Story by B.J.
Hollars • Photo by Pedro Libório
The first time we did it, we
thought we were being good. When you come upon a dead goose by
the side of the road, something inside whispers, "Bury it," and so we
did. It seemed funny to us, to see this dead goose, and the way
its neck was twisted and flat, the tire marks still fresh. The
black beak was perfect and so were the eyes. But it was only the
neck that mattered.
Hazel and I were being good, and that's why we took her father's shovel
and buried it. We didn't want to touch the thing so we placed a
garbage bag on the ground and then used sticks to roll the body onto
the bag. And then we dragged.
The hole wasn't very deep and there wasn't really any kind of service
for it. We just did it because it felt good to put it
underground, and we liked the way our hearts beat when we knew that we
were the last people ever to see it.
We put the shovel back and then we went back to our houses and went to
bed. But it didn't stop there.
The dog was nearly dead anyway. That's what we told each
other. It was the next day, and our eyelids were sulking and
dragging as we tried to keep them open. Neither of us had slept
the night before. We couldn't stop imagining the goose. We just
kept thinking of the image of the goose springing back to life and
twisting and turning, only to find the weight of the dirt too
heavy. That when he tried to breathe, nothing went down but dirt.
Hazel and I were treading water in the middle of the pond when she told
me about the visions. "I just kept thinking of that neck, and
that way it would probably inflate and all when he started to breathe
again. You know, after we buried him and made it good
again." I tried to explain to her that this wasn't how it
worked. That geese were not like seeds and they did not grow when
buried three feet deep. But she wouldn't hear it. We
changed the subject and talked about grizzly bears instead. And
what if we were just treading water when all of the sudden a grizzly
soared from the bottom of the pond and dug claws into our legs like
"That's not how it happens," I told her. But she didn't hear.
This is what you should probably know about the dog. He was
practically dead when we found him. Lying down with his head in
his paws, the spotted, mangy thing whimpered and didn't roll over when
we came to pet him. We knew this dog, and had been passing it for
as long as we could remember. He belonged to no one and only
sometimes did we stop to feed it. His breath was heavy and he
snorted through his nose like he couldn't stand the burning
sunlight. Hazel dared me to hit it with the rock and I said fine,
but only if she double-dog-dared me. So she did. And I
watched the way the words fell from her mouth. The way she
questioned me. And then, while that stupid mangy dog closed its
eyes and shivered under the sunlight, I picked up the rock with both
hands and held it right above his head and waited.
"You won't ever do it," Hazel said and started to walk away from me
like she could read the future. But then I did it. The
skull cracked and the dog didn't move. His body didn't go rigid
or anything like that. He just sort of sulked. Hazel didn't
turn around but I could tell she was smiling.
"I'll get my father's shovel."
So we buried the dog in a hole next to where we had buried the
goose. This hole was bigger, but it wasn't big enough and we had
to twist his hind legs and put them near his nose so he would
fit. Hazel said she wanted to be the one to put the dirt on top,
which seemed fair to me because I had been the one to dig the
hole. Little by little, the coddled dirt began to fill in the
empty spaces and soon the fur was gone and all we could see was what
resembled soft ground. And then the world returned to flatness,
and Hazel grabbed a big rock and put it on top of the grave so we'd
never forget what we had done.
"I'm not sure why this feels so good," she whispered to me,
guilty. I shrugged, wiped the sweat from my brow and coughed up a
"Dead things always want to be buried," I told her.
That's when we started to get dangerous. That's when she told me
to bury her. "Just do it, please," she begged.
"Please. And then I'll do you next."
We knew that this one wouldn't be so simple, and we took a cardboard
box and taped up the sides real well. She stuck herself inside
and said it was a tight squeeze but that it would do. "You sure
about this?" I asked, but she nodded with crazy eyes and said, "Yes,
We took turns digging. It was warm October and the orange glow of
the setting sun made everything feel like jack-o-lanterns. Crops
were in and the farmhouses all around us felt like ghost towns.
They had no use any more. They were just empty spaces.
Once the hole was big enough we put the box inside and then Hazel
slipped inside the box.
"Bury me," she whispered. "Real deep. So I can't see any
light or anything." I did it because we were friends and she had
asked me to. Later, after the box broke and the dirt caved and
she drowned and died right beside the goose and the dog, I wouldn't
tell the sheriff what had killed her. That I had. And I
didn't tell him where she was buried.
The hole was covered and I yelled down to her and asked if she was okay
and she said, "Leave me for awhile," and so I did. I walked
around the woods and then came back an hour later, just as the final
ebbs of light began to dim, and that's when I saw what had
happened. Dirt caved in, only half filling the hole, but it was
enough to cover her mouth and nose.
I told myself that this was okay. That this was just fine.
That she was practically dead anyway. That she had been asking
for it. But it wasn't until years later that I began to
understand it. That she hadn't been the one to ask at all.
At the funeral, they buried an empty casket, and as her father took the
shovel and began to cover up the box, I did another good thing. I
didn't even ask to help. I held back. I restrained.
They put a gravestone over the empty shell and cried like it was
really her. I cried too, though the whole time, I was only
thinking about that goose. And the way its neck looked, all
crooked and backwards, as if trying to stare at the car that had killed
it without question.