“That wasn’t how it happened, Edgar,” Sam said. He was becoming more agitated.
“It was,” Edgar insisted.
“No, we buried her by the well,” Sam said.
“No, we didn’t, because I clearly remember objecting to burying her near a water source, Sam.”
It was dusk and the two men were old now, but not old enough to let themselves rot in prison for what remaining life they had left to live.
“These damn mosquitoes,” Edgar mumbled, as he slapped his neck. “You see that tree?” Edgar pointed. “The one there with the crooked trunk? She’s a couple paces north.”
“No, that’s where we put the other girl, the one from that college. You remember, the one studying at that nursing school.”
“Oh, right,” Edgar agreed. “Well let’s not dig her up. Nobody’s been looking for her for decades.”
“I’m telling you, we need to find Ma’s old cabin. She’s buried near the well,” Sam persisted.
“She’s not,” Edgar argued, equally as stubbornly. “Look for another tree with a crooked trunk. I bent the saplings’ trunks near wherever we buried one.”
“And that’s why they’re onto us,” Sam growled. His voice was low and guttural.
“No, it’s not!” Edgar growled back. “Do not pin this on me! Neither one of us knew those scientists would start finding things in blood to track us down, and it was your granddaughter who sent in her blood to find out she’s a quarter Irish and thirty nine percent Scandinavian! I could have told her that!”
Sam sighed, “I know it, Edgar. I know she shouldn’t have sent her blood away, but I had no idea the law would get after it.”
Edgar leaned against a fallen tree and calmed himself down by breathing in deeply. He and Sam often ate lunch together at the senior citizens’ center, and the young girl working there taught yoga to the old people. She had them sit in chairs in a circle while she demonstrated slow and easy exercises with long breaths to improve the balance in their old bodies.
“I would have liked to have met her fifty or sixty years ago,” Sam had chuckled quietly to Edgar once during class.
“Me too,” Edgar had whispered back. “She would have been fun to chase around the woods,” he had smiled at Sam, reminiscing about their shared, youthful pastimes.
Sam hobbled over to the fallen tree where Edgar now sat, breathing through his nose and exhaling through his mouth. “Stop doing that yoga,” Sam snapped at Edgar. “It’s all these new things that got us in trouble.”
“It helps me think more clearly,” Edgar yelled, veins protruding in his neck. “It calms me considerably, and you would do well to calm yourself right now!” Edgar angrily trembled. “We need to concentrate and find where we put her!”
“It sure does calm you!” Sam spat. “Just look at you, with your shaking hands and wobbly legs!”
Leaves rustled and twigs cracked. The men stood still, their ears tuned to where the noise came from behind dense brush.
Sam took out a pocket knife. Edgar waved his cragged, old hand for Sam to put it back in his pocket.
“Grandpa, I can’t get the worm on.” It was Jeremy, Sam’s little, great grandson.
Sam suddenly relaxed and got to one knee smiling. “Come here, buddy, let grandpa help you.”
Jeremy half skipped and half toddled over to Sam.
“Where’s your worm, buddy?” Sam asked gently. He was such a kind, patient grandpa.
Jeremy pulled a wet, writhing worm from the chest pocket of his overalls.
“Good,” Sam smiled, “it’s still alive. It’s better when they’re still alive.” Sam held the wriggling worm up to Jeremy’s big, brown eyes, then slowly pushed the sharp point of the hook through the worm’s mushy body. Sam smiled, “See, buddy,” Sam let go of the worm and it coiled and uncoiled, as it rolled its body around the hook, trying in vain to escape its fate, “it’s better to hook a worm while it’s still alive and moving around between your thumb and forefinger like this.” Sam placed the hooked worm in Jeremy’s tiny palm, then scruffled his blonde hair. “You’ll catch the biggest fish ever now.” Sam stood up slowly, knees cracking. He smiled down at Jeremy, and Jeremy smiled up at his great grandfather with admiration. Jeremy held the hooked worm with one hand, and dragged his pole behind him, as he disappeared back through the dense brush.
“That pole’s bigger than he is,” Sam chuckled.
After Jeremy happily left with his worm frantically wiggling on the hook, Edgar lashed into Sam. “I told you not to bring the kids!”
“I can’t drive well at night! And,” Sam said indignantly, “neither can you! We’re not digging her up tonight anyway,” Sam whispered. “We just need to remember where she is so we can come back later.”
“Alone!” Edgar said.
“Yes, Edgar,” Sam sarcastically retorted, “alone.”
The two, old codgers walked slowly through the forest of what used to be their homestead, back when times were simpler, when disappearances were hard to trace. They moved slowly through brambles, thorns barely making scratches in their tough, leathery skin.
“It looks so different,” Edgar mumbled. “I don’t remember where the cabin was.”
“I can’t even tell which way is north,” Sam sighed. “The trees are so tall now, and cover the sky. Earlier today, in the midday sun, when we were by the old pig barn, I couldn’t see a single patch of blue when I looked up.”
“The pig barn!” Edgar exclaimed. “That’s where we put that librarian, and she was right before the girl we need to find. I’m telling you, she’s buried just north of the well, but not beside the well.”
“She’s beside the well,” Sam grumbled.
“No, she’s not,” Edgar continued, hastily dismissing Sam’s version of what had transpired. “And I remember the well was close to Ma’s old cabin, and that wasn’t too far from the pig barn!” Edgar’s step finally had a spring in it as he walked toward a pile of moss-covered rocks. He turned back to Sam and hurriedly motioned with his arm for Sam to follow. “We need to go back to where the old pig barn stood and spread our search outward from there.”
“I know we put her beside the well.” Sam crossed his arms stubbornly, still rooted in his place next to the fallen tree. Sam wasn’t about to budge on this matter. He knew he remembered right.
“That isn’t how it happened,” Edgar insisted. “And anyway, we need to go back to where the pig barn was because the well isn’t too far from that area.”
“I suppose you are right about that much at least,” Sam relented. Sam bent down to grab a long stick to use as a cane, as they made their way toward where they thought they remembered the old pig barn and well used to be, somewhere amongst the darkening, dense bushes of their overgrown homestead.”
“Grandpa,” came a voice, “there you are.” It was Sherry, Sam’s granddaughter. She held Jeremy’s hand. “Let’s get back to the car, grandpa.”
“I would love to, dear, but your Uncle Edgar and I don’t recognize these woods anymore.” Sam sighed pitifully and shook his head. “It’s been so long since we were here, and all the familiar trees are now grown or fallen over, and the landmarks have been washed away or blown away. I just don’t remember where we are, honey.”
“It’s ok, grandpa.” Sherry took Sam’s hand, smiling up at him. “My phone says our car is just beyond that little hill.”
“Your phone?” Sam asked, confused.
Sherry let go of little Jeremy’s hand and pulled her phone out of her pocket. She tapped and swiped it, then turned it to face Sam. “See?” Sherry proudly showed her grandpa.
Sam squinted and brought the phone close to his eyes. There were drawings and symbols. “I don’t know what this means, honey,” Sam said sadly. “I don’t understand these new things.”
“It’s GPS, grandpa. It shows our longitude and latitude on a map. My car is just over that hill. Don’t worry, grandpa, I know exactly where we are and how to get back.” Sherry took Sam’s hand again, and Jeremy’s little hand, too. She walked with them, just a pace in front of Edgar.
Sam looked back at Edgar, as Sherry gently guided him through brambles. Edgar easily read Sam’s expression. Edgar shrugged and shook his head at Sam. It was only a matter of time before these new things would put them in prison.