Dig

Written by Thanisha Chowdhury
Art by Scott Rodgerson


That morning, I buried a dog that didn’t exist.

The air was wet, the dirt hungry. Dawn fought her way up the horizon, bathing the world in breathless blue. 

I, of course, was digging a grave. The earth gave way ever so slightly under the shovel, gleaming brown-black soil staring back with each heave.

She must have been asleep. But she didn’t follow the clock’s hours anymore, threading her sleep through Earl Grey tea and Jeopardy. The previous night, she’d come to me with fragile youth in her shoulders.

She sits on the bed in my childhood home, smooths out the race-car bedsheets. Her hands are blue and knobby but the motions they make are timeless.

“You ought to get new sheets. You’re a big boy now, aren’t you?”

I’m thirty-four, I almost say. But I smile, and I nod.

“Of course, Mom. Maybe for Christmas.”

She hums, shifting backward painfully slow. “Where’s Rover?”

“Rover?”

“Did you forget to let him in again? How many times do I have to tell you to keep an eye on that damn dog of yours? And to think it was you begging us for it the whole time, unbelievable!”

I blink, and my ribs ache. Rover had been gone for twenty-five years, had slipped through a fence and ended up limp in the river. 

“Marky?”

“He’s-He’s gone, Mom.”

Her eyes go wide. “Gone? You mean he’s dead?” 

She starts to shake, and I’m by her side in an instant. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“You need-You need to bury him.” Her voice comes wet and warbled through her throat but her eyes are dry. “You need to.”

“Of course, Mom.”

I didn’t know what I was doing with a shovel in my hand. I didn’t know what would fill this hole in the ground. I didn’t know where the dirt was going. I didn’t know where the tears came from.

“Marky, what are you doing out of bed?”

Mom stood at the edge of the fence, a towel around her shoulders. I looked at her, this husk of a woman, all gaunt bones, broken shoulders, thin lips. But her eyes glinted with the same light they did last year, and the year before, and when I was eighteen, fifteen, ten, five.

“I don’t know.” I dropped the shovel, wiped my trembling hands on my pants. “Let’s get you home.”