A Storyby Austin Smith
The Halverson brothers were standing hip-deep in their father’s grave when it started to snow. The snowflakes, big as flecks of ash from a forest fire, fell through the bare branches of the oak above them, salting the black Illinois earth they were tossing over their shoulders. It was a beautiful thought, your father’s grave filled completely with pure-white snow in lieu of his coffin, but they didn’t think it. They just dug and dug, the tops of their bowed heads white as if the task were aging them. If they’d stopped digging and caught their breath they could have stood there listening to the great shush of snow falling on a snow-covered farm, it was that quiet, a quiet they had yet to break with human speech. They hadn’t said a word since they’d started shoveling, not because of the exertion of digging down through frozen ground (they were farmers and knew how to handle a shovel), nor in deference to the silence, but because the Halverson brothers didn’t get along.