Abraham dropped from the fence top rail enclosing the cemetery. Ben followed and stumbled, bumping into Abe who'd paused. He changed direction, while Ben protested, worried about the dead souls underfoot.
Both young men had finished their Friday night factory shift. They stopped at the Grimes' barn, but were too late for Captain Winston's funeral party. Only old Paddy was left cleaning. He mused, "Last of our Civil War heroes. War ended sixty years ago, and now 1925, he's passed at eighty-five. Tough nut survived Gettysburg."
Abe said to Ben, "We need to pay our graveside respects. My Pa's got a jug in the shed."
Now they wandered, seeking a fresh plot. "Here's dirt," said Abe. They stood erect in the dark, passing the hooch. Talked about how they'd volunteer for the next war, bragged the innocence of the young. They drank until they slurred, slumped to the ground, and passed out.
Next morning, a graveyard worker shook them awake. "Get off Miss Lulu LaBelle's grave."
Groggy, Abe questioned, "Miss Lulu's?" He lowered his voice to a hush, "The, um, madam?"
"Buried yesterday. Same as Captain Grimes over there." He pointed his shovel eastward.
"We saluted the captain, or thought we were," said Ben.
"You two fools should have gone to town. Miss Lulu's ladies hosted quite a celebration. Named the parlor after Captain Winston, a shrine to his memory."
As the boys staggered to their feet, the gravedigger spat, "Git along now, this here's hallowed ground."
First published: November, 2011
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