Fiction — March 3, 2014 11:15 — 0 Comments


The first time she done it was to bury her daddy.  There may have been other ways to go about it, but Rhonda McCloster didn’t have the means or, more importantly, the wherewithal.  Old Joe Byrum wouldn’t put her daddy in a box or in the ground unless she paid up first, as nobody in her family line had ever done a lick towards stringing two pennies together.  Byrum didn’t fancy Rhonda to be the first.

The bank didn’t help either.  Her daddy mortgaged everything a time or two more than necessary and, with him gone, it wouldn’t be long before she was out on her ear.  She asked friends, or what passed for friends, but didn’t have none who would or could lend her what she needed to bury him proper.  Only one man in town had that kind of money and would bother with the likes of her.  She packed up what she had and headed out to Bubba Greene’s.

Bubba owned Club 809.  It got its name because the only way to get to it was to head way up highway 809 out of town.  Before, there wasn’t much chance at a drink on account of the county being dry since Prohibition.  But Bubba knew how to nurse a need and that’s what Rhonda counted on.

He was a big fella.  Not in size or stature, but rough, well-built.  He had the hands and arms of a man carved out by hard times, even though those days were long in the rearview.  But he had a soft spot for a woman in need.  His business wouldn’t be what it was if not for women in need.

“I’m real sorry to hear about your daddy,” he said.  He let her into the club, nothing more than a converted doublewide trailer hidden down a dirt road.  To see it in daytime felt foreign, awkward.  As if looking at a landscape with one eye instead of two.  “Brutal was something else and I’m going to miss him.”

“Thank you, Mister Greene,” she said.

“Bubba,” he said.  “Everybody calls me Bubba.”

“I don’t have enough money to bury my daddy,” she said.  A jukebox’s lights whirled and rotated and she ignored it’s pleas to be played.  “And I got to do it right away, it seems.”

“They won’t let you run it on a credit?”

“No sir,” she said.  “They said they won’t loan no McCloster money no more.  They don’t care that I’m the last one, it seems.”

“So you got no other family?”  His eyes, despite his reputation and occupation, had a soft kindness set against his face, weathered and cracked.  He put a hand to her knee.  “No boyfriend?”

She shook her head.  “No sir.  I ain’t got nobody.”

“Well I reckon we can work something out,” said Bubba Greene.  He rubbed his hand up and down her knee, then removed it.  “For Brutal.”

Rhonda pinned a picture of her daddy to the corner of the mirror in her dressing room, underneath the lights.  It once had been a bedroom in the doublewide, but now the girls slipped into their skivvies and put on makeup and did all sorts of things to get ready to dance.  Some nights were harder than others but when she stepped into the back, the first thing she laid eyes on was her daddy and that made things all the better.

The day they put him in the ground, Bubba stood at her side.  Only other folks before that hole was the preacherman and two ladies from the church.  Rhonda wore a black skirt she borrowed from one of the girls at the club.  She was most grateful for the sunglasses.

One of the women from the church looked at them and didn’t look away.

“That’s a mighty fine box you picked out,” said Bubba.

“You picked it,” she said.  “The one I picked wasn’t so fancy.”

“A man like Brutal lived frugal enough in this world,” Bubba explained.  “It’s good of us to send him out with a touch of class and style.”

Rhonda wanted to remind him it was her paying for the box and not him.  Such was things in the burial business.  You pay for the box, the hole, and the preacherman.  Folks like the McClosters reckoned themselves just fine dug into the side of a creekbed somewhere, but a mess of laws prevented people from doing just that.  You paid for those laws as well.  Rhonda figured all of life was a racket, why not death?

The preacher finished his business and went on his way, taking with him the two ladies.  Bubba stayed a while, then gave her a nudge.

“You see them men on the ridge there?”  He pointed to a pair of Mexicans with shovels.  “They’re going to want us to be on our way.  They got work to tend after.”

“Tell them they can tend after it, for all I care.”

“They prefer to work when nobody’s looking.”

“Wouldn’t we all?”

Bubba smiled.  Normally folks didn’t offer him much sass.  He put a hand to her back and rubbed it softly, then stepped over to the ridge to have a word with the Mexicans.  She saw him give them some money and wondered  if she’d be working that off as well.  After a bit, he rejoined her at the hole.

“They’ll come back in an hour,” he said.  “Stay as long as you like, but come four o’clock, they’re filling in that hole whether you’re here or not.”

“I understand,” she said.

“Good,” he said.  “Because you got to be at the club by five.”

She reckoned she do it many more times in life.  She reckoned she’d have her share , perhaps more than most  After that night, she reckoned the reasons she’d see to it would span well beyond her own comprehension.  But that first time, she done it to bury her daddy.

After that, it would be for something altogether different.


Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC with his wife Lana and cat Busey.  His short film FOODIE won several awards at film festivals across the US.  His fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Speculative Edge and Pantheon Magazine, to name a few.  In 2013, he was a finalist for Best Short Fiction in Short Story America. His first novel Dirtbags will be published in the Spring of 2014. A full list of credits can be found at

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney