Grounded - Sample

As far as deaths go, having your torso cut in half by a mine hidden beneath some beach sand was pretty bad. And now this.

Marty sighed.

The teenage boy spread out a blanket on Marty’s grave, and the girl he was with grinned and sank to her knees on the soft green material. The boy stood in front of her and unzipped his pants, and she went to work.

Marty Kaufmann (1920-1944, killed on D-Day when he stepped on a mine while storming the beach at Normandy), actually rolled over in his grave. It did no good. He could still hear the moaning coming from the teenagers in the cemetery. Soon, the oral sex would gradually slide into actual intercourse, and then the thumping on his coffin would be intolerable. What was it that teenagers found so damn exciting about doing it in a graveyard anyway, Marty wondered? Things sure had changed since he was alive. He let out a tortured, mournful groan.

“Don’t be such a prude,” said Tia Tsalonga (1979-2000, suicide after her ‘first’ dumped her to sleep with her best friend).

Marty sniffed. He didn’t like Tia, and wished they’d buried him next to someone closer to his own age. “Easy for you to say, they’re not doing it on your grave.”

“They’re not doing it at all, Marty.” Tia was right, at least for now. “Besides, he’s kind of cute. I’d have thrown him a BJ back in the day, no problem.”

Marty tried to cover his ears but it was no good. Even if a few pieces of his body hadn’t been missing when they’d shipped his remains back to the states, the dead don’t really have control over any part of their corpses. What was left of his body after he’d stepped on one of Rommell’s mines had long since melted away to rot.

That was really too bad, Marty decided. He tried picturing the young lovers’ faces as a zombified hand clawed its way out of the earth to disturb their liaison. That made him smile, anyway.

“Of course if I did take pity on him long enough to blow him, he’d probably go right over to Audrey’s house afterwards for some post blowjob sex.” Tia’s voice had that bitter, angry edge Marty had heard all too often since she was buried. He could tell she was about to launch into a flat-out rant about her old boyfriend and that ‘nasty ass man stealing slut of a best friend’, Audrey.

Why couldn’t he have been buried with the other soldiers at the American Cemetery in Normandy? It was so like his mother to demand his remains be sent home to Rhode Island to be buried in the town he’d grown up in. “How much longer do you think we’ll have to stay here?” Marty groaned.

That successfully snuffed the fuse on Tia’s rant. Marty knew it would. She hated hearing him complain about being stuck in the cemetery. “I’ve told you to shutup about that,” Tia said. “I have no fucking idea how long. Jesus will you drop it already?”

“Yeah Marty,” Carl Morgan (1947-2005, coronary brought on by Type 2 Diabetes, untreated). “We’re all a little tired of your continual whining. Suck it up and grow a pair for Christ’s sake.” Carl was a loud mouthed, angry guy – even in death it seemed to Marty.

“Well Carl, if I’d only been here for 2 years, I might have a flippant attitude like you, but I’ve been here…”

“…since 1944,” Carl finished for him. “Yeah, we know War Hero. You’ve told us now like a billion times. If I could claw my way out of this damn box I’d dig your ass up and kill you all over again. It’s a tough break, Kaufmann and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. So shut up and deal with it.”

Marty had been ‘dealing with it’ now for 63 years. As best as he could tell he was the oldest spirit talking in the Cumberland Township cemetery. Carl had been older them him while alive, but here in the dirt you were judged by how many years since they put you there. Marty supposed it was possible that the people who were in the ground longer than him could talk, but none of them ever have. “Its just not right is all I’m saying,” Marty said.

Carl groaned and Tia shouted “Shutup!”

The two teenagers had finished their business and moved on. Marty was thankful for that. A long time passed, and then finally Marty said, “Marjorie?”

Marjorie Klemp (1950-2000, beaten to death by her son in a LSD induced rage) answered, “Yes, Marty?”

Marty liked Marjorie; she was never rude or nasty like so many of the other dead here. He was sure in life she would have been a wonderful woman to get to know, and couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt her – hallucinogenic or no. “You’ve been awful quiet tonight. Is everything alright?”

“Yes, Marty, thank you for asking,” Marjorie said quietly. “I was just thinking about my son.”

“Here we go,” Carl groaned.

“Shutup Carl,” Marty shot back.

“Don’t talk about my son that way, Carl,” Marjorie sniffed.

“Goddamn kid’s a piece of shit Marj,” Carl said. “Don’t burn a minute thinking about that waste of skin.”

“He was my son,” Marjorie said quietly.

Tia snorted. “Your son beat you for twenty minutes after you were dead with an eighteen-inch adjustable wrench. That had a hell of a time identifying you, even with dental records. Carl is right.”

“What were you thinking about?” Marty asked. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Marjorie didn’t answer right away. “I was thinking that I could have done more for Scott. Helped him kick the drugs instead of being so angry with him all the time. Maybe I could have helped him get clean.”

“Coulda-woulda-shoulda,” Carl growled. “What you should have done is shoved a size nine up his ass a few more times when he was a kid. That’d have straightened him right out.”

“Shutup, Carl,” Marty repeated. “This is a private conversation.”

“We can all hear you,” Tia reminded Marty. “There’s no such thing as privacy in the cemetery.”

“That’s all right,” Marjorie said. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and Carl’s right in a way. When Rob left, things went downhill. He needed a firm hand growing up; he was always so…so…” She began to cry.

“Fucked up?” Carl offered.

The wailing sob that came out of Marjorie was painful to hear. Marty wished the teenagers would come back. No one said anything for a long time. Finally Carl broke the silence. “Look Marj, it wont be too long before that loser boy of yours ends up in the ground with the rest of us. You can talk to him then, right?”

This time even Tia told him to shutup. He did, for a while. Marty wished he had some words to offer Marjorie but he didn’t. All of his wisdom was dated – he was from another generation and had not been married. Finally he said, “Marjorie, I’m sorry. We all have regrets to look back on and a long, long time to do it in. I’m sure once we move on, all of this will be made clear.”

Marjorie stopped her sniffling. “Have you ever thought Marty that maybe this is all there is, Marty?” Her voice had a sharp, angry edge to it that Marty disliked at once. “What if there is no Heaven, Marty? What if there’s no Hell no…no nothing? Maybe we just sit here forever and ever and ever, replaying every horrible thing in our life that led us here while maggots infest our stomach and just chew and chew and chew?” She broke down into sobs again. “God don’t they ever stop eating?”

Though Marjorie was clearly unstable even as a corpse, she had a point. What if this was all there was. The thought had crossed his mind more than once in sixty-three years.

Why were the dead were trapped here instead of moving on to the Afterlife? The ‘great reward’ he had always been taught was waiting on the ‘other side’ seemed to be a whole lot of sitting around talking about nothing with other dead people. It just wasn’t right.

What if this was all there was? Sitting in the earth listening to teenagers fuck on your grave for all eternity. Would consciousness eventually fade? Carl’s voice, made gruff by thirty years of cigarette smoking, pulled Marty of out of his daily mental meanderings.

“You want to see a good kid, Marj, just wait until tomorrow,” Carl said. “My good for nothing son Trevor will be bringing his kids by. Tomorrow’s the anniversary of my coronary, by the way.”

“Happy Anniversary,” Tia said, laughing.

Carl ignored her. “My grandson is the picture perfect example of good parenting, I mean that kid does well in school, and he’s on the track team. He’s respectful and well disciplined too. He has a job at the local pizza shop and in just two years saved up enough for a down payment on a car. Hell, he even flips his Dad a fifty each week for room and board.”

“He sounds very nice,” Marjorie chimed in, still crying.

“Let me guess,” Marty said, “you claim some responsibility for making him into this paragon of virtue, right?”

Marty could practically hear Carl puff up with pride. “Damn straight, Kaufmann. You think I’d let that loser son of mine screw up this perfectly good kid? Hell no, he spends most of his summers with Betsy and me. Well…he used to anyway. Gave me time to instill in him the proper values, despite his father’s tendency to be a habitual fuck up.”

“Your values, you mean,” Tia interjected.

“The right values,” Carl insisted.

Marty had listened to about all he could stomach from Carl. “That must have made you feel pretty good, after having done such a shitty job with Trevor.”

Carl missed the insult completely. “Yeah, well Trevor just never listened. He always knew every fucking thing in the world. He never listened to his Old Man – Heaven fucking forbid. His whole life is just one stupid mistake after another and look where it got him. You’ll see tomorrow when they come. A fucking waste of skin, just like Marjorie’s boy.”

The dead fell silent then. Even Marjorie’s sobs were barely audible. It was still early, and it was a long wait until the sun warmed their graves again.

Best not to spend the whole night arguing.