BY SAMANTHA COPE
The sun beat down on her back, burning through the
cotton tee-shirt she wore. She could smell herself, a
thin soup-smell; soup if it were made from rotten
vegetables. And she could smell the sun-steamed
backyard; its rusted wire fences and walnut squirrel
Tara worked her arms. They were thrust through the
scissor blades of her knees; they pulled the trowel up
and out of the hole, over and over. Trickles of dirt
escaped around the sides and fell back in. There was a
crust of dirt on the laces of her sneakers.
She dropped the trowel and grabbed the flash of red
she saw. She held it up in front of her face, puzzled
for a moment. Then she realized and her forehead
smoothed itself out. It was the polyester stitching
from the end of the towel. The towel itself had been
cotton and was rotted away already.
She put her hand down into the hole, gingerly,
scraping dirt away, sifting with her fingertips.
“Watcha doin’?” came a jolly voice from above her.
“Diggin’ something up,” she answered. She tried not
to bother answering, but it was automatic; it was rude
to ignore people. Even if they really didn’t exist.
The first bone she found was a vertebrae—a hole in the
middle, four spikes radiating out. It was like a
star; a moist, dirt-caked star.
She settled back on her haunches and held it up to the
sky. The hole in the middle isolated a smooth patch
of brilliant blue. She grinned.
She glanced over at Solomon sitting calm on a thatch
of browning grass. He scratched with his fingertips
at the dirt beside him.
“Bones, Sol. They belong to me, hear?”
Why did she bother to respond? It wasn’t like he was
She set the vertebrae aside carefully and stuck her
hand in the hole again. It was cool in the bottom of
the hole, a little at least. She scraped and scraped,
felt dirt cram itself into the crescent moons under
A pile of vertebrae grew, some with spikes, some with
knobs. They got smaller and smaller, all the way down
the tail. Then the slender ribs started surfacing.
Flat shoulder bones. Wing-shaped pelvic bones. Long
smooth leg bones.
The skull, with shiny fangs rattling in the sockets.
Two lower jaw bones, mirror images.
She sucked in her breath when she got to the delicate
toe bones, tiny on her fingertips, a claw arching from
Tara surveyed the small pile of bones with triumph.
She believed she hadn’t missed a single bone, but she
sifted around in the hole again just to be sure.
Solomon was playing with her spool of wire; he was
drawn to shiny things like a magpie.
She strode over and smacked it out of his hand. It
fell and rolled until it hit her foot. He looked up
at her with sad eyes.
“That’s mine, too.” She settled her hands on her
hips. “You’re making me mad, Sol,” she scolded. “I
have to concentrate on this just right!”
“Whose bones are those, Tara?”
She glared. “You know whose bones these are! You
watched me bury her, fool.”
She turned her back on Solomon before he could waste
her time talking some more. How could people who
weren’t even real take up your time bothering you, was
what Tara always wondered.
Carefully, she began to lay out the bones as if they
were a jigsaw puzzle. She had to lay them out flat at
first, of course, just to see where they went. On a
couple of them, she had to guess, but finally she had
a more or less complete skeleton in the dirt at her
She hunkered down and slowly connected each bone to
another with the shining wire.
Solomon crouched next to her, handing her bone after
“You gonna bring her back? That what you’re doing?”
His voice was hushed and fearful.
“Yes, of course, you idiot.”
She hummed a little, wired the jaws to the skull, to
what she thought might be the collarbone, to the
shoulder-bones. She wound the wire around, down the
leg-bones in lazy spirals and attached each tiny toe
Finally, she stood and looked at the wired-together
“Cherry, come back,” she whispered, staring hard at
the skeleton. “Come back to Mama.”
She glanced at Solomon’s eager face. He crouched,
grasping his knees with white knuckles, eyebrows
pushed up into furrows.
“Cherry, c’mon, kitty, kitty, kitty.”
“What’s the matter?”
“She’s not coming. She still needs...something.” She
took a tiny step toward Solomon.
“What does she need, Tara? Skin? Fur? Eyeballs?”
“I think she needs some breath, Sol.” She took
another tiny step toward Solomon.
She moved suddenly, quickly, like a cat herself, but
her fingers closed on nothing but air. Solomon was
off, running through the yard, across the board porch,
banging the door to the house.
Tara sighed. She started to walk toward the house.
“C’mon, Sol,” she wheedled. “Give Cherry your breath.
It’s not like you need it, anyway. You’re not even
Samantha Cope has published with espressofiction.com and Giggle Water Review. She has a story pending publication with Grendelsong.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007