I noticed a hole and a shovel of dirt heaving up. We inched our way to the edge and made out Mike inside— digging Momma’s grave. The old man was red faced and breathless, sweating profusely.
I shouted, “Mike! Get out of there. Stop that. You shouldn’t be doing this at your age, in this heat.”
“I loved her with all my heart. And now she’s gone. I can’t wait until I’m with her again, me and Chloe together forever in beautiful Kingdom Come.”
He clutched his shoulder and dropped the shovel.
“Mike! What is it?”
I glanced over my shoulder. My siblings just stood there snarling and impatient, as if they were in line at the grocery store.
“Help me! We have to get him out of there!”
I slipped down into the hole, about five feet deep and full of watery muck. I rolled Mike onto his back. I checked and he wasn’t breathing, there was no pulse.
“He’s suffered a heart attack! His heart has stopped! Call nine-one-one! Help me with the C.P.R.!”
I did my best, alternating five chest compressions with pinching his nose and blowing into his mouth. I finally collapsed on top of the man who I recently found out was my real father. I prayed and cried. “Dear God and Jesus in heaven, oh please forgive me for not taking a real C.P.R. class since high school. Please forgive me for giving up. I’m exhausted. And I think he really wanted to not come back. Please take my Daddy’s—my second Daddy’s soul up to heaven with you and Momma and my father Daddy and give them all peace and happiness. And help us through our grief. Amen.”
I squinted up at my siblings. Tammy asked, “Is he dead too?”
“Eww!” She ran back to the house.
Perry swatted down with a portly groan and stuck his arm into the grave. “Come on Oh-Donna. Get outta there before you expire too.”
I grabbed his hand. He yanked me up. I pulled one of those muscles under my arm.
We trudged down the path and I climbed the stairs to the porch. I plopped down into a rocker. The one Momma had sat in. I couldn’t stop crying.
Perry called for the captain to bring the boat around.
It would be more than an hour before it arrived, so I proceeded inside the bungalow. Tammy was sprawled on the sofa, watching a make-over show and eating Tootsie Rolls.
Perry tried to take the bag from her.
She shoved them behind her back. “Get your own. I found these.”
He plodded into the kitchen. I meandered back into Momma’s bedroom. I made her bed. There wasn’t a depression in this one, like in the twenty-year-old one at her house in D.C.. Little Mount Vernon. Well, that one wasn’t there anymore. It burned down.
I saw the cross hanging over the bed. As I turned to leave, I noticed a thick stack of 8” by 11” white papers on the desk. I rushed over and read the top page. It was from Charlatan Press.
Dear M. A. Taurus,
This is brilliant. It hit close to home because I had a similar. We would like to publish this, if you can make extensive revisions. We will only make an offer once the revisions have been made and accepted, there is no guarantee, you understand. Please see the two attached pages of suggestions. I would be delighted to take another look at this if you would like to revise.
Assistant Editor, Charlatan Press
I sighed. I didn’t know what I felt. Jealous that an old man could write what the romance publisher wanted and I couldn’t. Sad that this old man had been writing for eighty years and when he finally gets an editor’s interest, he dies. His stories will never be read. He wrote his whole life for nothing, no one but himself. Is that what I’m doomed for? Me and all my writer friends in cyberspace whom I commiserate with? Poor Mike. He will never be published.
Unless...unless I revise the manuscript for him...