The Gravekeeper, Saint Louis Cemetery No. 2

His partner, Miguel, had already finished sweeping off all sides of the last tomb of the day. He brushed the collected trash pile toward a grate with a push broom while the radio played from the open door of their truck, the music barely loud enough to counteract the waves of traffic noise overflowing the elevated interstate just past the brick walls of the cemetery.

He took up his hose and could feel the pressure of the full blast pushing back off of the marble, across the granite faceplate, the cold water finding the names half-inch deep in the granite and rinsing them out. These were the names of ancestors of the people who paid his contract.

Benoit. Fortier. Villere. LeBlanc.

It was almost full-time work, lifting beer cans off of graves, pint bottles in brown paper shrouds. They cleared the evidence of a shared meal close to one of his graves. Sometimes he battered shit into oblivion with his hose, rolling hardened turds end over end into open grass then blasting them apart. The hose was his tool, the water worked in fine points and broad strokes as needed.

After twisting it off, the nozzle hit the ground with a tiny clink. Mist fell illuminated on his forearms, on the stone urns, on Miguel’s work boots. He hitched his pants up by the belt loops at his sides then made it back around the corner down to collect the hose. He turned the faucet off and felt the last surge of water overrun the fitting and chill his fingers, which he then stroked a ritualistic curve over and behind each ear, bringing coolness to his head.

He gathered the first couple lengths into a hoop, walked forward a few steps, then yanked again, accumulating enough slack to draw two more. There wasn’t an efficiency to this method, but it couldn’t strictly be called dawdling either. If he’d had a supervisor they might grunt but not correct him, but there was no supervisor, and all the tourists were trying to edge him out of the frames of their photos anyway. He wasn’t permanent enough to warrant recordkeeping.

Water trickled into the old, old grates, gathering in drainpipes or soaking into the earth too moist and too soft to sink graves into, the ground said to spit out caskets.

He threw the gathered hose over the side of the truck bed. Rakes and brooms clattered in afterward, white rags balled and tossed into the tool chest, its heavy metal lid clamping down.

He got in the truck and reclined the passenger seat all the way back, crossing his arms over his chest, and as they slowly rolled down a wide lane between two rows of graves toward the gate, the casual visitors peered into the cab at him. He caught their eyes, but his face was expressionless, at rest until further notice: it’s the end of the day, motherfuckers. You wouldn't see him sit up again until Miguel came back out from the convenience store, ripped a cold can off its plastic ring, and laid it in the crook of his arm.

“Salud.”

“Ye-ah buddy.”