Da saw dead babies in the soil, blood in the mud.

"That's clay," I said.

"You see what you see," he said, and kept digging.

Irish Catholic, Da. Ten, twelve, fourteen, we lost count. Lots of babies. Most of 'em alive. Mum probably knew the count, but she was too tired to tell us. And Da dug graves for the wealthy.

Spit on him, once, one of 'em did. Da, built like a Checker cab about as tall, his shoulders a back seat. Da could've killed him, but he stood and let it run down and off his nose, to fall in the red clay baby blood.

"Lost his child," Da said, as if that explained it, and set back to digging.

I nipped at Da's thermos, coffee and whisky, mostly whisky. "Pompous ass," I said, all thirteen years of me. Da cuffed me, and said again, "Lost his child."

Weepy, rich, and father of one lost child. Disheveled. What's he know of grief, I thought. One lost child is nothing. One lost child isn't enough to turn the clay red in a heavy rain.

But he sobbed and apologized and took a sip of the proffered thermos and tried ineffectively to dab the spittle from Da's nose with a rumpled cravat, and Da said, "Nothing, it's nothing," translated to the grieving fop's ears as the ropey snot of saliva forgiven.

But one lost child is nothing.




Nothing - Flash Fiction by Dave Clapper



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