was a carpenter by trade before my arrest. In prison, I found Jesus and was saved. I took courses and got my college degree. I came out of prison a new man; a real carpenter. I’m Reverend Roman Ross. Quite a mouthful, I know.” He smiled again and stuck out his right hand.
“Dr. Patrick Eoghan,” he took the old man’s hand. “And this is – my friend, Wanda.”
“He was a killer. He liked to kill. He was good at it.” Roman looked down at his leather shoes and continued. “He was the perfect soldier for any army. He used to think
was created solely for his pleasure. He
joined up at eighteen, at the end of the Korean Conflict, and they recognized
his potential. Teddy always thought that
having their little girl would domesticate him.
Teddy’s my sister. But it didn’t. The day little Viet Nam died was –“ he shook his head. “Satan couldn’t have created a worse
punishment for Hugh. That was the end of
any hope of salvation for him.” Beverly
“I had no idea,”
’s voice shook with repressed
tears. She glanced up at Roman. “I mean, you look at these head stones, and
you wonder about the lives they lived, but you never really know.” Beverly
“Just names carved in stone,” he agreed. “I guess we both know that names are meaningless.”
by the hand and turned them away. Beverly
“Why were you here? Really?”
Roman reached out and took the clippers. Studying them, he repeated, “Rose rustlers? Doesn’t sound legal.”
“I’m very careful. Trimming the bushes is actually good for them. Most old cemeteries are abandoned now-a-days. I hate that the old tea-roses are dying off from neglect.” She held out her hand to retrieve the clippers. Roman hesitated, but then placed them in her palm.
“You ever feel like visiting a church, I’m the pastor at Beulah Pines Missionary Baptist. Right down the street, past the post office and next to the fire station.” His eyes seemed to plead with
. “Door’s always open.” Beverly
She nodded, afraid to try to speak.
Close Your Eyes
© Evelyn Rainey
Available for publication.