short fiction by Joseph M. Faria
([email]jmmf [at] msn [dot] com[/email])

[b]one day, one night[/b]

Bob is an upstanding citizen. He smokes big, black cigars. He says they’re Cuban to those who don’t smoke cigars. Bob’s hair is gray-speckled white and on his upper lip he wears a slippery thin mustache that looks as though he painted it on with a magic marker. He says to those who don’t dye their hair that it’s naturally black.

Betty, his wife, is a blonde. Her eyes are stone blue and her lips are full and expressively red. She keeps a diary. She uses a tiny copper-colored key to open the clasp. She writes diligently everyday as if she were errantly snowbound. She is quite utterly alone until Bob returns from the office. The words in her diary are not the same words she uses in real life.

Bob and Betty have been married for twenty-three years. They have lived in the same house for the better part of them. In front of the house there are two maple trees, a bright yellow mail box, a brick walk to the front door, and a black-top driveway to a two car garage. In back of the house there’s an in-ground pool. The pool is dry and filled with twigs and autumn leaves.

Bob is in the kitchen reading the Evening Journal.

Betty is running her fingers over a rump roast.

Outside, an easterly wind is poking its nose at every window. Soon the pink clouds will turn dark, and Betty will have to turn the lights on.

[b]Digging Graves[/b]

The moon was a white bandage on the starless night sky. There were two men in the graveyard. One was leaning on his shovel smoking a cigarette. He had on a brown tweed walking cap, and dressed in dirty dungarees. His mustache needed trimming, and his face a good washing. His tattered coat kept most of the cold out. He blew on his fingers. He was talking loud. “I don’t see why Wheezer has to dig so many holes. It just ain’t right, I tell ya’.” He let the cigarette burn down to his fingers. “It just ain’t right.” He dropped the burnt out cigarette, and jumped down into the hole. He coughed and wheezed and spit into the dirt. “You got to quit those things, Wheezer,” he said.

He took up the shovel and dug for a few minutes, throwing the dirt up and over the hole. Then he stopped and climbed out of the hole. He lit another cigarette. “I don’t see why Wheezer has to dig so many holes. It just ain’t right, I tell ya’.” He walked around the grave to his partner who was sitting on the ground propped up against the pile of dirt. He wiped the dirt off his partner’s face and shoulders. Then he placed the cigarette between his partner’s lips. “No, no, Wheezer’s got plenty more where that came from. You just sit there tight now, we’re almost done with this hole.” He jumped down into the grave again and dug for a few more minutes. He stopped and blew on his fingers. “Yeah Wheezer’s cold too, but Wheezer’s almost through down here. A few more times.”

When he was satisfied the hole was big enough and deep enough, he climbed out of the grave, picked up the corpse and dropped it into the hole. But the corpse didn’t fall straight, it clung to the edge. He had to sit and work his way down to the arm, then he kicked and pushed it down straight.

By now the moon was cracking white, and the wind picked up the leaves and blew them around and over the graves.

He walked to the cart of piled up bodies and worked the shovel in between the dead limbs. He climbed aboard and shook the reigns.

“I don’t see why Wheezer has to dig so many holes,” he spoke to the horse. “It ain’t right, I tell ya’. It ain’t right.”


Death nimbly stepped into my living room with his lead-laden breath, and his gentle, hand-maiden eyes. His hair was neatly trimmed as if he had just come from a barbershop. I could smell the talcum powder as he sat in a chair across from me. When he crossed his legs, shiny copper wing-tips flashed in the moonlight, and the starched light-blue Arrow shirt crinkled when he folded his arms across his chest.

I pulled the afghan over my knees. My mouth went dry. I worked my fingers through the knitted holes, and waited. Then he spoke–smooth, light, airy words. A string of soft sounds floated from his mouth. I thought of chocolates, cherry filled sweets, and my mother’s hands.

I settled back against the couch, my face turned toward the window where I could see the shadows of the trees, and the sudden glint of the leaves when the wind shook them.

I closed my eyes and listened.


The dog was dead. It was really dead. It lay still in the middle of the road. A speeding car had crushed its head. Tim ran at the car throwing stones and tears. The car was too big, too fast. He stopped and watched it screech around the corner and disappear. He walked back to the dog. The sun baked the road. Shadows moved slightly behind him. The dog’s skull was crushed. A long red stream of blood leaked from its eyes. He wanted to pick the animal up and take it home, but he was afraid to touch it. Mama said never to touch dead animals. So he stood in the sun, staring at his dog, dead in the road. Then the flies came and buzzed around the dead eyes. Tim stamped his foot hard to scare the flies away. He wanted to say poor Jude, poor dog, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to hear his voice. He knew if he did, he’d start bawling. The flies came back. He stamped his foot again. Some of them flew away, but a few stayed as if they knew it was just a scare.

When Tim got home his father was in the den watching TV. His father was sitting on the edge of his chair, grunting, and breathing hard through his nose, slamming his fist on the arm of the chair. Suddenly, he jumped out of the chair, kicking the air and stomping his feet. He was watching a wrestling match.

“Hit ’em. Hit ’em. You son-of-a-bitch,” his father shouted. Then the match was over. His father fell back into the chair, exhausted.


“Did you see that? Did you see that bum?” His father said, looking at the TV screen.

“Papa, Jude is dead.”

“What? Who’s dead?” his father asked, glancing at his son. Then a chorus of boos, and loud jeering, pulled both eyes to the screen.

“My dog is dead.”

“Okay, okay, sit down,” his father said, waving his left arm in the air. “Watch those two bums coming up now.”

“But Papa he’s dead in the road. A car ran him over.”

“Okay, don’t worry about it. The town will take care of it,” his father said, twisting, sweating, gripping the arm of his chair. “Look at those Goddamn bums, will ya.”

Tim watched the two wrestlers get into the ring. They looked big, fearless, capable of crushing a man’s head with one blow.

[b]Author’s notes:[/b]
Joseph M. Faria was born on the island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores. He studied Creative Writing at Roger Williams University. He published his first poem when he was twenty-three: “The Black Crow Symphony: 4th Movement”, Ishmael, Spring 1973. His short story “Threshold” won 2nd Prize in the 1997 CWA National Writing Competition. His first book of short stories, “FROM A DISTANCE”, was published in the Azores in June 1998 by Nova Grafica Press. He is the Fiction Editor for the on-line journal, “Painted Moon Review”, and the Contributing Editor of the web quarterly, “”. His has work forthcoming in “SnowMonkey”, and “The American Journal of Print”. He lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

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