Dirty Fingernails

Dirty Fingernails

     On a night of the darkest skies, after a fearful day at the hands of the girl's father, Maria woke her daughter up after midnight, clambered her to the edge of our house, close to the side door, and begged for her help. Rosa was akin to three years old, and was outfitted in a beautiful satin nightgown, one with lace decals around the shoulders and neck, with a ruffled bottom which swept around her ankles. Maria was dressed in jeans and a simple shirt, and there being no evidence of misdeeds upon her, and so at first, Rosa assumed her request was some kind of sick nightmare to which she responded no. Maria carried a bundle in her arms, a white- cloth pack. Glancing over her shoulder in dismay, she proclaimed that she had just given birth, that Rosa’s father was in a rage, and that Rosa needed to go outside and bury the baby before her father came out of his “music room”, an old converted garage at the back of our house upon which the walls were covered in a dark brown carpet, straight from floor to ceiling. It was his favorite place to beat her mother, where Maria’s screams were muffled by the


carpeting and where on many evenings she became his victim. Rosa was afraid from that day forward that she would become her father’s next dead baby. Her fear escalated as the years went by, because it seemed that with every new child born, her father’s rage became worse. Upon this night, there would be no fresh rage, no crying from child, no coddling past womb, and no one to graze at mother’s breast…only an antiqued pain which her father carried. The baby boy was dead, dead before birth because Jose Sr. had beaten it out of Maria with kicks and punches to her stomach.


In her distraught and distressed form, Rosa negated my previous answer of “no” and, in a state of shock, felt the need to help Maria and appease her supplications. Informing her that she had already made the burial site, her mother told her that a sand pail and shovel were there, next to the hole in the ground, and that the young, scared girl was to wait outside until she came for her. Compliant, Rosa took the package from her hands and stepped aside for her to open the door. As she took her first step into the nightmare, Maria shut the door behind her. It was as if suddenly, a withering three year old became a giant, the pack in her arms no longer existent, and the steps beneath her small and measured. After one, two and then three paces she was at ground level, staring up into the moon and stars which mocked her in their solitude, as if proclaiming that she was now like them, forever destined to shine alone, alone in her miserable task and the sheer madness of her plight. Looking to her left, she saw how lush, tropical plants with wide leaves fanned out above a three foot hole in the ground. Just like Maria said, there on the right side of the aperture, were a little yellow pail and shovel. It didn’t take long for Rosa to get started on her task. She was in a sort of daze, and knelt before the hole in the ground on skinny knees atop wobbly legs. The cement walkway which ran the length of their yard, that which created a long rectangle of earth on either side; one larger towards the middle of the yard and the one smaller adjacent to the house; which was constituted of small pebbles, sand, and water. Now hardened, the harsh ground dug into her skin with piercing sharpness, creating rivets and dimples into her skin. Despite this fact, she felt no pain as she crouched there, the lightest of weights in her arms. Carefully


placing her in-consolation into the soil, she stood up determined, and began forcing small shovel- full sized atop the mortal human. Perhaps a bit too soon to be remembered correctly, the task was finished. Rosa felt only love in her heart at this time, an incomprehensible love towards the baby she had just buried. It was as if had become hers at some point, her possession. She felt no fear at the moment, only a sense of accomplishment, as if she were of the utmost importance having helped her mother. She held her nose high in the air as she stood up.


It was then that Rosa noticed the moon. It projected its full brightness into the sky, with visible rays permeating the darkness. Clouds surrounded it in haze, wispy and fair in their graying darkness. Stars shone, yet she still does not remember them, only the moon in its incandescent beauty lighting up the sky. She spun around a half- turn and somehow made it back up to the top of the steps. Rosa stood there waiting for quite some time, aggravation and annoyance breaking up the fog she had wandered into. An eternity passed a lapse of time indescribable in human terms, as her short soot- covered feet stood planted firmly into the red tile. When the amazing wait was over, the door creaked open and there she was bathed in unnatural light. “Did you do it”? , her mother asked. It was then that she simply nodded her head yes before stepping inside. Her nightgown moist from the waist down, she somehow made it back to bed, and was left to re-live the night, with intervals of forget. Her preoccupation with the previous evenings events plagued her conscience, knowing the shallow grave was deplorable.


She set upon the task of correcting that evil, and daily knelt before the grave again, her hands laden with a collection of sticks and string she had gathered in bare feet, under a bright sun. In hastened fury, afraid of being caught playing by the grave site, she managed to construct a small cross, haphazard in its intricate beauty, which lopped carelessly to one side. It stood awry in the dirt where a headstone should have read “Here lies a son, whose life was ended before it began”.


Days continued on without incident for some time after that. Rosa’s time was spent playing with dolls, frolicking along the shores of the beach, and gathering playthings from amongst the sand- riddled


seaweed. Collectables of a favorite kind included bits of colored sea glass, which twinkled in shades of pink and gray, and the occasional brown of an old Budweiser bottle. Necklaces were made of small seashells by she and her friends, and made imperceptible holes in them at the top with needles, and paraded them around the house as if they were made of gold. Unaware of the strife between her parents for awhile, she was not privy to the fact that her mother was once again pregnant. Yet her lack of knowledge was shattered, her innocence gone once on a particularly sunny day. She gazed out of the living room window at her mother, for a reason unbeknownst to her, except that one of her favorite pastimes was to spy on Maria, as is probably common amongst most children of that age. Her mother was on the opposite side of the dreaded staircase Rosa had been forced to walk on that ominous evening about a year prior. There crouched Maria, as Rosa herself had many months prior. She was digging a hole in stoic candor that was strange in its reality. Poor little Rosa soon realized what her mother was doing as another bundle encased in white was laid upon the earthly opening and soon covered in dirt. It was inconceivable that another child had been laid to rest, yet it soon became eerily evident that it was indeed the case. From that moment on, Rosa and her mother again shared another secret, although Maria was unaware of her child’s cognizance. Enraged and angry at the sheer madness of the events which were unfolding, she was startled at Maria’s seemingly calm exterior, her lack of apprehension and absence of emotion. The poor dear seemed dead inside. When she was done, Rosa made another corresponding cross of sticks and twine over the second baby’s grave and a plan began to hatch inside her immature mind. Although she knew not form where this expertise had grown, she knew enough to comprehend that bodies decomposed, and plotted to prove this theory and see a real skeleton. Thus she waited…and waited… before waiting some more. She waited until she felt it had been long enough for the earth to swallow up the remains of skin, blood and eyes from the carcasses of her deceased siblings. Rosa waited until she was sure that they were no longer babies, but shallow remnants of humans that could have been, but were never given a chance to. When she felt that long


enough had passed for them to decompose, she once again grabbed her trusty pail and shovel and set out about her task. She decided to sneak out of the house during a quiet day, and made her way outside to the first grave, the one which she had sheltered.


Rosa began the arduous task of digging through hard earth and dirt. She stammered to herself sad songs, as in to keep with the mood of her work, although what she really felt was excitement. It mounted as layers pelt away, revealing a softer, lighter colored filth. It was not long before the dust of days past exposed what she was looking for. Bare- naked to the open eye, a figure appeared before her. The bony frame of a baby was exposed, perfect in its constitution. Intact appeared the skeleton, without flaw or error. It made Rosa was happy, almost exuberant, to see the fruits of her labor so flawless. It was just the justification that she needed. She quickly covered the grave with fresh dirt. Vindicated, she staggered over to the next grave, remembering exactly where it was. Again, she began peeling away layers of dirt, until the revealed another carcass. It was another skeleton, indeed, yet this one much different than the last. Instead of being perfect in it’s composition it was very much flawed. Flawed and broken, the baby had a large crack in its skull, certainly created by one of her father’s punches in- uteri. That was not all. The baby also had several broken ribs, once again symptoms of the never ending abuse towards her mother. Although it may seem a strange emotion to harbor, what Rosa felt was not fear ‘nor disgust. It was not shame over what she had done. Instead, it was disgust. Rosa felt that the second baby was abhorrence, something which she quite detested at the time. Compared to the first beautiful child she had unearthed, this mangled, disturbed being seemed to her ugly in its appearance. She felt no sadness for what had been done to the child, but rather disgust at its absence of conformity. Anguish dissipated these feelings as the minutes ticked by and she stared at what she had uncovered. It was an overwhelming urge to make the second baby disappear; she wanted nothing more to do with it. Erasing from her mind its existence was what she craved, and did so with fortitude by encasing the cadaver with loam. She worried, then, that someone had perhaps seen her, and glanced nervously


around. First to the left and then to the right, before staring up at the sky. She noticed the tall tree across the street, it's branches spread out above the fences with reverberation against a frothy blue sky. Then, what did her in, was the sun. It's emblazoned strength blazed above her, staring at her with greed, as if draining her of want for life, comprehension and stillness. Peaks of orange and yellow staggered forth from a bright orb, and seemed to grow bigger as she stared. She knew the sun had seen her. It, and God. She was overwhelmed with fear. 


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