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by Liam Sweeny

The sun was dripping down the canvas of the pale sky, dragging dusk through the gnarled fingers of the row of dead poplars lining the hedge past the field. Roy’s rough hands were stinging from splinters in the shovel handle. Carl pitched a pile of dirt in the jagged pit and spit in it. He lodged the blade in the pile and leaned his forearm on the grip. He pulled a rag out and wiped his brow, flicked a pack of Pall Malls from his shirt pocket. Roy followed suit and they shared the smoke, and the moment.

“Sure am appreciative of you coming out like this,” Carl said. “Couldn’t think of no one different.”

Roy looked into the pit. “Doubt anyone else would understand it anyhow.” He took a drag and passed the cigarette. “She know?”

“She will,” Carl coughed, grunted as he got back up. Roy finished smoking and flicked the cherry into the pit.

They worked themselves into a rhythm, Roy’s shovelfuls following Carl’s. They heard the rise and fall of the train’s whistle as it slowed near Route 146. Everything was just sound out in that field, just one of the many small clearings captive to the web of dense growth, the nearest road a quarter mile out.

“She been to Doc Quay yet?”

Carl twisted his shovel in the dwindling pile. “Yeah. They took that little picture. Bonnie tried to show me the head, body and all, but it all just looked like blobs. Like makin’ shapes outta clouds to me. Says the baby’s fine though.”

“The push down the stairs … nothin’ bad from that?”

“Apparently not,” Carl said. “Small miracles, right?”

By the time it was getting hard to see, the hole was filled, overfilled, even, and Roy and Carl were stomping down the bump of dirt. No use drawing attention to it if one of the local boys came in to jack deer. They stepped back, and the fireflies were casting as much light as the sky.

“You think he’ll be missed?” Roy said.

“He ain’t got no ties outside of the one in Bonnie. Sheriff will just say he blew town. He won’t waste a form. They gotta pay for those.”

“Don’t suppose he will.” Roy pulled out his pack of American Pride’s and lit one up. He reached in the sack they brought and pulled out a flask filled with Old Crow. He spun the cap and rinsed his throat before passing it to Carl.

“I won’t do it again, Carl,” he said. “This, you know? You been a life-saver many a time, but this.” He raked the shovel over the dirt to scratch away boot prints. “We’re square with this.”

“I know, Roy.” Carl sipped Old Crow and checked his watch. “And I want you to know I ain’t do it for Bonnie.”

“Then what for?”

Carl passed the flask back and dug in his pocket. He pulled out the slip of paper, Bonnie’s ultrasound.

“For small miracles,” he said.

Liam Sweeny is a crime, noir and mystery writer from upstate New York. His work has appeared in such publications as Thuglit, All Due Respect, Spinetingler Magazine, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey and others. A collection of his short works, Dead Man’s Switch, was released in January 2015.