The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 18, No. 1

The Measuring, 1868

by Steve Amick

He just plain couldn’t keep it bottled up, occupied as he was in recent days by the imagining of it, of how it would be. So while they were scanning the plot with their lanterns, noting the small stones and shells and keepsakes, trifles that had been placed to guard against this very thing, he told Messer he was planning to attend his high school reunion.
     Cal was supposed to be sketching the arrangement of these markers while Messer collected them, tucking each away in the buttoned bib pocket of his overalls. The little pink shell was about a boot’s length from the stone’s left corner; three and a half boots down from the center of the stone were three copper buttons in three sizes, stacked like a dingy snowman. Pebbles and gravel formed a little X, as faint as a shadow. There were rose petals, too, but these could have been scattered by the wind.
     “Huh,” Messer breathed. “Let me see . . . This your tenth? Class of ’58?”
     Cal confirmed that it was and began unwrapping the second tarp, the one that held the tools.
     Messer drew a spade. “That’s big doings, tenth. Boy howdy.”
     Cal remembered when he’d started doing this work, when the big man used to call him “kid” with an irksome regularity. Messer rarely did so, as of late. Cal supposed he was seen as more of a peer these days, and yet he sensed in Messer’s reaction now that he had genuinely been taken off guard by the march of time. He stood waiting for Cal to begin the cut, not rushing it, perhaps working through his own chronological ciphering.

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