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Putting Things Right
by David Norris


It seems as though I spent a lot of time in graveyards this summer. I first stopped in to see my childhood friend Mickey, who has been on my mind a lot the past several years. Mickey and I grew up together. His mom and my mom were good friends for half their lives, until the war and Mickís tragic and early death drove them apart.

Mickey could stand on the 50-yard line and punt a ball through the goal posts. He could run like a deer, hit a ball over the fence, and make the three-pointer that would win the game. This young man was one of the most talented natural athletes we had ever seen, yet for some baffling reason, he did not utilize his gifts. Instead of going to college on an athletic scholarship, Michael Lee Jenkins was drafted into the Marines and sent halfway around the world to fight in a country that he had to find on a globe to know where it was. He had never been in a fight in his life, and he had no politics.


MICHAEL LEE JENKINS
Virginia
PFC CO E MAR 3 MAR DIV
VIETNAM PH
JAN 2 1948 ~ FEB 25 1969


I had been meaning to stop by and talk with Mickey for a long time; in fact, I had waited 39 years. With map in hand and the salesladyís words still in my ear, I stood there in front of his grave and talked to him for quite a while; then I drove on down to the local community college and ran into a childhood friend from the playgrounds where we had played ball with Mickey. I had not seen Red for at least thirty years. After telling him where I had been, he told me that he too visited Mickís grave from time to time. Before my trip was over, I found two other of his friends who after all these years still keep Mickey in their thoughts and visit with him up on the hill at times.

Mickeyís grave is a flat marble block that lies even with the ground, a metal engraving sitting on it, his mother and father lying beside him. It was a warm day, the sun shining, yet Mickeyís marker had water lying upon it, as if from rain, even though it had not rained that day. None of the other names within sight were wet or even damp.

After this, I went to make a family visit. At one time, four generations of us lived together in the same house. Iím the only one left from that household now. Everyone else is lined up together on the front row of the Cedar Hill Cemetery. Pop has the biggest and nicest headstone, the only one that stands up. He and my great grandmother, whom I never met, rest there side by side. All the other markers are small ones, just six inches or so above the ground and rectangular in shape. On his left is his first son to leave, of whom I learned very little while growing up, other than he died young and he died a tragic death. On his right lies Bud, and beside him my motherís ashes are interred just inches above her mother, who died in her early 20s.

For 41 years, Bud had lain there without a marker above him, just a blank patch of grass between Popís grave and my mother. Momma had refused to take care of any of the funeral arrangements when Bud died, leaving them to me, a senior in high school at the time; afterwards, she never put a marker on his grave or ever visited him. Years earlier, long before his demise, when it was just Bud and Pop and me living over there on Mallow Road, Bud had made me promise that when he left this earth, there would be no funeral for him. He was insistent, and I, a child of 11 or 12, had that memory burned into me, where it lingers even now. Against his wishes, he was instead given a big funeral, dressed in a fine suit and laid out looking distinguished and handsome. In fact, a woman standing behind me, whose face I never saw, whispered, ďThatís the first time Iíve ever seen him clean.Ē

I put a marker on Bud this summer. It took me 41 years, but itís there now. He may be lying under it cussing me for doing it; nonetheless, I feel all the better for having done it.


ďBudĒ
ROBERT WELDON SUTPHIN
JANUARY 1 1900 ~ April 1 1967
WE LOVED YOU AND WE MISS YOU


Sometimes it takes a long time to get something right, but no matter how long it takes to fix it, we have to keep working on it until itís right again.

_____________________________________________


David Norris has lived in Asia since 1985. He currently resides in Seoul, Korea, where he lectures in writing and literature for the University of Maryland University College Asia. His work has appeared in The Chariton Review, Taproot Literary Review, Poetry San Francisco, and The Dan River Anthology. David was born in the small town of Covington, Virginia, way up in the Alleghany Mountains. He left when he was 20 and has been traveling ever since.

Write David at this address


For more of Davidís stories at USADEEPSOUTH, click here:
The Ants
Sometimes We Just Have To Let Them Go

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