The cigarette is very, very small in Uncle's hands, the burning ash a bright bit of fairy-light in afternoon gloom. He is the biggest man in the family. Biggest in the Parish and maybe all Louisiana. But not the biggest in the world. He’s in Turkey, and he beats Uncle by less than half a foot.
We’re in a farm graveyard, with simple aboveground slabs and plastic flowers. The plots are too small for Uncle. They are more my size. Which is good.
It’s the sort of private cemetery you find in rural areas. The road we followed was just gravel, then no road at all, only ruts. Shallow earth peppered with grass shoots. The farmland that surrounds us is grown over, given to goats and thin cattle.
“It's quiet,” he says. I nod.
It would be stupid to think this place is empty, that the broken trailers sinking into soft mud are abandoned. Where there is land, there are people.
But no one peeks out to see what we want.
I'm small the way Uncle is big. And I'm dying.
Not tonight. Not here with Uncle. But soon enough.
Uncle puts his hand on my face, and it is as if I am a moon in a fairytale, cupped by a giant playing at making a sky. Brilliant ashes teeter in his other hand.
I climb one of the slabs. There are trees to see and buttercups, rusted farm supplies. I've wanted this sort of aboveground grave, this simple slab, for as long as I've known. Wanted to forever in a field, instead of the big church cemetery my mother chose.
“Here,” I say, more powerful than I’ve felt in my whole life.
Uncle nods. Looks for a door to knock on. A person to make a deal with.
First published in the short story collection, Moon Trees and Other Orphans (Leigh Camacho Rourks, Black Lawrence Press 2019)