“Why don’t you make the piles smaller?” she says.
I tighten my grip on the rake’s worn wooden handle but don’t look up. This was his, I want to tell her. This job too, raking up all the shit. Not that you’d know. I swallow back the words and bite down on the inside of my lip until it bleeds. I turn away.
Before long I smell smoke and glance in her direction. She is leaning by the metal door chin lifted blowing smoke rings into the air. I fight the urge to slap that cigarette out of her mouth, to yell, That’s what killed him! Instead I drag the rake roughly towards me, making the pile higher, tighter. After a while she wanders over to where I am. She stands there watching me, a faint smile on her lips.
“Remember how we used to kick the piles?”
“No!” I snap. “It was just you–” but I stop myself. I calm my breath before raking up the dry, brown hay again.
“You look like him,” she says softer this time. “In his shirt and boots … You even move like him.”
For a moment I picture him working with his shovel, the sound of the metal sliding against the cement and just like that, his image fades again.
“I hated him, you know,” she says finally.
“I know.” Instant tears sting my eyes. I hold the rake tight in my hands. Her words burning deep into my chest.
Ph.D. Student in Creative Writing
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia