The Caretakers


We admired his formal demeanor and his careful opinions, surprising at times but
never radical or weak. When he removed his clothing in the public square, derision and
abuse greeted him, and he endured it as he might endure rain until late one night when
two women took him to the cemetery and offered to love and care for him together. He
asked why they had brought him here, to the cemetery, to offer this.
When they answered, “We wish to start at the end,” he sank to the ground and
muttered, “I have just come from there. Must we go back?” And the two women
answered, “It is the only way the others will accept us. Otherwise, what we have learned
will threaten them.”
A monument had been erected in the square. A bronze statue of a soldier who had
something to do with our freedom. His military clothing hung from his broad honorable
shoulders in long bronze curves that would never, no never, fall. No one questioned the
past from which he had come, before we could take freedom for granted. His name had
grown too old to be real.
Then Octavio, the man who removed his clothing, reported that one of the women
had disappeared and before we could search for her, we had to learn who we were
searching for. Octavio didn’t know, called her only My Savior, as he called the other
woman as well, who we knew to be the daughter of a carpenter, who called her Isabella.
Some joked that both women were Isabella and Octavio, the man who removed his
clothing, was living in a fantasy, but we looked for the missing woman and we failed to
find her. It was not long after this that Octavio died, some said of grief, and Isabella was
seen one night with two men who left the public square with her.
Despite what others might think, the two men were welcomed into our village and
they lived out their days in quiet dignity under the same name, My Savior, with Isabella.
Now I am the only one who seems to remember she was ever anything other than My
Savior, and the three of them, under one name, live together in an old farmhouse, raising
farm animals and turnips. No one seems to pay any attention to them, but once they were
seen removing their clothing in the public square and climbing up on to the back of the
statue, where they held each other and waited for something to appear that did not appear.
I think they were happy. I found it very sad.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.