Dirt / by Erica Peplin

When I was young, I fell into a grave. The walls were made of dirt and I felt at home. I sat at the bottom and looked at the sky. It was a blue rectangle with no clouds and the whole thing looked unreal, like a sheet of construction paper I could reach up and start drawing on. The mud beneath my butt was the color of rotten bananas. It was softer than a sandbox and I wanted to lie down but I thought if I acted like a dead body in a place where we put dead bodies I'd become one.

Our house was near the cemetery and I took my dolls there to play. They couldn't stand on their own so I made the fat ones sit and I stuck the ankles of the skinny ones in the dirt and that was how they stood. One doll was a priest and he sang and everyone was sad because it was a funeral.

The headstones were houses with different families living inside each one. I put my favorite dolls on the crosses. They waved at the bugs from their beautiful balcony. 

When I found an empty grave, I sat on the edge and let my feet dangled over the side. I looked around to see if anyone was watching and since no one was there, I jumped to the bottom.

I'm not sure how long I was there but I remember watching the clouds and feeling happy. Then I heard voices. They were yelling and I knew they were looking for me. I was too scared to yell back because I had a tiny girl's voice but they followed the dolls and found me anyway. My mother pulled me out by the ears and yelled at me in front of everyone. The whole town was there. There were kids from school and old people and firefighters. Some people were smiling but the rest of them just watched, staring at me with their mouths open. It was probably how they looked when they watched TV.

My mom was quiet in the car and it was worse than yelling. She made me take a bath and when I was lying at the bottom with soap in my eyes, she made me promise to never go to the cemetery again. I felt powerless, like a stupid girl who did everything wrong.

I went back to the cemetery when my mother wasn’t home but it wasn't the same. I kept looking around, nervous that someone would see me and tell her I was there. 

When we went to the grocery store, people knew who I was. They said “grave girl” and my mom pretended like she couldn’t hear. 

I imagine everyone forgot what happened but I'll never know for sure. We moved in with my mother's boyfriend in a different town. I looked for a cemetery but I never found one. He lived on a dead end street with big, new houses that all looked the same. I imagine whoever built them wanted to make us think like we'd live forever.



Erica Peplin is a writer from Detroit. She's been published by Hobart, The Brooklyn Rail and McSweeney’s. She lives in Brooklyn.