The Caretaker - An Original Story
By Naomi Hersh Clackum

Yessir, old Wally had been the caretaker at Fairview Cemetery fer twenty years.  Then one day he just disappeared without a trace.  Some say he got a good scare workin around all them dead folks and took a freight outta town one night, never t’be seen again.  At least that’s what they say. 

Now, Ben Cooper over at the Post Office, he worked with Wally down at the feed mill fer close to ten years.  Ben said Wally never gave nobody a bit a trouble, but he did have one bad habit that’d be the death of him…he loved his wine. 

One day the boss found him stretched out on one a them conveyor belts, dead to the world. . .dead drunk that is, with a bottle of Cooter’s Wine layin’ across his chest.  He picked old Wally up by his pants an just about threw him clean through the door!  He told Wally if he ever showed his face there again he’d break both his skinny legs for him.  Ben said after that he didn’t hear much from Wally anymore. 

Well, one day Wally showed up back in town again.  Seems like he got himself a job workin’ right in this here cemetery.  He was drunk all the time by then.  I guess I would be too, if I had to sit around this place by myself all night long.  I don’t care what anyone says, it’s damn spooky at night, ‘specially when the fog rolls in. 

Hey, you kids get outta there!!  Damn fool young uns, just ain’t got no sense.  Sheriff found em here one night fillin’ up some fresh dug graves.  Poor old Wally, took him all day to dig, just t’have them kids fill ‘em up again.  Can ya beat that?  They just don’t have nuthin’ better to do. 

Now, what was I sayin’ before?  Oh yeah…well anyhow Wally really knew how to put it away.  He’d go to town on Friday afternoons after he was paid and stock up on that wine by the case.  Must’ve bought enough to last till the next Friday.  Then he’d come back here to that little shack.  He lived there y’know.  Even made up a real fancy sign for himself, WALTER P. ABERNATHY, CARETAKER.  Had a whole collection of bottles in there too. 

Me an some of the boys, we rode by here one night and saw him sittin’ right out there on that big tombstone, just guzzlin’ away.  We’d gone over t’that drive-in on the far side of town and on the way back we decided to stop and see what the old wino was up to.  So Jerry and Frank and me, we snuck around the back of that shack and over t’where we’d seen Wally.  Sure enough there he was, passed out in one of them empty graves!  If we didn’t know better we’d of thought he was dead.  I mean real dead.  He was so peaceful lookin’ layin’ down in there with that bottle tucked under his arm.  It was all we could do to drag him out and carry him back t’that shack of his. 

As time went on I’d see Wally every now and again, takin’ care of things around here, and diggin’ new graves whenever they was needed.  No one could say exactly when he disappeared, but it weren’t too long after them damn kids got picked up again by the sheriff for their fool pranks. 

I’ll tell ya something, if ya don’t think I’ve gone plum crazy.  I’ve seen him right here!  Not like I’m lookin at you, but I’ve seen him.  It was after we’d had a bad storm come through, blowin’ and tearin’ up everything in sight.  Now, they don’t pay me enough to stay here all night, but with all the work I had cleanin’ up, I didn’t have no choice.  It was around nine-thirty on a Friday night now that I come t’think about it.  I was over by that big elm pickin’ up some limbs off them gravestones, when somethin’ caught my eye. 

Sittin’ there big as life was old Wally himself.  The only trouble was I could see right straight through him!  Scared the shit outta me, let me tell ya.  There he was, sittin’ on that big tombstone same as he used to, and in his hand was a big bottle of Cooter’s.  I guess I don’t have to tell ya, I took off as fast as these legs could carry me. 

Well sir, ever since that night I leave here before the sun goes down.  I told Ben what I saw, but y’know some folks just won’t believe somethin’ they don’t want to. 

I’ll tell ya somethin’ else too.  It’d be pitiful if it weren’t so damn funny.  Can ya’ picture poor old Wally, drunk as a skunk, passed out in another one of them holes?  An them damn fool kids, just a shovelin’ like crazy…..  



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