On the day that Budgie died, I was young and very sad. He was a pretty bird, always singing in his cage. Sometimes we let him out to fly around, and on that day, the curtains were wide open and he slammed into the glass hard. Momma put him into a shoe box and I cried as we buried him in the back garden among the lilies. The next morning, very early, I snuck out of the house and dug him up with a garden trowel because I wanted to see him one more time. When I took the lid off the shoe box, his eyes were open and his wings fluttered. I ran into the house with him and told Momma, “Budgie came back to life! I saved him!” She frowned and said, “He must have been stunned.” But she put him back in his cage and right away, he hopped onto his perch and started singing.
The next year, my Nan got really sick. She was like a little porcelain doll, all white hair and rosy cheeks, and when I saw her in her box, she still looked the same. Later, we buried her in the cemetery and Momma cried when they lowered the box into the ground, but I didn’t because I knew she wasn’t really dead. That night, I snuck out of the house and walked to the cemetery. It was a few blocks away, but I had a flashlight and my garden trowel. When I found Nan’s grave, it was a lot bigger than Budgie’s but I didn’t know what else to do so I started digging. When Momma found me, I wasn’t even a foot down. She was tired and upset. “What’s going on, Dorcas?” she asked, sinking onto the pile of dirt that I’d made.
I kept digging. “Nan’s not really dead,” I said. “Just like Budgie. I need to open the box and then she’ll be OK.”
“That’s not how it works,” Momma said, and she took my trowel away and made me go home. I cried all the way because I was sure I could hear Nan knocking, and now no one was going to save her.
Years later, when Momma was on her deathbed, I thought she’d forgotten all about it, but she called me over to her. “Promise me, Dorcas,” she whispered. “Promise that you’ll make sure.” I nodded. I can’t wait to see the look on her face when I open the lid and say, “I told you so.”
Suzanne Craig-Whytock is a Canadian novelist. Her shorter pieces of writing have been featured in Slippage Lit, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Women Writers Women('s) Books, The Sirens Call, Elephants Never, and is upcoming in Moria Literary Magazine. She was a nominee for Spillwords 2019 Publication of the Year (non-poetic).