Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016 - Bethiah Curtis


There’s a rickety old wooden gate in the front of the common burying ground and an ancient old stone wall in the back.  The gate goes “clap clap clap!” in the wind, and the old rope fastener flies this way and that, trying to catch the gate post while it sails back and forth in the relentless wind on the coast.  At night the old boneyard keeper comes out and locks the rope gate quietly.  He slips the old boat rope around the post and looks around furtively to make sure he isn’t being watched.  But he is being watched.  I watch him from behind a tree sometimes.  He doesn’t know I’m there, but then again, he does know.  So he keeps looking around.

Bethiah Curtis, in residence.
Mrs. Bethiah Curtis is there, too, and she also watches the boneyard keeper.  The wife of David Curtis, she was born 314 years ago but doesn’t look a day over 25.  Come to think of it, none of the residents in the village of stones look their age.  Only the old boneyard keeper does.  His back is stiff and bent and looks a bit like one of the forgotten stones in the back, crooked and worn away.  Funny how the living keep aging, but the dead are chiseled perfectly in stone.

She knows I watch him from behind the tree.  She has seen me there before.  Not far from where she rests is the old pastor himself, the man who built the church and commissioned the boneyard.  The old keeper is a direct descendant of him; he told me so himself once when I was wandering around during the day.  He has the eyes of another; they are not his own.  I can see the old pastor in him.  Bethiah sees the old pastor in him, too.  In any event, the keeper certainly belongs here.  I’m the only stranger.

Bethiah rests in a country built long after she died.  There’s a woman from that new country who walks in the village of stones, taking photos as she pleases.  Bethiah doesn’t know what a photo is, but she knows that the woman writes stories about the old residents of the boneyard because sometimes the woman comes and tells them the stories.  Sometimes she chats up the old keeper and has a look at the old historical papers of the town, hidden in a vault in the old meetinghouse.  She’s a bit odd, the woman is, and comes and goes on a whim—for now.  One day she may finally earn her keep, chiseled in stone.

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