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Lester's Shift

Lester's Shift

By treytac7


Lester Paddock pierced the soil with the blade of the shovel he had used for what had slowly become forever to him. The sky showed signs of light passed the darkness of a night sky, just as the night watcher of the moon would give way to the day watch of the sun, but not yet. It was that in between time. The sky was dark, yet light shined its obvious beauty off into the distances of the east. To the west, darkness remained. Being under a sky like this meant one thing, it was Lester's shift. Digging graves was what he did, and nobody anywhere had dug more than he had. His job was repetitive work under the sky that looked like this every time his shovel hit the dirt. There is just something about being at work that makes it feel like it becomes our life. The only life we live. For some of us, that remains to be true. For most, many times do we look at the clock or watch on our wrist and remember it's only a Tuesday morning and this is our life. That we are simply just always "here", wherever "here" is for us in the workforce. That's what it's always been like for Lester, even now. Once again he was out there in the land of souls that have passed on, digging grave after grave. His shift was unique, not many others have worked it before. But it was work, and work to him felt like it does to the rest of us, like it has become our home. Although for him, it has. Slaving away to the graves much like a construction worker feels like his entire life is carrying a tool belt and a hammer in hand or an athlete on the field yet again. It just always felt like their work had consumed them in every hour and minute of their everyday life, much like Lester felt; he was just always digging a grave. Death demanded the arrival of Jim and Lisa Hutchings who attended the funeral and were finally headed home after a long and emotional weekend that they had spent away in a small Connecticut town. The couple had left on a Thursday and were suppose to stay until Monday morning in the Super 8 motel but an argument bubbled to the surface of the relationship and eventually popped. The fight separated the two and eventually a transportation car pulled up and sent them off. For the second time in less than a year, Lisa had found out about Jim's adultery. Wasn't anyway in heaven or hell, she was going to stay another night with her unfaithful husband. The fight hit its breaking point and the two decided they would go their separate ways. Jim had the final say by the use of his actions, and eventually ended everything between them. Although it was late, well past midnight, and the moon faded behind clouds as a fog drifted across the roads they traveled- they drove off into the night in the silence of the vehicle. Before Lisa had found out about Jim's cheating, the two had spent most of that first night in and out of each other's arms. In- while having sex in the cheap motel room that they were staying in while away. Out- in pretty much every second they had spent together outside of the sheets. They fought most of the time that they were around each other and that late Thursday night was no different after Lisa's discoveries. Even though that curve catching purple dress she was wearing kept his anger at bay, he was still upset in general after his wife had found out he cheated again. Besides, every time he complimented her on the dress she told him he was blind and that it looked and felt like a giant bag over her and that her body did nothing to fill it out. Typical girl. He was also mad at himself for failing his marriage again, but what could he do about it right now? Digging kept your arms busy, but your mind still. Lester had always done a lot of thinking while digging up grave after grave. He often thought about the beginning, how he fell into this job and shift. His grandparents had owned a funeral home in Bristol, Connecticut for years and his parents took over the duties when they had passed on. By the time he was sixteen years old his parents had connections with all of the major local cemeteries, and even a couple private ones that were unknown to the general public. The pay was good and the work was relatively easy on a young adolescent male. While the location of work wasn't ideal (cemeteries), his father helped Lester overcome that mental barrier by telling him his work was simply landscaping. When his father explained his job in that sense he immediately lost any negative thoughts he had about digging a grave. Besides, his father was right - he dug holes for a living, there wasn't anything creepy about a hole unless you were the one laying in it. As long as he was digging them he was okay because that meant he wasn't laying in one, which to anyone's calculations was a fine thing. He didn't always work this shift like he is now. Not back than, not those early years. This new shift of Lester's was something that he was given as a job later on sometime after his late sixties. He wasn't sure exactly when. If you do the same work for so long not even death can erase that fuzziness of a change in shift. Death, Jesus he was around enough of the dead. He didn't mind it though; it was what he was use to and it only made sense for him to continue on with his craft of grave digging. Nobody knew the dirt better than Lester Paddock, nobody. The driver kept his finger's tightly hugging the steering wheel, ignoring the condensation building up from a fog that was growing around the car like a weed. Looking out of the window from the inside of the car it seemed like the car wasn't even moving. The fog had thickened to the point where nothing passed by on the side of the roads but gray cloud. There was absolutely no visibility. The transport car came to the stop as the driver looked into the windshield mirror at the couple in the back and shook his head. The couple, as they had always been outside of the sheets, was apart. Lisa Hutchings was directly behind the driver, and Jim Hutchings across from her as far away as possible. The car remained silent, which was a rare feat, considering how many fights the couple usually had while in the same car together. There was just something about trouble that seemed to bring out the worst in people, no matter how good or bad they may have been at heart. Bad air was bad air, and the couple couldn't ignore the amount of problems that had surfaced in bubble after bubble that Thursday night. Heat, after all, does rise. And as Jim exited the vehicle first he could feel that heat, his mistakes had slowly led him to all of this. He took off his own way in his own bubble into the fog leaving his wife behind in the car. Lisa couldn't watch as her husband disappeared into the dark cloud surrounding that car. Never once would she choose to be around that husband of hers again, things would finally be set right. Still, the fog scared her - and after a short while she too left the car and traveled off into the fog. Lisa felt the chill of her body, maybe from the nerves. The fog blinded her as she drifted through it, listening for a sound that she heard off into the distance. She couldn't tell which way the sound had come from. Where was it coming from, below her or above her, straight ahead or behind her? The fog had consumed her body completely. She was one with the fog, not standing or sitting, but as a part of it, listening to the sound that was coming closer and closer... closer and closer... Lester put the digging spade on the flesh of dirt and kicked down on the flat edges that topped it, slicing the ground a half of a foot down or so. Here he was doing his job- digging another grave under that sky, the only job he has ever known. In many ways he felt lucky to hold this position. While many people have passed on, not many have gotten to dig the grave and send their bodies away to everlasting eternity. Lester did, and has for a long time. A fog stuck around these parts like a web to a spider and gave the graveyard a cliché scarier look. The sky above him was both dark and light still, and the air itself held no temperature. It appeared as if the moon's watch on night had just ended, and the sun's watch was almost ready to start, but not just yet. Those eerie late nights or early morning hours that had become life to Lester had after all this time, became known as his shift. The air was dry and the temperature didn't climb, something Lester was always thankful for that. On his shift, even with his line of work, Lester never worked up a sweat. A few feet away, to the left of the hole he had just dug, he began digging up the next grave before a voice called out to him from behind. "Sir? Hello?" Lester stuck his shovel into the hole of the grave he was currently working on and turned his body around to greet what sounded like a woman. "Hello there Miss. Can I help you with something?" In a trembling voice the lady spoke. "I don't really know, but I hope so. I haven't a clue where I am. My husband and I got into a brutal fight and decided to separate. We took a ride in a long black car and ended up going off into fog. I was lost in this thick fog and I heard the sound of a shovel. The sound drew nearer and nearer and that's when I found you." Lester rested his left hand on the top of the shovel he had stuck in the ground while listening to the woman speak. Lester responded confidently "I see, I see. So you're lost basically is what your saying. Well your asking the right person, the name is Lester. I'm exactly the person you want to ask, the only one actually. You have two choices. You can head east or west." Lester pointed at the sky, showing the darker skies to the west, followed by the eastern skies that showed a light similar to that of an ensuing sunrise. Lester took his hand off the top of the shovel and crossed his arm's while staring at the woman. Something in his facial expression made the woman feel uneasy or even stupid. She needed to get on her way and soon. "I think I'll be on my way now sir, thank you." "Good luck Lisa" After wishing the woman luck, Lester watched her body slowly disappear into the light of a distant fog while headed east. Lester began digging the next grave. Shovel full after shovel full, dirt walls scraped down like a block of meat in a deli store, and another plot was open after Lester hit ground that he couldn't dig any further down at. Another plot dug, "add it to the tally" he thought. If there were a hall of fame for grave digging, Lester would certainly be voted in. Or so he liked to think. Better yet, if there were a hall of fame for landscapers he'd certainly be the number one ranked hole-digger. Too many years had he worked, too many bodies has he seen sent away towards forever... Jim wafted away the fog in front of his face like cobwebs. He wasn't sure how much time had passed since he left his wife behind, but he knew he was lost about as good as he could be. Luckily the tune of metal greeting dirt, stone, and wood caught his attention. The fog kept its cover and showed no signs of diminishing as Jim clawed his way through the air. "Hello?" Lester dug his shovel down into the moist dirt and left it there to rest while turning to greet the lost man and asked, "Jim isn't it?" Jim backed away from Lester in shock that he knew his name, almost falling back into the place he came from. Lester followed with a grin of his lips. "Easy there, your wife was just here some time ago, said she had lost her husband a little while back." "Oh, well that explains you knowing my name." Although Jim's wife had failed to mention his name Lester nodded his head in agreement with the man anyway. He picked up his shovel to gesture he still had work to be done. Assuming again, Jim took notice to this and said, "I see you've got your hand's full with work here, but could you help me find my way?" With his usually answer Lester replies, "Of course, of course. There is only two ways to go - east or west. Yah see?" Lester pointed at the sky just as he had done for the man's wife some time before than. Jim's eyes followed Lester's hand as it swayed from the light skies of the east to the dark skies of the west. Jim stared at each sky and direction for quite some time before looking at Lester. "I get it. I understand... Thanks for the help." Jim drifted off before erasing himself into the dark fog beneath the dark skies of the west where night appeared to still exist. The west gained another soul that night. Jim Hutchings was an unfaithful husband who took his wife's life in a brutal fight that night, before ending his own. Carried (transported) from the long black fog in transition to the after life where Lester Paddock dug his grave up to the new world where you journey off to forever. Whichever forever you deserved. For Jim, his forever started with the never-ending path to darkness into the fog, alone under the dark skies of the west. Lester shook his head before the afterlife-fog in front of him cleared and another grave appeared. He took the shovel in hand and began digging another grave. Lester couldn't help but wonder who would arise from this one. Just as Lester knew Lisa and Jim's name, he saw from this man's stone his name was Frank, but as a person who was he? Whatever he was on earth, he'd choose his way here after Lester finished digging Frank's grave up in the land of souls passed on. Lester, in his own mind, hoped Frank would head east to the light. He never liked seeing anyone head west. How could he? Nobody wished those skies on anyone if they knew what was beyond their world. After work and after life we all will find our way under the split skies of darkness and light, and choose our way. A sky that looks as if the moon's shift had just ended, and the sun's watch was just about to start. Except here the moon and sun didn't exist and that sky didn't change. Here the souls came to accept their forever, here during Lester's shift.

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28 Sep, 2013
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