So I spent the day trying to make myself useful. I helped with the few animals on the property—a half dozen chickens, two goats and an old donkey. Then while the children, Laura and Rigo, watched and asked what seemed like a hundred questions, I gave Flecha a good grooming and cleaned out her hooves.
After lunch I went to the cemetery.
I told myself I just wanted to check on Sebastian’s progress, but that was a lie, and the worst lies are the ones you tell yourself. I walked right past where Sebastian was working and went to my family’s plot, telling myself I would tidy it up a bit, but Sebastian is such a good groundskeeper, there was nothing to do. Everything was straight and in order, and there were even a few paper flowers around the bases of the wooden crosses Auntie helped me make so long ago. I had been too overwhelmed yesterday to notice these details, but now I wished I could throw my arms around Sebastian’s neck and kiss him for being so thoughtful.
I sat down and stared at my family's graves. I felt like I should say something, as if my family would hear me if I spoke. What on earth would I tell them? I had turned out nothing like how they wanted. Mother and Grandma had expected me to marry someone with land and raise children in a house, where I would cook and knit. I sure botched that one. And although Grandpa had encouraged my tomboy ways and gave me my first gun, he never meant for me to become an assassin and a fighter in the civil war. He taught me to hunt rabbits, not people.
I was sitting there thinking of these things, feeling like a failure, when Joaquin came up behind me. “I had a feeling I’d find you here. We try to keep the graves looking nice. I hope you like what we've done.”
I scooted over so Joaquin could sit beside me. “I guess I’ve been pretty bad for not coming sooner. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”
“You know when the time is right. It’s not like your loved ones are really here, you know. You carry them everywhere in your heart. The body is just symbolic.”
I said nothing and toyed with a small stone.
Joaquin didn’t say anything either for a few minutes, but then he said, “I thought we should talk about what kind of service you’d like for your friend.”
“Catholic, I suppose. Do you do other kinds?”
“I’ve learned to be flexible. Who’s going to report me if I don’t go by the book? And who would they report me to? I don’t think we have a bishop for this area any more.”
All I knew about bishops was from when Robert tried to teach me to play chess. “I’m pretty sure Ishkin was Catholic, and the priest at the hospital came to see him before he died. Whatever Catholics usually do will be fine.”
“I’ll try to make it short. What about a marker? Did you bring one of your own, or should we make one?”
I hadn’t even thought about that. “Anything’s okay, I suppose. It hardly matters, since he never told me his real name.”
“I thought you said his name was Ishkin.”
I stifled an urge to laugh. “That’s just the name I gave him. It means ‘boy’ in Apache.”
“He let you call him Boy?”
“It was his own fault. He wouldn’t tell me his name or anything else about himself.”
“We can hardly bury him under a marker that says Boy.”
“Why not? He answered to it when he was alive. Isn’t that all a name is supposed to do—give other people something to call you?”
“I’ll check my book of patron saints and we’ll find him a proper name.”
I stood and brushed the dust off my pants. It was all the same to me. He was still a nameless ishkin no matter what Joaquin wanted to put on his marker. “Do whatever you think is right,” I said.
I went to check on Sebastian’s progress, then spent a few minutes at Carina’s grave. Auntie's sister had been the valley’s veterinarian and had sometimes given me and Will lessons in animal care. Had it not been for Strecker’s raid, I might have become a veterinarian, myself. I touched the cross over where her body lay. “I’ll bring Flecha to see you before I leave,” I promised. “You’ll see how well I take care of her.”
I was about to go down the hill and see if I could find something to do when I noticed Joaquin was still nearby, standing over a grave with a nice stone marker and a blanket of colorful paper flowers and offerings. I hesitated, not sure if it would be rude of me to intrude, but then I figured since he had felt okay approaching me, I shouldn’t feel shy about doing the same.
He looked up as I approached and smiled in an embarrassed sort of way. “It’s been almost two years. A stupid accident. I keep thinking it’s supposed to get easier, because that’s what I tell people all the time.”
The inscription was unevenly carved, but legible. “I’m sorry.”
“Sometimes I think the children cope a lot better than I do, and here I’m supposed to know all about coping.”
He went on to say a lot of things I didn’t understand—something about Vatican III, and how he would’ve never become a priest if he couldn't have married. He said it had been his wife, not he, who had been the true believer. Then he mentioned bishops again, and other things that made no sense at all.
In the end, I didn’t know what to say. I had no words of wisdom to offer a priest, whether he believed in his religion or not. Then I remembered something Auntie once told me. “God has his own reason for things. We have to trust that somewhere it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.”
Joaquin looked at me strangely, then said something in a language I didn’t know. Then he glanced at the sky and said we should go back to the house and make sure his little hellions weren’t torturing their grandmother.
I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some of the family mending and helping the children with their lessons. After supper, Joaquin brought out a book and we decided on the name Dominic Channing for Ishkin’s marker. Channing, since I had been passing him off as my brother, and Dominic for one of the saints that supposedly watches over orphans. I wasn’t sure Ishkin was an orphan, but what did it matter?
Tonight I read to the children from my Last of the Mohicans book. The funeral will be tomorrow. Then I can think about what I'm going to do next. I still want to go to Kentucky, but I need a plan. A real plan, this time, and not just me getting on my horse and heading north, expecting it will all work out somehow, because that was a stupid idea.
◄ Previous Entry
Next Entry ►