Graveyard tending is what paid Satchel’s bills, for the wine he shared with Molly. They laid in the dim winter sun and counted crows overhead, like black death flags flapping in the sky. Satchel and Molly who kept records in their souls of all the unhappiness that others had suffered, leaving little room for their own maladies.
They brought wine to the empty barn and drank it through a casual touching of fingers, an unwashed jar that somebody pissed in yesterday and forgot to rinse out.
“My heart aches,” Satchel said. And it did hurt him to the core of his life. An ancient mourning poem, a rendition of the gospels of Peter and John and how they dragged Christ, a bleeding pulp, to the cave where he was later somewhat renewed. But there was no light left in Satchel’s heart, save for his love for Molly.
For work, he brought a hatchet to the tombs to cut choking vines from the drawers and doors, and then he combed the sedge and scattered the leaves hither and yon, so as to bring some order to the lot. Later, he bristled at the ugly gloom of a funeral day, with the preacher masquerading as a man who lamented for his flock.
“My heart sure aches,” he told Molly.
She lifted his hand to her breast, her mouth, to her dampness and all the woven stoppages of time, the penetrations of light in darkness, the stabbing gold through shadowy clouds and timbers in a wall. Shafts of golden glow, the motes of another man’s time, another man’s wanton disregard for her.
“Love,” she murmured into his dusty ear, the place where phantoms prayed for his soul to keep, “is right here.”
Such was passion in the folds of a melancholic embrace, the wicked start of a cold season. Satchel often slept in mausoleums for comfort and sorcery, hoping to break the chains of melancholia at last.
When the wet earth split in winter, Satchel’s fortunes rose with the lowering of coffins. His shoulders ached from the burdens of dying men. His hands were too raw to caress Molly’s face and she deemed the wine too cold to drink in the snowy rafters of the old hay barn. She reclined in the starlit bedding and clouds fell out of her mouth.
“Come here,” Molly purred, their laps filled with bewitched cats and their eyes streaming with reflections of the Devil’s birds. “Love,” she said again, “is all that we have.”
The sun died during its ascension on high, a bleak corpse in the sky, blemished by wind, broken by night, a sullen ball that rolled across the gray horizon. The horses refused to drag the velvet-draped caskets, so Satchel loaded the pallid boxes onto dollies and pulled them, a horrid deliveryman for the waiting, open mouth of terminus.
“Make my heart warm and happy,” he begged Molly, who sat with the fire at her fingertips, a mist in her eyes, arousing some witchcraft that was both marvelous and unknown, like a growing malevolence on her breath.
The frost sucked at him while he slept, entered his dreams like a thief, stole his will to endure the plunging cold, and left him naked as a serpent in a field of bones.
“Forever,” she said, “we will love each other.”
So many fates have gone to dust in forever. It is impossible to know how many have gone already, swords drawn, faces red with the fervor of valor, only to turn and flee the battlefield, cowards and betrayers, the runts of devotion—those devoted to earthly glories.
“I will love you,” he said, “for as long as I can.”
The lovers brewed a stolen brandy in a cauldron meant for a stowaway in some lost century. They let it run across their lips, along their teeth, down their chins, and onto exposed throats that soon would be touched, caressed, and even kissed like angels.
Despite so separated by clothes and fabrics in the cold, they shared whispers in their fairy tales of childhood, sharing the warmth of space in life, shared trajectories, the same scars worn on their backs and asses. They held hands in the last hour of moonlight, then fell to the disgrace of their moral shepherds, the mothers who warned of sensual cliffs.
In the morning he prayed beside an open pit, sharing long shadows with distraught farmers. This man, a suicide, never thought to have been so lost. Have mercy. Give mercy. For the love of all that is sacred, what is mercy?
He decided to ask Molly this, his keeper of all pertinent thoughts. She always talked of love. But what of mercy? Merciful time, was that the kiss of death for sad men who are tired of seeking ways out of broken lives? Women who throw themselves off bridges—where is mercy?
“My dear,” Molly said to him, “love is greater than mercy. Mercy is just a part of love. A hinge upon it, so to speak. Love is a door. Our love is an entire castle with endless doors, endless rooms …”
The howl of a dog in the first shudder of a snowfall. The snow which will mute all the world, and put misery away for a while.