|GRAVEYARD WATER by Rick McQuiston|
Feeling much older than his 44 years, Harry Valente shifted in his chair. The bout of flu he was getting over, which kept him in the house for the better part of a week, was finally releasing its hold on him, and he found himself anxious to get back to work.
He glanced down at the remains of his breakfast. Yellow and white residue from scrambled eggs and crumbs of toast littered the surface of the plastic dish, and just the thought of having to clean it before he went to work left him cold.
Tossing his fork onto the plate, Harry grabbed his wallet and keys, and left for work.
Five minutes later Harry felt something. It was small, almost indiscernible, but was cause for alarm nonetheless. He rolled his car to a stop on the side of the road, and with one hand reached down between his legs to feel the seat cushion.
It was wet.
Harry unclipped his seatbelt, opened the door, and jumped out of his car. He felt the cool breeze on his rear end as he frantically tried to wrap his head around what was happening.
Gas? Is there a leak in the car?
This possibility raced across his puzzled mind (along with imagined dollar signs with wings) and prompted him to fall the ground to see if there was a problem with his car.
To his relief he saw nothing wrong. There were no puddles of gasoline, oil, anti-freeze, or brake fluid. Nothing.
He craned his neck to see us far into the undercarriage as he could, focusing mainly on the area beneath the driver’s seat, but still saw nothing.
Feeling his pants again to reaffirm that he wasn’t imagining it, Harry felt the wetness on his fingers.
And then a voice, distant and yet coherent, filtered into his already frazzled mind.
It’s leaking. It’s starting the leak.
I’m getting wet. It’s leaking.
He stepped back into his car, hoping that immersing himself in his job would help clear his mind of the voice, but something else about it that disturbed him almost as much as the voice itself: it was somehow familiar to him. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he recognized something in the voice.
It’s not holding. It’s leaking.
The sensation was undeniable. He felt wet across his back. He flung his arm across his shoulders and was horrified to feel his shirt.
The words died in his throat when he felt the rest of the shirt. It was as wet as his shoulder. It made no sense. It was as if he were… leaking?
Harry slammed the car into gear and pulled back onto the road. He didn’t notice the other car speeding down the street until it was too late. He felt a sudden rush of wind as the other car passed straight through him as if he wasn’t there at all.
Still clutching the steering wheel, he opened his eyes in time to see the other car speed down the street, undamaged.
The familiar voice rang in his ears. He knew then whose voice it was. He knew all too well.
He thought of driving home but decided not to. He didn’t want to see what a mess his house had become. It had been nearly a week since anyone had lived there and there would be no telling what condition it would be in.
“Did you figure out the problem with the pump?” Jocko asked. A two-inch long Winston dangled from one side of his oversized mouth.
His co-worker at the cemetery, Tomas, a gangly Italian man who weighed approximately one half what Jocko did, finished priming the chamber of the pump and deftly screwed the cap back on.
“Impeller blade was stuck, that’s all. She should work now.” He pulled the starter cord and the motor rumbled to life, quickly filling the suction and discharge hoses with dirty water. “There we go, that’s a good girl.”
Jocko helped Tomas out of the shallow hole they’d dug. “The plumber is inside already. He’s patching up the crack in the pipe. Says the flooding should stop after the glue dries, maybe an hour or two.”
Tomas grunted. “I just hope some of these people nearby aren’t getting wet. That could be a problem.”
Jocko took one last hit of his cigarette and flipped it onto the sodden grass. “Yeah, I know.” He glanced around and gestured at a freshly dug grave. “But it looks like only this one, Mr. Harry Valente, might have some damage.”
Tomas nodded. “Well, if we gotta dig him back up at least he’ll be fresh. He’s been there less than a week.”
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