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I followed her out and around the corner. We stood fifty yards away under the shade of an alder. The man, if paler, could’ve passed as a statue. The cast his silhouette on the dirt pile in front of him.
“How long has he been here?” Nicole asked in a whisper. She’d sat down on a nearby headstone.
“A little over an hour.” I sat on a headstone next to her. Thanks, I said in my head to the Donaldson family. “Did you know it’s illegal to take a picture of a head stone without the family’s consent if you can see the name?”
“I did not. Got any other interesting facts?”
I wanted desperately to know why she was sticking around, but I was supposed to be asking questions, not seeking answers.
“They used to not bury babies in caskets, just in cloth or something.”
“Creepy,” she said. I nodded.
“How did you get this job?” she asked. I told her about being home for the summer from college. She told me it was a neat place to work. I told her it was quiet. She told me she worked at the A&P and it was not in the least bit interesting.
“Once in a while a senior citizen slips and falls, but you can’t laugh. You need to cordon off the area and pretend it isn’t funny that they may have actually slipped on a banana peel or something. The produce aisles are where it typically happens.”
Nicole kept her eyes on the man as she talked, like he was a zoo creature. I’d grown bored of watching. Nothing was going to happen, I decided. If he was going to, he would’ve by now.
“How do you know his intentions?” Nicole asked.
“My boss told me. They talked for a while before he went to his friend’s plot.”
“Do you think he’ll do anything?”
I shook my head.
“Damn,” she said. I turned and Nicole laughed.
“You want him to do something?”
“Do I want him dead? No, of course not. Do I want something to happen? Yes, yes I do. This town is small and boring. Anything happening is a good thing.”
I bit my lip at looked at the guy. She was just like me. I squinted and tried to will him to move. If she wanted something to happen, I wanted to be the one to make it happen. And then stop it from happening. This could be it. Nicole wanted me to be a hero as much as I wanted to be the hero. My fists rested against my thighs and I squeezed tight. I tensed my toes in my boots. I did everything I could without moving to try and communicate to the man’s back that he needed to do something. I pressed into the ground. I could feel a yell sitting in my throat. This would be my moment.
The man, I could see it, would straighten and without looking up move toward his car. I’d be off then, yelling. Don’t do it and You’ve got too much to live for. Everything from the movies. I imagined tackling him to the ground as he reached into the trunk. Nicole would swoon.
I wanted the man to move. There was too much at stake for him not to. He needed to do this. Wasn’t that what being a good person was about? Sacrifice?
Nicole touched my shoulder and I startled.
“Are you okay? You look like you’re having a heart attack.”
“Fine,” I said. I wondered if she could see my heart pounding. “I’m fine.”
At that moment the man let out a sob. He moved a hand to cover his face. I stood.
“He’s going to do it,” I said. I felt it. “I’ve got to stop him.”
Nicole made a grab for my arm but I was off at a trot already, dodging tombstones like a Heisman winner. I was in the zone and didn’t hear whatever Nicole said as I took off.
The man had just about made it to the trunk of his car when I clipped the edge of a black marble tombstone. I hit the ground with a thud. The guy looked in my direction for a moment before turning back to his car and opening the trunk. I pushed myself to my knees. I was running out of time. Who knew how long it would take him to get the gun. Would there be any sort of ceremony before pulling the trigger? I looked back at where Nicole was, except she wasn’t there. I spun to try and locate her. Why wasn’t she there to see my moment in the sun? Who was going to let the cops know about my heroism besides me?
The man was leaning into his trunk. Everything seemed to be happening slower. Would the gun shine? What kind of gun was it? Had Frankie said? Even if Nicole wasn’t there, I’d need to do this. The man straightened and brought a water bottle to his lips. He drank half, capped it, and dropped it in the trunk again.
No gun, no shot, no suicide. Water. Hydration. That was all it was. The man opened his door, got in, and drove off. I don’t know if he knew I was there at all. I spun in another circle. Nicole was nowhere. I cursed and kicked a headstone then immediately apologized to the family.
I sat down on the gravel road. The guy had left and so had she. I hadn’t even given her the daisies I’d stored in the fridge that I’d picked off the Tasco plot.
Somewhere outside the cemetery, an ice cream truck bleated its tune. The tune made me think of the shore, where my mother snapped pictures of me every summer, bathing suit always a size too big. Ice cream usually half-melted on my face and the beach blanket. Those pictures were all over my parents’ house. People commented on them whenever they came over. Maybe, I thought, maybe that was all the fame I needed.