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On the day before dad's burial, I volunteer to deliver information on his marker for a stonecutter to use. I stop by the city cemetery's office, a small one-floor brick building not far from a shaded memorial chapel built to honor the local Civil War dead. Behind the office is a landscaper's garage used for servicing tractors and mowers. I open and enter the dented door under the faded white "OFFICE" sign with black Gothic lettering.
New flower shop bouquets and worn burgundy suede ropes strung through brass-ring poles lean against the glass counter. An office blotter covers part of the countertop and is nicked and torn and covered with hand-scrawled names, phone numbers, and calculations. An unfiltered cigarette's burning a long ash and is about to tumble into a star-shaped glass ashtray. The man in the office rises from his desk. He's a former high school classmate who recognizes me and asks about what I've been doing since graduation.
He carefully pencils in dad's death date in a three-ring notebook with loose pages falling out. I tell him about the smooth, black marble gravestone with the gracefully sloping, rough-edged top that dad had purchased years before. Dad had it placed on the two-person gravesite with his and mom's names and birth dates already carved in it.
But the stone won't be cut immediately with dad's closing fact. "Probably not for a month or two," says the man behind the counter, "perhaps some time in the summer. The stonecutter's a farmer who lives outside town. And we wait until 10 or 15 stones need to be cut before asking him to drive in here to work."
I turn to look around. The office has no wall clock or calendar that I can see. Outside, past two lead-lined, ivy-covered windows, a spring shower is watering the close-cropped grass, fresh flowers, and statues of angels and children.
in a grave just dug
a floating leaf