A short story, nothing to do with ancient Rome, but free, so who’s complaining?
(Warning: I’ve just had this rejected for being too violent….)
Once he was dead, she almost didn’t want to bury him: but she had planned very thoroughly and was pleased with the way it had gone, although, of course, there were things she had not foreseen. The garden shovel, for example: she had planned on two strokes, the first to knock him out and the second to make sure, but she had been a little too enthusiastic. The shovel had stuck in his head, and she had had to struggle for a long few seconds to pull it free. Should she brace herself with one foot against his shoulder? She had laughed at the thought of the picture that would have presented to anyone passing by. Fortunately, the shovel had suddenly popped free with the strangest sound – a squelching noise brought short by a crack as the metal caught the edge of a piece of skull. Already he was much more interesting than he had been when alive.
The plan had always been to put him in the freezer at first while she dug the trench, and she was very proud of the makeshift pulley system that she had rigged up in the utility room to lift his body and gently push it into the icy chest. She had been emptying the freezer over the last two months to make room, for she did not want to waste any food by throwing it away, and even she could not stomach the thought of eating food that had been with him in the freezer. She lowered the lid and suddenly the house seemed light and empty and more cheerful than she could remember.
Next, she mopped up the blood – just about the amount of blood she had expected – and double bagged every scrap of newspaper and kitchen roll. She had made sure to buy those industrial strength garden rubbish bags, because although the bins were emptied first thing in the morning, she did not want to risk attracting flies until the bag had been safely dumped in the nearest landfill. After trudging down the track with the rubbish, she filled the black bin at the side of a silent and empty road: back in the house, she mopped the floor thoroughly, tipped the dirty water down the drain with a bottle of bleach for good measure, and made a well-deserved cup of tea.
Over the next few days, she dug a deep trench in the back garden, right in the middle of his lawn. She didn’t feel the need to go six feet down, but managed a decent depth, enough for his body and the rose bushes she had ordered from the garden centre. She knew that the ground would gradually settle over time as he decayed, but not too much surely and if it became noticeable, she would just have to think of something – maybe if she patiently laid down more layers of earth week by week that would do the trick. It would be interesting to see, she thought cheerfully.
When the time came to move him, she checked that her washing-line pulley was still knotted firmly to the loft ladder mechanism, and that the wheelbarrow was carefully placed right next to the freezer. She was expecting to get on with this briskly and efficiently, merely the next task in a long list of tasks, and was totally unprepared for the sight of his frozen body, every crease and hair delicately outlined in tiny frills of ice. For the first time ever she found him beautiful, and she hung over the freezer, blurring his outlines with her foggy breath. But after a while, she sternly told herself to make a start on this, the most physically demanding part of the process. She had to be careful: she wasn’t sure that she actually believed that he would smash into thousands of little pieces if she was careless and let him drop, but she didn’t want to find out. He lay awkwardly across the wheelbarrow, of course, and she carefully tied him to the handles: all she had to do was get him down two shallow steps outside the back door and then she was on the lawn, which was easy. The night was as still as she had ever known it, with a smudge of orange down the valley the only sign of human habitation.
To her surprise, all she had to do was to tip the wheelbarrow gently and he fell neatly straight into the trench, almost as if he had climbed down and carefully laid himself down along the bottom. She had been prepared for awkwardness, of having to spend time manoeuvring an unwieldy deadweight, but perhaps she was being unfair on his body, expecting it to be as useless and irritating as he had been in life. She felt no qualms at all as she tipped earth over him. She was merely getting the trench ready for the roses.
On the next morning she drove ten miles to the garden centre and picked up the five rose bushes, along with a bag of manure which the man said she should put in the bottom of the hole before planting the roses. She didn’t say that she thought that the plants would have quite sufficient nutrients, and the thought of spreading a layer of manure on top of him amused her. She measured the depth of the trench with her eyes and again felt a ridiculous pride in her achievement – it was perfect, about two feet deep, so neat, and set right in the middle of the lawn. She couldn’t wait to see the finished rose-bed, the first time he had ever given her flowers.
As spring turned into summer, she waited and imagined what was happening under her feet, as his body decomposed, skin splitting and changing colour, swelling then collapsing as its gases seeped effortlessly into the soil. Maggots and worms burrowed away and turned him into food for her roses, until all that was left were the rags of his clothes and his brown bones. Maybe one day these would be dug up, but not while this rose bed bloomed so magnificently. She was tempted to plant more, but as she said to herself, no other roses would look so good in comparison.
Unless she decided to get married again…