Took His Hand
one side of the open grave stood a seven-year-old girl. The little
girls gaze was fixed on a boy standing on the other side
of the grave. He stood beside his mothers closed coffin,
and every so often he would reach out to touch it. To the little
girl, it seemed as if he wanted to make sure his mother was still
She had been standing beside her Mama. Now, she inched her way
behind her Mama, behind the gathering, behind the minister. The
little girl went to the boys side. Once there, she took
He grasped her hand tightly, but his gaze remained on his mothers
When the open coffin had been sitting in his aunts parlor,
the little girl felt his pain there too, and shed seen his
tears. Shed heard the aunt say, she had been a sister to
the mother; the boys name was Nicholas, and he was twelve
When the little girls Mama said, Were going
to a funeral, the little girl had not fully understood the
meaning of funeral. Shed not understood the
meaning of coffin and grave either. She
had learned those meanings through grown-up talk in the aunts
The little girl and her Mama had come from Nashville, Tennessee,
to spend the summer with her Mamas cousin in Cincinnati.
The cousin had been a friend to Nicholas mother.
At the grave, when the minister said of Nicholas mother:
Shes committed a sin, blacker than most . . .
Nicholas gripped the little girls hand hard, patting his
Some men appeared at the grave. After the men tied ropes around
the coffin, Nicholas touched it for the last time. To the little
girl, he leaned over as if afraid the men might drop his mother
as they lowered her into the grave. When the first shovel of dirt
hit the coffin, he gripped the little girls hand so hard,
she almost cried out.
Nicholas aunt came to lead him away. Because he was still
holding the little girls hand, she went with him.
Olivia, her Mama called out, where are you going?
Oh please! Allow her to stay with Nicholas, the aunt
said. Well meet you back at the house.
Olivia waved to her Mama before climbing into a waiting coach
with Nicholas and his aunt. As the open coach drove slowly away,
he turned about to stare over his shoulder at his mothers
grave. Olivia turned with him. Men were shoveling dirt into the
grave, and she felt Nicholas trembling.
The coach went down a hill, and the grave was lost from view.
Nicholas released Olivias hand. Only then, did he turn to
look at her....
Bolick Perutelli is a native Tennessean, reared in Memphis.
She is the author of a historical novel, The Mud Daubers,
and a novella, From Whence He Came And Short Stories, both
set in Memphis and published by Cold Tree Press in 2005. Her short
stories and essays have been published in newspapers and anthologies,
including Our Voices: Williamson County Literary Review,
1995, 1997, and 1998. Marion was a charter member of the Tennessee
Writers Alliance. Currently a resident of Franklin, Tennessee,
she is also a member of WordSmiths, Ink; the Council for the Written
Word; and the Fiction Writers at The Martin Center of Senior Citizens.
Marion Bolick Perutelli