Gardening was Terri’s idea. “Come out and keep me company,” she suggested. “It’ll help keep your mind off whatever’s bothering you.”
So Rooney grabbed a beer and joined her. He sat on the porch to watch her work. Trouble was, it did nothing to distract him from the way Clemente had died.
He knew this the moment she brought the spade from the shed. She drove it into the earth with her foot, the way he’d done to dig Clemente’s grave.
“How deep you want it?” he’d panted.
“Deep enough so’s the animals don’t drag him out, for a few months anyway.” Warner spat into the pile of earth beside him.
He looked at the little cherry tree behind her, its roots wrapped carefully in burlap.
Clemente’s head in a cloth sack as Warner’s gofers brought him to the site.
“Damn.” Terri stopped. “Damn roots.” She carefully placed the spade’s point inside the hole. Then again put her foot on the blade and slammed it down.
The way Warner had kneecapped Clemente. “How much you tell the captain?” he snarled.
Clemente screamed. “Nothin’, I swear, I just said I had information but I didn’t say what it was—”
Warner broke the other knee the same way. Clemente screamed for a long time after that.
Terri took the little tree and planted it, sack and all. Scooped the dirt in over the burlap, packed it down with her hands.
The way Clemente’s long fingers had scrabbled in the dirt, clutching and grasping, once he’d seen the hole Rooney had dug for him.
Terri disappeared around the side of the house again. Rooney sucked his beer down as fast as it would go.
She reappeared with a bag of red cedar mulch. Before he could think of something to say to distract her, she produced his KA-BAR. Punctured the middle of the bag, sliced it end to end. Turned it over and dumped the reddish-brown bark all over the earth.
Warner’s KA-BAR sliced into Clemente’s neck. The rookie’s blood, dark red mixing with brown as it poured into the soil that would bury him.
“Think I should plant flowers around the tree?” Terri asked.
Rooney threw up.
Christa M. Miller lives, writes, and gardens in northern New England. Gardening is normally a relaxing activity that does not stimulate disturbing thoughts, but this time they broke through. Visit Christa’s website at http://www.christammiller.com.