The locusts geared up their scream as Claren Ruth wended her way back to the cemetery. To her mind, there was only one thing left to do—she would lay on that grave she paid for and wait this whole thing out.
The sun lay low against the horizon of the dry fields, giving everything the appearance of burning. Claren Ruth wound her way through the gravel paths until she came to the middle where the oldest monuments stood. As she passed the younger stones, she gave her regards to those she recognized and then those she couldn’t quite remember. A teacher from her earliest school days, a neighbor, a man Claren Ruth knew to be nothing more than a drunk. A childhood friend who died when they were teenagers. But as she came to the older stones, she found she couldn’t make out the names on them, all eroded off by the decades of storms and dust. She ran a finger over it, trying to find some grooves for the lettering. But it was smooth, bare as slate. She had no idea who these people were, when it came down to it. Best she could do would be to look them up in one of Norma Jean’s books, and even then they’d be still nothing but a name, of consequence to no one.
She walked until she arrived at her parents’ graves, placed her hand on the empty space between their names and knelt there. What she would give to have someone put a hand to her back, pat her on the head, tell her it would all work out like it always did. It always had before because the definition of things working out was always changing. She tried to remind herself that this time was no different, even if it felt so very. She crawled between the two sunken plots of earth and rested her head on the ground. She did not close her eyes.
From the north, clouds pressed in deep and dark, settling everything in shadow. A hint of rain on the breeze. In and out, these clouds would go just like the others, whatever punishment they were all suffering still not completed. Claren Ruth folded her hands to her chest to wait, frustrated at the beat of her heart, interminable and consistent.
Lisa Bubert is a writer based in Nashville, TN, and her fiction and prose can be found in Carolina Quarterly, Barnstorm Journal, Spartan, Wildness, and more.