For every bird that dropped into the cemetery dead or half-dead or just spryly resigned to death, the boy scraped up a hole. He packed the dirt over their hard little bodies and tucked the sod back in place. He said goodnight. He said good morning. He wanted to name every bird in the world, start with A and work his way down the alphabet, but then hed have to give away his name too early. His father kept the grounds up there, those gravestone-lined hills one of the few places in town that didnt collect rain like a bucket. Tomcats came, many breeds, wrapping around the marble legs of cherubs, peeking out from holly bushes, looking down from the forked limbs of sycamores, or charging through the grass, tripping the boy up, lifting their faces and opening their mouths like a tern might just drop there. The boy wanted to take home every tabby, every Siamese, every Bengal, wanted to give them all names starting with Z and work his way up the alphabet, but his father said he couldnt keep them. One afternoon, a white tiger eased through the bars of the wrought-iron gate and trekked through the graves sucking up crows like a vacuum, but the boy didnt bother asking his father.
The cats kept coming and the father began scrubbing off the hot-pink Eat Mes from tombs, the letters drawn with scented magic marker, bubblegum, hibiscus, flamingo. From statue faces, he peeled off eyes that had been clipped from magazines, mascara ads. He pulled out barely breathing crows stuffed in vases amidst withered peonies. He pulled weeds, locked gates, licked dirt from his fingers, tasted world, cleared the hornets from mausoleum eaves, and these autumn mornings he even stopped to watch his boy clear one end of the cemetery only to have the grass behind him carpeted again, blue jays and cardinals like flecks of brightness amidst a palettes darker tones, mockingbirds, pigeons, and screech owls. From the streets, one can see the distant figures of this boy and this man and feel certain that sons and fathers can work together, even if it means that theyll never come close to finishing their labors, not even in eternal sleep.