Billy Lemon was the first to strike the ground with his shovel. The dirt was fresh, but not fresh enough. They were in for a real challenge. Jebediah was a little further away from the dirt mound, leaning against the Oldsmobile and looking up at the stars with a sort of whimsical look on his face. The cosmos fascinated him as much as they would fascinate anyone else. What lies beyond our reach? He often wondered. Jebediah’s look of wonder soon shifted as he remembered something that he’d been trying to keep out of his mind.
“Ah, shit.” He grumbled. It wasn’t an aggressive “Ah, shit!” It sounded more defeated.
“Could use some help, you know,” Billy muttered out loud.
“Ah, shit,” Jeb repeated to himself. “Man…. Billy what do you think she meant?”
“Who meant what exactly?”
“Ella-Mae! What do you think she meant?” Jeb was desperate for a little color commentary on Billy Lemon’s part. Unfortunately, Billy hadn’t been listening on the car ride to the field.
“Eh, sounds as simple as it can be, I guess,” Billy said half-assedly, figuring a generic response such as this would entertain Jeb enough to put his mind at ease. He was wrong.
“I just….man, I just can’t get it out of my head!” Jeb exclaimed. He gently tapped his shovel against the earth and put his hand on his hip. “I mean, there’s all kinds of ways to love someone, right? She could have meant I love you like we were siblings or something. But, she could have meant actual love, right?”
Billy quietly groaned to himself. Too much talking, not enough digging. But he knew Jeb, and he knew there wasn’t gonna be any diggin’ until Jeb got his piece of mind or Billy gave him a piece of his. Either way, the digging would take forever.
“Do you love her more as a sibling then, Jeb?” Billy asked with genuine interest as he continued digging into the earth.
“No, no!” Jeb coughed. “’Course not!”
“Do you show her that you only love her within the idea that the two of you are siblings?”
“Well,” Jeb said whilst trying to wrap his head around the slightly strange way Billy had worded that question. “No, I guess not.”
“Similar question now Jeb,” Billy said with a hint of annoyance. “Has she done that?”
“Nah,” Jeb said. “No, she hasn’t. Fact, she’s been awfully over-affectionate.”
“Then there you have it!” Billy said, hitting the ground with some extra elbow grease on that last word. “She loves you because she loves you.”
Jeb chuckled to himself and curiously twirled the shovel in his hands.
“Love is a crazy, confusing thing, Billy.”
“Indeed it is, Jebediah.”
The two men returned to their work like brothers in arms. It didn’t take long for them to strike what they were looking for. Billy laughed a little to himself; he always forgot it takes less time than he expects it to take.
“This is always the hardest part for me.” Jeb sighed.
“It’s a hard way of living.” Billy replied. “May the Devil damn us.”
He threw the shovel up out of the sizeable hole they’d dug and listened to it crash into the ground. Jeb looked back up at the stars as Billy started to break open the coffin. He found so much solace in the nighttime sky–about as much solace as he got in Ella-Mae’s arms. The box was open now, but Jeb didn’t care. He didn’t care about much else at the moment except for Ella-Mae.
“Ah, pixie dust.” Billy muttered to himself as he plucked a rusted locket from the corpse.
Jeb felt his eyes become wet.
“I hope to be the man I need to be for her, Billy.”
“God forgive you then. Let the Devil damn me, old friend.”