That’s Why They Have Fences


Don’t start with the jokes. Yes, I know the fence around the cemetery is because people are dying to get in. You think I haven’t heard that like every time I get a beer after work? Christ, think up something new, will ya?

I mean, the real funny shit I see don’t make for a joke. Like feral chickens scratching and pecking at a fresh-filled hole, or the couple who thought they’d found a secluded corner only to have one of our ride-on mowers roust them naked back to their car.

People ask if I get scared. Nah. Sure, sometimes you get that feeling someone’s watching you. Coyotes, maybe. And we tell the new guys the old shed’s haunted by the ghost of the original caretaker, still mending broken shovels.

But it’s the living that scare me. Take the lady I saw dancing on her sister’s grave. Funeral fist fights every other week. Don’t ask how many times I’ve had to wash human shit off a stone.

Get this one. So like a month ago, I’m parked outside the gate (yeah, dying to get in) before first light, waiting for the boss to open up. Same as every morning, I hear his bass from half a mile a way. Maybe he does that to scare off spirits, I don’t know. But no, it’s this other car, flying like a bat outta hell, to the point I’m thinking this guy doesn’t know the gate’s closed, and is he gonna take it right the fuck off the hinges. He stops in the nick of time, gets out and starts screaming. I hunkered down behind my own wheel, because I’m not on the clock yet, and I could give a shit about some mourner too late for the funeral.

The guy keeps screaming, all dressed up for the service at like 5:30 in the morning. In the growing light I see that he’s got Georgia plates on, and I’m wondering, did he drive all night to get here?

A moment passes, the guy’s still screaming, and then I hear another stereo, and this time it really is the boss, who has to park behind the Georgia man to go unlock the gate. They exchanged some words, but with the dueling woofers, I don’t hear a thing.

Georgia man gets back in his car, revving the engine like he’s about to do a quarter mile drag, while the boss undoes the padlock and rolls the gate back. He’s not one inch out of the way when that car peels out, disappearing around the chapel.

I find him in back, not far from the haunted shed. At first, I thought he was dancing, like that lady I told you about, but no, he’s pacing and pulling his hair to the point I think he’s gonna rip himself in half like that Rumplestiltskin punk or whatnot. Then he’s back in his car, streaking into the rising sun, and that’s that.

I confess I went up to the grave I saw him agonizing over. Nothing special, no new plantings. But I do see it was a kid, dead about ten years. I hate kids’ graves. People leave toys and balloons, and yes, that does give me the willies. This one just had the name and the dates—five years old—and the line “His will be done.”

Then I got on with work. I had a grave to open, so I put some plywood sheets—to protect the grass from mourners’ shoes—in the backhoe’s loader bucket and trundled over to Section C.

A week later, though, a work order come through and now I’m bringing plywood to that same kid’s grave. Seems the mom was joining her son. Murdered. Turns out Georgia man had just finished his stint, and his first order of business was to visit his dead kid. Only the last name on the stone wasn’t his or hers, but his best friend’s. So right after I seen him, he goes and plugs them both. Then the bastard turned himself in, ’cuz now there’s nothing for him on the outside anyhow.

I’ll take feral chickens over that any day.

~ fin ~


J.M. Taylor cooks up his sinister fantasies in Boston where he lives with his wife and son. He has appeared in Tough, Wildside Black Cat, and AHMM, among others. His first novel, Night of the Furies, was published by New Pulp Press and his second, Dark Heat, by Genretarium. When he’s not writing, he teaches under an assumed name. You can find him at and on Facebook at Night of the Furies.