photo by Belhaven2011, flickr
Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done about the coupling of tombstones. First of all, their copulations are deafening — how they grunt and sigh! — and secondly, the sparks spewing from the friction — blue, green, yellow, and purple sparks — ignite fires in the dry season. (And when the fires erupt, corpses awaken and are enraged. They must be put down by truckloads of cool, damp earth.) But the biggest problem with stone sex is this: A cemetery of newly formed stones. And no one has managed to escape the certain pairing between death and a stone.
One time, a stone cutter, ambitious that his town should live, fashioned the tombstones into paving stones, stones for the fireplace, the threshold, the garden, thinking he could circumvent their original purpose. When he disappeared they only found a pile of stones beside the cemetery where he had been working.
What was convenient about the situation, however, was that the stone pile was a nice place for the townspeople to eat their sandwiches, so they stopped asking questions and began hanging out. Also, what was good about it was that the smooth stones made nice little ledges for their beer. So when a man did not return home at night, other women would relay this information to his frustrated wife: “Oh, he’s still on the stone pile.”
One night a man materialized across the cemetery where they were sitting and drinking.
“Are you a ghost?” said Jacob. He had begun driving them crazy with this idea of diverting the creek so it ran next to the graves. They could sink a barrel of ale into its cool body, he said. It would be woman for them and they could be like the man, filling her vessel, and together, they could make cool beer. He was always wild with his crazy metaphors and his stupid ideas. His horny talk was probably inspired by the horny stones they had subdued for the season by anchoring them to the ground with chains.
“I’m not a ghost,” said the man.
“Are you a newcomer?”
“ This implies I’m staying.”
“Are you God?”
“Would God do this?” and he reached into one of their sacks, grabbed a beer, popped off the cap, and guzzled it down.
“I don’t know,” Phillip said. He was the town tombstone engraver and he was a philosopher of sorts. Engraving the dash between the dates of birth and death made him shaky. What did the dash represent? It was all so ordinary. Were they all so alike? It made him depressed. “Jesus ate even after he rose from the grave.”
“Stop being morbid,” Jacob said. His wife Tatiana said the same thing. In fact, he sometimes wondered if they slept together. They said many of the same things, in exactly the same way. It made him angry, then it made him depressed and he couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t even prove anything definitively.
“Well I can assure you I’m not God. Excuse me, this is underfoot,” and he picked up a long-handled scythe they had not noticed before. Apparently it had been on the ground. He leaned it against a tree. “I hate it when stuff like this could bean you in the head any moment if you step on it wrong.”
A scythe, what a cliché, thought Phillip who expected more from the grim reaper. Did even religious clichés have to come true? Were there no surprises?
“I’ve had sex with your wives. They’re all very good. You are lucky men.”
Was this guy nuts? Phillip thought. They would kill him, all together, with their hands around his throat. There were about twenty five of them. But he wasn’t a cliché in this: He was pretty buff for the grim reaper.
“While you guys have been yucking it up on the pile, which by the way, is the grave of a dead man, I’ve been enjoying life. Your women are very lonely and very receptive. I’ve learned how to knit, how to dandle your children on my knee. They gave me tea and gossip and practically talked me into their beds. I love this town. I love this place. I think I’ll stay.”
“We’ve got to get rid of him,” said Jacob when the man had wandered off into the misty fields with his scythe. “Our women were fine before he got here. We’re screwed.”
“We must have interfered with the balance of things,” said Phillip. “Maybe that’s why we’re being cursed with this maggot.”
And so that’s what they did. They released the stones so they could couple, except at night, when they wanted to drink, they cooled them down with water from the creek and it was quiet and peaceful again and the men got drunk and the women went back to their creative, secret occupations which involved, among other things, ruling the world.
First appeared in the following: Danse Macabre and The Strange Edge.