Savannah sat on the damp ground. Moisture soaked into her jeans. She stared at Evan and Robert, as they towered over Jimmy’s unmoving body. They both panted, as if taunting Jimmy’s corpse with breath. Their eyes were wide and unblinking, and neither moved. Paralyzed with confusion.
“Guys,” Savannah said, her voice no more than a whisper. The fall breeze tossed her loose hair around her face. “Is he?”
“I don’t know,” Evan said.
Robert turn away from the still body, and he sat and faced the rest of the cemetery, hugging his knees to his chest.
“Should we check for a pulse?” Savannah asked. “Or call the cops?”
“No,” Robert said, his voice a snapping branch. “No. We can’t. They’ll charge us for murder.”
Savannah glanced at QP. He served better as a flytrap than a functioning human. “QP, get it together. We have to get out of here.”
“We should call the cops,” Tyler said.
“No,” Evan said. “Robert’s right. Maybe we call them tomorrow. Right? Maybe we tell them we were supposed to meet him at school, but he didn’t show. We say we last heard he was headed to the cemetery. We don’t mention us being here. I meant, that sounds good, right? We can say that until we figure something else out?”
“What if he told his parents he was meeting us here?” Tyler asked.
“Oh shit,” QP said. “He’s not really dead, is he? He fucking can’t be. He can’t be. Sava, you worked that internship a couple summers ago. Right? The hospital one. Tell me he’s not dead.”
Savannah crawled to Jimmy’s body and pressed two fingers against his throat. She didn’t feel a pulse. She placed her ear next to his lips, and felt nothing but the cold wind on her face.
“We can bury the body,” Robert said. He faced the rest of the group. “I mean, we’d need some shovels. But shit, guys, I don’t want to go to jail.” His voice was thick, as if drenched in mud.
“Fuck you, QP,” Evan said, squeezing his face between his hands. “You can’t just take shit seriously, can you? Always have to make some grand joke. Well this isn’t funny.”
“What the shit?” QP asked. “Are you kidding me? Are you really blaming this on me? You’re the one who started fighting him. And he’s the one,” QP pointed at Robert, “who bashed his skull in. This isn’t my fault. I’ll jump on Tyler’s team and call the cops right now. Tell them fucking everything.”
“Well that’s the choice we have to make,” Savannah said. “We call the cops and tell them the story, and Evan and Robert most likely pay with time. Or we bury him and come up with something tomorrow. Except if we get caught, then we all are a part of it. We all pay.”
QP took a couple steps forward and reached down, lifting the beer can that murdered Jimmy. He cracked the top. Foam spilled from the punched hole and down the silver can. He sipped the foam from the lip, then drank heavily from the can.
“What the hell?” Evan asked. He glanced at Savannah. “Sava, what’s he doing?”
QP stopped drinking and belched. “It was our last beer, and I’m too sober to bury a body. Besides, we have to dispose of the murder weapon.”
Tyler’s began to sob softly. Robert walked off into the darkness, leaving Savannah and QP and Evan standing around Jimmy.
Robert returned thirty minutes later with three shovels.
No one asked him where he found them. Savannah didn’t think it mattered. She watched as Evan and Robert grabbed a spade, leaving one more. Sava glanced at QP, who averted his eyes from her.
“Mac,” she said, calling him by his real name. “Pick up the damn shovel.”
“Whoah. A little sexist and body image-ist, don’t you think? Just cause I’m a husky male, I should shovel? Why don’t you dig the hole?” His words weren’t accusatory, nor were they aggressive, but Savannah didn’t care.
She beelined to him, grabbed his groin in an unrelenting grip and whispered into his ear. “If you don’t grab the shovel and start digging a hole, I will rip off your tiny, little dick.”
She watched his face blanch with shock.
She released him and he scurried to a shovel and joined Robert and Evan.
Savannah joined Tyler on the grass. He was crying and staring at a tombstone. She didn’t say anything, just read the epitaph.
Malcolm Drone. 1900-1952. A good husband. A loving father. A true friend.
“It’s idiotic,” Tyler said through sniffles. Behind them, shovels broke into ground.
“The stupid, you know, whatever it’s called. The quote on the tombstone.”
“Yeah. What’s it all mean? He died almost seventy years ago. Who cares if he was a good husband or anything else? Did any of that even matter? He’s not remembered. I don’t his living family aren’t old enough to remember him. So who cares?”
Savannah allowed Tyler to rant, and when he finished, she allowed the words to sink into the night.
“What’s your brother’s epitaph?”
Tyler chuckled. “A damn bible verse.” He wiped his eyes, then his nose. “That’s what I mean. He was an atheist. Never had the heart to tell my mom or dad, but he told me. And now he’s remembered for two things. Killing those children when he was drunk. And a bible verse that he would have despised.”
“What would you have a carved into his stone?”
Tyler glanced at her, his eyes wet and wide and wondering. “A selfish, shit-head brother and son, who tried his best to enjoy life.”
Savannah giggled. “I like that.” She wrapped an arm around Tyler’s shoulder and pulled him into her. Then she kissed the side of his head.
They sat there and stared at Malcolm Drone’s tombstone, until she heard shovels falling onto each other.
Jimmy’s corpse dropped a few feet and landed with a hollow clunk, as if death gutted him of all substance. No one had bothered to close his eyes. Through the mask, his lifeless gaze watched Evan and QP and Robert bury him.
Evan patted the loose earth until it hardened underneath his shovel’s head.
“It looks pretty obvious. Brown dirt in the middle of a green field,” QP said.
“Anyone religious here?” Evan asked, ignoring QP’s statement. What else could be done?
They all raised their hands to their shoulders.
“My mom reads the Bible to me every night,” Robert said. “But I don’t know if I believe in God.”
“I agree,” QP said. “We go to church most Sundays, but I don’t see the point.”
“Well, I like to think there’s something better out there,” Evan said. He thought of his dad, and he hoped this world wasn’t all there was. His mom deserved more. She deserved heaven. “And though Jimmy sucked as a person, he didn’t deserve to die. Not like this. And we shouldn’t have been the ones to bury him.” Evan swallowed and choked back his emotions.
Savannah held Evan’s hand and said, “I’ll pray for him.”
To Evan’s surprise, no one protested. QP grabbed her other hand, then held Robert’s with his free one. They all linked together in another circle around Jimmy’s fresh grave.
“Lord,” she said, then stopped.
Five seconds, ten seconds passed, and she didn’t say a word.
“God,” Evan said.
He didn’t know what to say. Did he speak to the sky? To the dirt? To his friends? In the end, he just closed his eyes spoke from his heart.
“God, this world you created, these people you put in it, it all sucks. It’s a shit show. How do two kids partake in a murder? How do three more help them dispose of the body? How is that my dad can continues to live despite the fact that he deserves a very slow and painful death? I think we try to be good people, and we make choices that we perceive as right. But what does that even mean? Did we make a choice we thought was right? If so, who’s to say we were wrong, God? I know you’re not saying anything, because you let things like this happen. You grant the bad guy power. I guess I don’t know what the point of life is. Why did Jimmy have to die? Why does my dad get to live? What’s the point?”
He dropped Savannah’s and Tyler’s hands and opened his eyes. Shadows covered the faces of his friends.
“This was a bad idea, QP. We should’ve listened Tyler and left a long time ago,” Evan said. “I’m leaving now.”
Everyone followed Evan.
He heard QP’s drunken, plodding steps close behind. As he sped up to separate himself from the others, snickering and whispering voices emanated around him. He tried to pinpoint the source, but the darkness enveloped everything after a few yards.
Evan halted and allowed the group to catch up. “You guys hear anything?” he asked.
“Just your bitching,” said QP.
Evan had half a mind to loosen QP’s jaw, but he knew his friend was drunk and scared, so he restrained himself.
“I don’t,” said Savannah.
“I thought I did. But I wasn’t sure. It was like someone was whispering,” said Robert.
The breeze brushed light against Evan’s skin, covering him in goosebumps. An owl hooted and jumped from a tree, it’s heavy wings beating the night sky.
“Hello?” QP yelled into the darkness. “Any ghosts or zombies around here? Maybe don’t be so loud. You’re scaring my friends.”
Savannah held her hand up to QP’s mouth and shushed him. Then she yelped, and smacked his face like a snake striking. “You licked my hand?” She wiped her palm on her pants. “Let’s just get out of here. I don’t like any of this.”
“Don’t worry, baby, I’ll protect you,” QP said, licking his lips.
Savannah squirmed away from him. “Worry about protecting yourself from me if you ever do that again.”
“And quit calling me baby.”
“QP,” Evan said. “Get your drunk ass under control. You’re not funny. Understood?”
Two figures stepped forward from the foggy darkness. They reeked of marijuana. “What’s up, dorks,” asked the person in the middle.
QP startled and squealed when the unknown voice spoke.
The two strangers laughed.
“He not only looks like a pig, but sounds like one, too,” said another voice.
When they came closer, Evan recognized them as two of their classmates. Derek and Mario. Neither had the best reputation around campus.
“What are you dumbasses doing here,” Mario asked.
QP and Robert and Tyler shied away. They glanced at the ground or around their shoulders or anywhere but the other two boys.
Savannah and Evan stepped forward.
“Hey, Savannah,” QP said, grabbing her shoulder.
She spun around and smacked him across the face. The slap rang like split ice through the night. “I told you not to touch me again,” she said. Her eyes leveled on him until he lowered his head and cowered back.
Derek and Mario began to chuckle.
“Mm,” Derek said, licking his lips. “I like a little fight in a girl. I don’t think your mom has every fought, has she? Just laid back and opened those needle-pricked—”
“Say it,” Evan said. “Go on and finish that sentence.”
“We’re not looking for a fight. Just a joke, man. Shit.”
“I don’t see anyone laughing.”
The two boys stared at Savannah and Evan, who didn’t budge under their gaze.
“You know what, how about you guys just leave. There won’t be any trouble,” Mario said. He wore blue jeans and a black hoodie and a backpack.
Derek wore a similar outfit. “Yeah. You guys take your pretty little girlfriend out of here before something bad happens.”
“How about this,” Evan said. His voice was as cool as the night air around them. And dark. The tone was menacing and full of threat. “You keep going your way, and we go ours. We didn’t see each other.” He placed his hand behind his back and lifted up shirt. A bluff he hoped they wouldn’t call, but one they might acknowledge knowing the part of town Evan lived.
“We didn’t see each other,” Derek said. “How’s that sound, Mario?”
Mario glanced at his friend, then back at Evan, as if afraid to take his eyes off of him for too long. “See who, man?”
“See who,” Derek repeated.
Evan’s hand dropped and dangled at his side. “Let’s be on with it then.”
Derek and Mario nodded, then slinked by the group without a single comment.
When the older boys were well out of earshot, QP whispered, “Bunch of pussies.”
“Shut your fat ass up,” Evan said. “Mario lives over in my area. Those guys don’t just walk on without consequences. Keep an eye out, alright?”
“You think they’ll be back?” Savannah asked.
“Maybe,” Evan answered. “I don’t think they’ll come back tonight, but you never know. It’s especially dark out, and it’d be easy for them to sneak up and surprise us.”
“You don’t think they’ll say anything? I mean, they can pinpoint us at a murder scene,” Savannah said, hugging her shoulders.
“We need to go the police first,” Tyler said. “We have to tell them before we get framed.”
“No,” Savannah said.
“They said they wouldn’t tell,” Evan said. “I believe them. Besides, they would have to explain why they were out here after hours. They smelled of marijuana, and their backpacks looked pretty stuffed.” Evan glanced at QP and Tyler. “QP, you have the loudest mouth. Can you keep a secret until we meet tomorrow?”
“I’m not going to say anything.”
Tyler shook his head. “I promise. I’ll stay silent.”
Exhausted of the cemetery, everyone agreed to leave.