Stickpin



Rain drizzled on the tent above the casket while mourners huddled around, trying to keep warm. As the priest spoke his final blessing, Lita grabbed a handful of damp dirt and tossed it into the grave. It landed on the wooden casket with a sick thud. She took her sister by the arm. “Come on, Renee.” Lita led Renee away from the handful of mourners bowed in grief.


“Can you believe this turnout? Only four people, not including us.” Renee broke free of Lita’s grasp and lit a cigarette.


Lita shrugged and rolled the cuff of her sweater.


“Doesn’t matter, I guess. Why would anyone care if they’re gone?”


Lita rolled her eyes. “Always with the drama.”


“Not true.”


Lita dug her toe into the wet grass. “Rosa will miss him.”


Renee snorted. “Yeah.” She watched as a tearful Rosa threw a handful of dirt into the grave.  “Doesn’t surprise me.”


Lita and Renee watched from a distance as one by one the mourners drifted away from the grave and the gravediggers shoveled dirt onto the casket. Lita turned to Renee. “I can’t believe he’s gone.” She took one last look towards her father’s grave. “And I’m not sorry.”



*



“I, Francis J. Moody, being of sound mind and body, bequeath Ms. Rosa Martinez $50,000 for her loyalty and friendship throughout the years. As for the rest of my estate, including the house and land, I request it liquidated and all proceeds from its sale, including all monies in trusts and bank accounts, be merged and given to the charity of my daughter, Lita’s, choice.”


“What?” Lita shook her head, staring blankly at her father’s long-time lawyer, Jackson Bean.


“I’m sorry. He left nothing to either of you.”


Lita’s eyes moved to Renee. Renee nodded and spoke up.


“Can’t we fight this?”


Mr. Bean sat back in Francis J. Moody’s executive desk chair behind the antique walnut desk and steepled his hands against his lips. “Sure, but it will be a lengthy process that probably won’t give you the outcome you desire. Francis was clear and level-headed right up to the end. But you can try.” Mr. Bean stood up and handed a check to Rosa Martinez, who sat at the back of the room.


Lita sighed and stood, offering her hand to the lawyer. “Thank you for your time and service. We’ll be in touch.”


Mr. Bean took Lita’s hand. “I know how much of a shock this is for you. Try to remember, though, that your father did what he thought was best for you and your sister.”


Lita nodded, eyes downcast in what she hoped looked like grief. “Thank you.”


Mr. Bean patted her on the shoulder and showed himself out. Rosa Martinez followed him.


“This is bullshit!” The sound of Renee’s voice reverberated throughout the room.


Lita waved her hand as if to shoo a mosquito away. “Shut up. I have an idea.”



*



Lita and Renee, shovels in hand, made their way through the twisting path of tombstones to the north corner of the cemetery. The rain had dwindled to a mist, making their walk that much more miserable. Renee visibly shivered and Lita’s toes were numb.


“Should we be doing this?” Renee’s voice shook.


“You want your piece, don’t you?” Lita snapped.


“Well, yeah." Renee stopped walking.


Lita sighed and turned toward her sister. "What's your problem?"


Renee shrugged. "Nothing."


"Then what is it?" An exasperated Lita threw up her hands.


Renee was quiet for a moment.  She looked Renee in the eye. "What if he’s not dead?”


Lita didn't respond immediately. She shivered. “Don’t be stupid.”


Lita started walking and Renee had no choice but to follow her.


*


When they reached Francis J. Moody’s grave, Renee dropped her shovel and sat down hard on the ground, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Lita noticed that her sister didn’t look at the grave. She knew Renee was superstitious; their mother had instilled that in them. Despite this, what Renee said on the walk ran through Lita’s mind like a mantra, What if he’s not dead?


Fear gnawed at the corners of Lita’s mind. She shook it off as best she could. They were here to do a job, nothing more. The old man was dead; She had made sure of that. Lita stared at her father’s tombstone, remembering the good times. Then she remembered the falling out they had, his frugality, and her selfishness. “Fuck it.” She muttered as she dug.


Lita did most of the digging as Renee complained. Hours later, they had the casket unearthed and the two of them stared at it. They had reservations, but Lita was the one who shook with fear. She couldn’t put her finger on exactly why, but it terrified her.


The rain turned from a light misty drizzle to a downpour. Lita tried to keep the water out of her eyes with her hands but only smeared her face with mud as she and Renee attempted to pry the casket lid open. The casket lid inched open as the rain increased. Lita heard the corpse moan. “What the fuck?”


“What?” Renee was agitated from the weather and hard work.


“He made a noise.” Lita pointed to their father.


“No way.” Renee finished opening the casket lid.


“I swear.”


“It’s the wind, Lita. Now who’s being stupid?”


In the moonlight, Lita saw her father’s diamond stickpin glitter. That stickpin alone was worth a fortune, not to mention the other valuables with which the old man requested he be buried. Francis J. Moody’s corpse held nearly $1 million in jewelry. “Bingo. This is mine.” Renee reached for the diamond stickpin first.


As she did, Francis J. Moody’s tombstone became dislodged because of sliding mud and fell forward, knocking Renee in the head before she could wrap her fingers around the stickpin. She fell unconscious next to the casket.


“Renee!” Lita tried to revive her sister.


Lita was alone with the corpse of her father. She took a minute to think about how to get Renee out of the grave as the rain beat down on them. As the rain increased, the sides of the grave became a muddy mess. Lita knew she couldn’t stay much longer. Time was becoming her enemy.


“I can’t do this by myself!” Lita was becoming frazzled.


The rain kept coming, sweeping the dirt and mud they had dug out back into the grave. “Fuck!” Lita stuffed her pockets with as much jewelry as they could hold.


What if he’s not dead?


“Fuck! Renee!” Lita slapped her sister. Renee remained unconscious.


What if he’s not dead?


“Shut up!” Lita couldn’t take it anymore. “I’ll come back for you!” She called to her unconscious sister through the howling wind and beating rain. Before Lita began crawling up the sides of the grave, she grabbed the diamond stickpin.


Lita gained a strong foothold and hauled herself up. Her body moved halfway before something pulled on the back of her shirt. “Fuck!”


Lita tried to free herself, but the more she twisted and struggled, the stronger the hold on her seemed to get.


What if he’s not dead?


Lita’s heart dropped into her stomach. She felt the blood drain from her face. She shook so badly she almost lost her grip on the vine she clung to.


Turn around! He’s got you!


“Let go!” Lita screamed hysterically. She struggled to free herself, but whatever was holding her felt like it was trying to pull her back into the grave, further towards her father’s corpse.


He’s not dead!



The last thing Lita saw was the grinning corpse of her father

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