Monday, May 5, 2008

The Gravedigger's Seat

Aye, well, see, there was this old gravedigger feller who always knew when somebody in the village was about to die, and he'd always be out there digging their graves with his shovel in the moonlight the night before it happened.

Back in quieter times, you could hear him working away with his shovel out there on the cemetary hill all the way down here in town, gave some of us folks the chills to hear the sounds of his shovel working away at another grave.

Naw, see, it didn't matter whether it was somebody gettin' old, or an accident, he always seemed to know what grave needed digging, that's what makes it a bit strange to folks, I s'pose.

I never seen him talk to nobody, 'sides me, workin' here at the pub, and I don't even know his name, or where he goes when he ain't down here or up there on the hill, he only ever spent enough words on me to order his drinks and nothing more, but he was cheerful enough in disposition, even if he never laughed out loud, and a good tipper, and truth be told, that particular combination of qualities made him one of my favorite customers, eh?

And most of the folks in town didn't even notice the way the graves were always dug a bit early.

Oh, but some did notice, aye.

Seemed like some folks thought there was something fell and unwholesome in the way he always knew when somebody was gonna be let go.

Seemed like some folks wanted to blame him for what graves needed digging.

As if he was the grim reaper himself or a sorcerer attached to some sort of supernatural and frightful power, instead of maybe just being a normal feller who was more attached than the rest of us to one of the most natural powers of all.

There's more than a few of you here who can listen to the leaves rustle in your cornfield and know when its ready for harvest, aye?

And that's how I always thought of it, y'know, maybe he just knew how to listen better than the rest of us.

Anyways some folks didn't see it that way.

And these four lads made up their minds to bring some trouble to the old gravedigger one night, when we could all hear the sounds of his shovel going at it, 'cause their drink took a bad turn in their minds.

We all know how a thing like that can happen, and I'm more attached to that natural power than the rest of you, this here tavern is my cornfield, and I can hear a drunk taking a bad turn from a mile away in a thunderstorm, usually.

That's 'cause I know how to listen better than the rest of you for that, to keep my customers from breaking my furniture and hurting themselves or somebody else in a way that would cut down on the amount of customers I'd have the next day.

But I was busy that night, and I didn't notice what was happening until it was too late, until them four boys had already stormed off toward the cemetary on the hill at the edge of the village, and I was just catching the rest of you muttering darkly about the way they had been talking about doing something about him.

Well I'm proud to say that I didn't just stand idly by and do nothing about the matter, I closed her down early, and kicked everyone's ass out, and me and Jolly Jim and a few of you older and wiser fellers got our coats on and we went out after them lads, to try to talk some sense to 'em before they did something foolish.

But we didn't see hide nor hair of them boys all the way to the cemetary hill, or ever afterwards.

And when we finally got up there, we found the old gravedigger, filling in four fresh new graves.

Oh no, there wasn't nobody in 'em, see, that was the whole point of the story, the noise we'd all been hearing all night was these four fresh new graves gettin' made, graves the old gravedigger knew that he didn't need for anything 'cept to scare them four hotheaded lads off their witchhunt.

He didn't say nothing to us even then, and we didn't know what to say to him either, we just laughed amongst ourselves a little bit when we figured out his trick, and we laughed a bit more when Jolly Jim said the old gravedigger had a few more tricks up his sleeve than everbody gave him credit for.

And I think he almost laughed at that, I never seen him laugh, y'know, 'cause nobody wants a laughing gravedigger, eh?

But he smiled in that way we all do when you are holding the door against a laugh, leaning there on his shovel for a moment, looking at us, and we nodded back, and then he went back to filling in his holes, and we came back down from the hill.

Naw we ain't never seen those four lads again, they skipped out of town and never came back, to get out of range of the gravediggers "powers," I s'pose.

And the old gravedigger still comes in here every once in a while for a few drinks every now and then.

And that's why nobody sits there, at that spot at the end of the bar, 'cause that's his seat.

Anyways turns out there is some magic in all this, though.

Aye, see, the gravedigger has been old ever since I was young, and he's just as old as he ever was, I think something about his job keeps him from getting too old to dig with that shovel of his.

And you wouldn't believe me if I told you how old I was now, but I think maybe there's something about my job that keeps me from getting too old to pour him his drinks.

Ain't that right, Jolly?

Hold old are we now?

Aye, see, I knew you wouldn't believe it.

But it wouldn't hurt you none to leave me a good tip.

'Cause maybe there's something about your job that might keep you from getting too old to give me a good tip, eh?

Ain't that right, Jolly?

1 comment:

Sundry Chicken said...

Great story.

Wonder if the gravedigger had a cat named
Oscar ...