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An Urchins Farewell

The graveyard was cold and foggy this early in the morning, and the gravedigger shivered as he put the finishing touches to the large open grave he had dug for the poor and lost of the parish. There were six bodies this day, an old woman, an emaciated though youngish man, the usual number of infants and babies, and a small urchin, all wrapped in cheap hessian shrouds. It was only left to place them into the ground and fill the hole behind them.

He lifted the adults in first, gently placing them either side of the grave – he would put the children between them, to protect them in their long rest. Despite the reputation of the Gravedigger, he had a reverence and care for his charges that would have surprised even the closest of his companions.

From out of the mist, he saw small figures converging on him, seeming to materialise from nothing. They were urchins, some he recognised, others were unknown to him. They approached the grave quietly, solomly, though there were no tears. Life was hard for them and death was no stranger in this vast industrial city or to these children.

Each child stepped forward, placing a small something on the body of the late urchin. A knife, a porridge bowl, a spoon, little gifts that the boy might need on his journey. One urchin, that might even be called fat, placed a sugar cake carefully on the body, checking almost fearfully round at the others to ensure his gift was acceptable. A boy with an orange and white tail like a fox nodded solemnly at the fat boy, and he stepped back with evident relief.

The fox boy reached into his pocket, pulling forth a copper coin, crouched down and slid it under the shroud and closing the dead child’s hand around the offering. He looked at the three smaller bodies, reached into his pocket, and slid a small coin under the coverings of each. Standing, he stepped back into the crowd of urchins, and nodded at the Gravedigger, who returned the nod then lifted each small body down with the others. He was about to pull himself out when the fox boy stepped forward again, indicating the two other bodies. The Gravedigger shook his head and the boy reached into his pocket again, pulling forth a coin, then looked back at the others. There was a hurried whispering, and a ragged girl held out a final penny to the boy, who nodded in thanks, then gave both coins to the Gravedigger. He placed one in each shroud – now the adults could go with the children over the river, protecting them until the journey end.

The Gravedigger hauled himself from the damp hole, reached for his spade, and began to fill in from the freshly dug earth. The gathered children watched for a few spadefuls, then drifted into the early morning mist. Last to leave was the fox tailed boy, who turned to the Gravedigger and spoke the only words heard in that corner of the graveyard that day.

“Didn’t really know im, he were new, yer see… but he were an urchin, one of us, an we looks after each other, yer know?”

With that he turned and slipped away.

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8 Comments

  1. Bianca Namori Bianca Namori July 25, 2011

    ((NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!))

  2. Gilhooly Skute Gilhooly Skute July 25, 2011

    The rodentine urchin lad was among those present, having avoided the wrath of the queerly-dressed French bloke.  He laid a goodly bit of cheese from his own personal stash with the fallen boy and nodded with Tubby as the larger lad gave away his sugar cake.

    Gil left the scene with the crowd as Tepic stayed behind.  Becoming pensive and thoughtful, he scampered up to the trolley tracks and took up one of his favorite spots atop the post next to the Church of the Builder.

    “this place, it eiver loves ye or ‘ates ye, ” he said to no one.  “no in betweensies… only iffen it ‘ates ye or loves ye, oftentimes ye canna tell…”

    He sighed and started up the elevated tracks to the edge of the city, to gaze off into the Vernian Sea, smoke from the stacks of Armada Breakaway just visible on the horizon.

    And daydream. 

  3. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon July 25, 2011

    Avariel Falcon watched from a distance, her clockwork eyes clearly viewing the sad scean below.

    With a sigh she left, returning to her work at the power station.

  4. Queer Hermit Queer Hermit July 26, 2011

    Nicely done kitsune.  When the funerary rituals are followed the dead can move onwards knowing that friends, either well known or complete strangers, wish them well.  Offerings to ease the travel are known to exist from ancient times.  How comforting to see that urchins understand that so well.

  5. Gabriell Anatra Gabriell Anatra July 26, 2011

    Gaby peers out of the shadows on her nightly rounds. Noting a new grave she thinks about the lives of those interred therein as she looks about the cemetery more closely. ‘Many tales must forever be untold’ she muses, then chides herself silently for becoming too maudlin.

    Noticing nothing out of the ordinary she fades back into the shadows. 

  6. Edward Pearse Edward Pearse July 27, 2011

    Nicely done. Short but very poignant.

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