Joe Billy jumps off the back hoe. "Y'all get back, now," he says, "Ain't no telling what we might find down there."
The sheriff waves his hands in the air. “Y’all heard what he said, now get back!”
A rope encircles a grave site where a huge crowd has gathered, some pushing against it, others attempting to sneak around it. All eyes are focused on three men inside the cordoned-off area.
Inside the circle, Ronald Lloyd sidles over to Joe Billy. "This ain't right; it just ain't right," he whispers, "That boy’s been dead close to fifty years, and he should be left in peace."
“Well, what can you do?” Joe Billy says, “His wife wants him dug up.”
“She wants him checked out to see if he died from one of them cancers caused by chemicals he was around when he worked at Union Carbide.”
“She thinks she might be eligible for some of that money the government’s givin' to families of Carbide workers who got sick and died from it.”
“How they gonna tell? Won’t be nothin’ but bones.”
“DNA, I guess. They can tell all kinds of things from DNA. Don’t you ever watch Forensic Files?”
“Hell, no! I got a good mind to get out of this place. It’s freakin' me out.”
The coroner pulls a handkerchief from his back pocket. “Now calm down, boys.” he says, wiping the handkerchief back and forth across his mouth and stuffing it in his back pocket, "This is our job.”
A hush descends over the crowd as he ambles toward the grave, Ronald Lloyd and Joe Billy close behind. He hesitates, takes a deep breath, and looks into the six-foot hole.
"Alright, June Bug," he says, "Open her up.”
Perspiration drips from June Bug’s nose. “Don’t look like it’ll be hard to open,” he says, “There ain’t no vault, and the casket’s not in good shape.”
The three men stand at the edge of the grave, looking down at June Bug as he jerks and pulls at the casket with a crow bar, cursing every now and then. Finally, there is a loud thump and the top pops off.
Ronald Lloyd shutters and jumps back. “I'm feelin' kinda sick.”
The coroner and Joe Billy kneel and cock their heads.
“There ain’t nothin’ in there,” Joe Billy says.
“Wait a minute," the coroner says, "What’s that down there at the far end, June Bug?”
June Bug pulls his gloves on and gingerly picks up two pieces of cloth. “Hell’s bells!” he says, “What tha…?”
The coroner stands and places his hands on his hips. “Well, I’ll be damned! After all this time!”
The crowd murmurs louder, pushing against the rope. “Hey!” one man yells, “What did y’all find down there?”
“Socks,” says the coroner, “Nylon socks.”
“Yep, that’s all there is.”
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley