Here, It Changes Every Dayhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/jdr09.jpg?fit=1600%2C900&ssl=11600900C. BestonC. Bestonhttps://barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/cbeston.png
The length of the island is about a twenty-minute drive, at a Sunday-cautious speed. Cars line the road beside each church, drivers slow to pass the Baptist and Methodist. They crawl by the Presbyterian, stare through the iron fence to check if that grave’s shut.
August oppressed that year, the sun like a bare lightbulb, saltwater climbing the trunks of the pines to kill the lowest branches. During that strange storm, waves rushed through the churchyard and lifted a thick cement lid off one of the graves. They can’t really bury people on the island. The caskets get pushed back up.
Folks came by to look at the skeleton, then one night pieces went missing. Animals, most thought. But this nasty story started going around that Maggie – who could shuck a crab the fastest even with her arthritis – took the skull from the grave.
Maggie’s neighbor was that silly girl John married. They would drive together in Maggie’s pickup to the convenience store for unsalted potato chips and lotto tickets. Maggie never got lucky, but her late husband’s family owned one of the crabbing companies, so that was alright. That summer they sat on John’s porch, drinking iced tea and watching contractors from Cambridge raise the foundation of the house across the street. When John came home, he’d join them with a rum and coke, staring hate across the road.
Here, it changes every day, he always says, reminding anyone who’d listen that the tides come up and they’ll go back down again. When the girl went inside for more ice, she’d stare at the shore through the kitchen window. She could watch sun on the swells forever. When she closed her eyes, it still played in her mind like static on a television.
That rumor about Maggie went around ‘til she died at the end of the month, a stroke. At the wake John’s wife wore her mother’s cream sweater set and black slacks. The funeral parlor smelled like lilies and sulfur, she said it gave her a headache. She walked home once it got dark, but John stayed with his beer, numb to the mosquitoes biting his arms.
She stood on her porch, felt the sweat cool on her neck. When she wiped her shoes on the mat she hit something with her foot. She looked down and saw the skull there, stained black, the teeth still ivory and shining in the dark. She ran all the way back to the wake, screaming, and John caught her in his arms.
If a driver trusts the grave is closed, they keep going past the crabbing company, to the point where the sniper lives. People say he did some work for the government, down in South America. He cleans his boots on the porch and watches cars reach the end of the road, turn back around. It happens Sundays. Folks want to see where the island ends. How much longer they have left.
C. Beston grew up on the edge of the woods in northern Delaware and currently pursues writing and filmmaking in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been featured in Smokelong Quarterly, Okay Donkey, and Yes Poetry. Her website is cbestonwork.com.