by Steven Vineis
The old man had been ill, now nearly well, well as he'd ever be again, nearly gone, dead and gone, not quite but close, not yet underground but on his way, so he follows, despite objection, he follows the others without knowing the way. He cannot keep pace, the procession is constant - fluid steps light and quick. The drowsy sun rise brings unwelcome heat, his coat grows heavier and he falls further back, the guest of honor. With a single sweep of the wrist he removes his hat, brings it to rest across his chest, says quietly a half dozen words to himself alone. The procession stops, any number of men and women; turn to look at the old man now sitting cross-legged on the path, amidst the world as he knew it and no better or worse. One man echoes the whisper - "as good a place as any" - picks up a spade, begins sobbing as he digs into the virgin Earth and the old man wipes clean his dusty lapels.
Steven Vineis lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.