Food for the Common Cold

The snowy graveyard looked to be burning. Gray branches swayed like smoke against dark pines. The farther I got down the hard dirt path, the more I wanted the smoke to be real, wanted to see the place engulfed in flames, so the matter between Mom and Frick would be settled.

They’d been going at it when I left in the late afternoon. Well, they’d been going at it for eight years, but that afternoon they fought about the headstone. Frick had said the graveyard needed to go, that the one and only headstone needed to be ripped out and smashed, that we needed to bring back the old way.

“What old way?” Mom had said, and Frick tried to remember, or tried to summon some answer that sounded good, but he’d been drinking too much. He was a medicine man who had been forgetting to pray in the mornings and at nights, forgetting to feed the spirits once a month. “That headstone will stay forever,” Mom said, and Frick looked at me, then at Mom.

“I wonder what will stay longer,” Frick said. “Me or that headstone.”

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