Saturday Short: The View from the Top of the Hill

photograph of a cemetery on a hill overlooking the ocean

“Why do the dead get a better view that we do?” Hollis asked as we cut through the cemetery on our way home from school.

“Shhhh!” I slapped his arm. “Don’t speak so loud. The dead can hear you.”

He frowned and slapped my arm harder. There would be a mark tomorrow. “The dead don’t hear nothing. They’re dead.” He stopped and stared across the graves, past the church spire, all the way down to the sea. It was a beautiful view, one that couldn’t be bought while alive and not fully appreciated when dead, and the sun made the ocean shine like a cut stone with colors impossible to describe and to believe if you’d never seen them.

Hollis placed his hand against his brow as if shading his eyes to watch for an approaching ship. “It’s stupid to waste land like this.”

I’d heard his father say that before, when I was over late helping him with his math homework. He was horrible at math. I crossed myself surreptitiously when no one was watching. It was bad luck to speak like that about the dead. Bad luck or stupidity, as my father would say with a shake of his head.

Hollis looked back at me to see if I would contradict him and, when I said nothing, he turned and continued down the hill. I followed after he’d gone a few paces, far enough away that I could whisper, “He doesn’t mean it. Enjoy your view.”

That night I crept out of bed once I heard my parents’ snores in the next room and checked every door and window to make sure they were latched. I hadn’t said anything against the dead, but everyone knows sometimes that doesn’t matter. Sometimes nothing does. Still, it was a beautiful view.