“How can you be so heartless?” He asks as she digs into fresh earth, tossing shovelfuls over her shoulder and onto the unbroken ground. She rams the spade into worm-infested dirt, arms sweat from her brow, and frowns up at him standing at the edge of the hole she’s been digging.
“How can you be so ignorant to ask me that?” She says leaning all her weight on her left leg, and holding onto the rounded end of the shovel with her right hand.
He crouches at the edge of the hole she’s been digging, arms resting on his thighs while his hands dangle in front of his knees. “People care about you, you know.”
“What makes you think I’m unaware of that?” She asks, and goes back to digging. Nothing will slow her pace again.
“You’re digging a grave,” he says, as if she isn’t aware of what she’s doing.
“Yep,” is all she says in response. Talk tires her more than digging.
“So stop digging!” He says in exasperation, standing up and placing his hands upon his hips.
“No,” she says, digging still.
He stands beside the hole in the ground watching her dig like a woman possessed. His mind is racing. He doesn’t know whether to jump in and physically stop her; he assumes it’s the only way she’ll abandon this foolish errand. At the same time, he’s as afraid of her as he would be of a strange dog; she may bite if he hops into that hole. He weighs his options and comes to the conclusion that it would be suicide to join her in that hole, so he sits down at the edge of the grave and waits for her to finish her task.
Finally, the grave is dug. She plants the spade into the earth and leans upon it for support as she arms sweat from her brow. Hard labor always makes a body tired, but it works wonders for the mind. Something about the simplicity of narrowing one’s focus to a single straight line produces perspective that makes it easier to live with the cacophony of voices rattling around inside one’s skull like loose marbles.
“Now what?” He asks, sullen.
She smiles. “Now I add the body.”
“I can’t talk you out of it, can I?” He says, defeated.
“Cheer up, it’s not for me.” She says, still smiling.
He looks at her puzzled. “Then who’s it for—“ he starts to ask as she grabs the shovel and swings it like a bat. It collides with his face, sounding like a gong when it connects. She feels the impact rattle all the way up her arms and into her shoulders and jaw. She’s gritting her teeth when the spade connects with his face, laying him out flat. She tosses the spade onto the ground beside him and crawls out of the grave she dug.
“For you, stupid.” She says, swiping dirt from her overalls. She bends and hauls his limp body into the hole. His body rolls over the lip of the grave and lands face up. His eyes are white and glassy, his face dusted with dirt. She picks up the spade and begins shoveling the dirt she dug out back into the hole. When this job is done she’ll be okay again. That’s what the voices in her head have told her. Those voices that only seem to shut up when she’s digging holes.