Beyond the Grave Rubbings: a Short Story

“Michael! The cemetery closes in an hour! Let’s go!” My brother trotted down the stairs, climbed over some moving boxes that still needed to be emptied, and picked up his grave rubbing material. I tossed him his jacket, and we set out for the nearby cemetery. The two of us signed up for an art class together at our new school, and our new teacher said he’ll give us extra credit for our grave rubbings. He sees grave rubbing the same way we do: it’s important to keep alive the memory of the dead.
We just moved to a new city in Vermont, and we can see the cemetery from our house. We reached the gate in minutes and took a moment to fully grasp our surroundings. Michael turned to me and commanded, “Alright, Lisa. Since we’re new here, I’m going to go through the left side of the cemetery and you’re going to go through the right. We’ll take a look at some of the good ones and pick one really good one to do rubbings on. When we come back tomorrow, we can look around more thoroughly. Sound good?” I nodded my head in agreement. “Good. Let’s meet back here in forty-five minutes,” he concluded and began to stroll down the path on the left side of the cemetery.
I examined each headstone quickly and carefully as I passed them. Some of them were very new and sturdy and modern. Others were old and would probably crumble at the slightest touch. Lots of stones marked the eternal resting spots of people who lived long, happy lives. A few sat above the caskets of children who didn’t even live a full week. Every now and then, I came across one that was so beautiful and captivating that I wanted to do multiple rubbings of it and frame it in my room. But I had to restrain myself because I only had materials for one rubbing and there was a special grave I wanted to find.
I continued exploring until I glanced at my watch and realized I had fifteen minutes before I had to meet Michael back at the entrance, and I still hadn’t found the grave I wanted to find. I walked on, not completely sure where I was. I realized I would have gotten lost if I continued walking down the path, so I turned around and started to follow the path back to the gate. I would have to find the grave I was looking for tomorrow. It took me thirty minutes to wander down the path, so Michael was probably waiting at the gate for me. It took me twenty minutes to return to the front gate, but when I arrived, Michael was nowhere to be seen.
Okay, I thought, he probably just went a little far and lost track of time like me. I might as well wait here for a while. I stood at the front gate for ten minutes, and still no Michael. I called his name, but the only thing I heard in return was several birds chirping and the distant echo of my own voice. The time was now fifteen minutes past the time he said we should meet back at the gate, and I was getting worried. I found myself with no other choice but to try to find him myself. I set off down the path on the left, making sure to keeps my eyes peeled for my brother.
I found him sitting in front of a grave, motionless and silent, with a finished rubbing next to him.
“Hey, Michael. We gotta get going.” He didn’t move. “Let’s go. You already got a great rubbing of…Dad,” I said as I looked down and realized what grave Michael had rubbed.
The real reason we moved all the way to Vermont from Oregon was because we wanted to go back to Dad’s hometown. He lived in Websterville his whole life until Michael and I were born. After that, we moved to Portland where Michael and I grew up. We lived in a good house in a good neighbourhood and went to a good school. But everything took a creative turn when Dad died of osteosarcoma a month ago. He wanted to be buried in the town he grew up in, and Mom wanted us to stay here.
So here we are. Mom working late and Michael and I at the cemetery, standing at our father’s grave. I, of course, was feeling the same pain Michael was, but I still said to him, “Come on, Michael. We have to get going. Mom is probably waiting for us.”
“Mom doesn’t get home ’til eleven,” he retorted. It was evident from his voice that he’d been crying.
“Whether Mom is back or not, we still need to go home. We have school in the morning.”
“I don’t want to go to some new school. I want to stay with Dad.”
“Michael, the cemetery is closing now. We don’t have a choice.” Michael reluctantly stood up, grabbed his finished rubbing, and began to follow me toward the main gate.
We walked back home in silence. There was no point in talking, because we both knew there was nothing to say. As we stepped through the door, we exchanged “good nights” and went our separate ways to go to bed. Once I got into my room, I changed into my pajamas and slipped under my covers. I tried to calm down my thoughts so I could fall asleep, but all I could think about was Dad. I thought about how he used to meet Michael and me in the driveway when we came home from school. We tried to get him to stop when we neared the end of middle school, but he never stopped meeting us because he knew it secretly made us happy. I thought about how he used to rent movies for us every Friday night. Sometimes we wouldn’t even pay attention, but he still, without fail, got us a movie to watch together every Friday night. The melancholy memories kept flooding my mind, and I cried myself to sleep.
I woke up the next morning with tears crusted on my cheeks. I dragged myself to the bathroom to wash my face off. While I was in there, I took a shower and brushed my hair. I looked in the mirror one last time before bounding down the stairs to help Michael make breakfast. I approached the kitchen door where I saw Michael standing right outside it with his ear pressed against the wooden door.
“There’s someone in there,” he whispered.
“Is it Mom?” I suggested in my normal tone.
“No. it’s way too early for her to be up.”
“Well, you’re not doing much by sitting there looking scared. Let’s find out what’s going on in there.” I opened to door to see a man’s figure standing over the stove, looking down at whatever he was frying in a pan. His hair was dark and on the longish side. He wore a blue button down shirt, neatly pressed. A gold band identical to the one Mom took off and locked away last week hugged his left ring finger. The most noticeable feature about him was the fact that he gave off a bluish glow.
In unison, Michael and I exclaimed, “Dad?!” The man, who certainly was our dad, looked up to reveal a ghostly face that looked rotted and mutilated. In a low, demonic growl, he said to us, “Hey kids! Want some breakfast?”