The first hour was the easiest, if that’s the proper word. I closed my mind off to the reason why I was digging. I wasn’t exactly daydreaming, but I was thinking about the things that I understood, or thought I did.
I thought about opening the bar, same as usual, in a few hours. I knew I would be hurting, and my eyes would be tired and bruised-looking, and the regulars would tease me about being on a bender. But I would serve them drinks, one at a time, and wash glasses, one at a time, and listen to the same old tired stories, one at a time. This night would not fade from my mind, not for a long time, and probably not ever, but I wanted it to be a dark hallway I’d only have to walk in my dreams.
I thought of having supper with Euart, him bustling with his usual energy, talking about integers and math equations, me pouring his milk and pretending I understood. We’d go to bed early, after he finished his homework, maybe after an hour of watching some television. I would toss and turn for most of the night, slip in and out of scatter-shot dreams, knowing that nothing good could ever come from this.
Who was this man we were burying, I wondered. Kincaid claimed not to know him, and I knew a lot of faces in Handsome and his wasn’t one of them. Someone’s cousin, someone’s fiancé, someone’s long-lost school chum? He had been a young man, probably not yet thirty. I tried to imagine him in life, but could not. All I could see was the scowl of pain he was in when he died. He was dressed casually, but his boots looked new and pants were still creased. What was left of his shirt wasn’t very fresh. He didn’t look like a lost tourist, but neither was he familiar with the area. He was… exploring? Checking out the land to see if it was suitable for him to lay down some roots? Was he a restless man, out for a walk in the early morning, away from the drone and caterwauling of relatives he hardly knew?
Kincaid claimed the man had no wallet (though he looked at the ground when he said it), so maybe he was just visiting. A stranger who didn’t belong wouldn’t wander around without his wallet. A man visiting friends or relatives wouldn’t bother with one if he was just going out for a morning walk.
I dug until I felt the first blister form in the webbing between my forefinger and thumb. My back was beginning to yell. My knees ached more. I could feel the sweat pool around my neck, the back of my hands, around my collarbone. I didn’t even look to see how Kincaid was doing. I was in my own private nowhere, digging this forsaken hole, puzzling things out.
And so I dug.
Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0
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