He noticed I was crying again and lifted me up onto his shoulder. I was still a year off from being told not to cry, so I let loose with a mourner’s wail and bawled my eyes out.
There, there son, he hummed soothingly, let it out, go ahead it’s all right.
And I did. And I pitied my brothers who had outgrown this luxury. Sisters aren’t forced to be a man at any age. His beard was scratchy against my cheek and his breath was both stale and sweet from the liquid he and everyone else seemed to be consuming. And he had a faint smell of something underneath like distant flowers, not fresh-cut but planted deep in soil And that taste in my mouth, whether from my own tears or his leathery skin, I cannot be sure.
But whenever I hear the term “salt of the earth” I think of Uncle Bernie tasting of salt and smelling of earth… and whenever I’m surrounded by death I think about Uncle Bernie and my memory of that grand old man and how he offered such comfort on what was, and still is, the saddest day of my life.
JJ (aka jfx mcloughlin) came to our rescue in the face of holiday seasonal apocalypse, after a previous rescue attempt during a serious Halloween-induced zombie-crisis, and then again during a severe poetry shortage. He’s becoming our go-to for literary survival issues 😉