Buried Yet Breathing16.

Caulfield found the bottle of kerosene next to the fire pit. He squirted it liberally on the wood beneath, sitting from nights ago, ready for use. Henry grabbed the metal grill then set it down, remembering he had pans to lay out first. After the three of them spread out the pans, all touching each other as to collect most all of the remains, they placed the metal grill grating over the rocks, making it as even as possible.

Then Caulfield fired it up, quite literally. The fire became an instant blaze. The boys stepped lively toward the casket. With Caulfield and Edwin grasping a foot apiece, Hank picked up his deceased brother by the shoulders and they carried him toward the roar of flame.

“On the count of 4.” Henry said.

Caulfield was perplexed. “Why 4, Hank? Why not say on 3?”

“Shut up. I said 4. One. Two. Three. Ok, four.”

The three of them launched poor Peter’s rotting bod onto the fire and when the cadaver made contact, sparks flew wildly, as though the fourth of July had come early. Or late, depending how you looked at it.

Edwin took two giant steps backward and pinched his nose. The others looked back at him as though he was crazy. Little Edwin said, in a nasal tone, “What? Cousin Monte once set a rabbit on fire and the burning flesh scent made me throw up. I don’t wanna smell my oldest brother.”

Henry and Caulfield followed suit and plugged their noses while backing up to their youngest.

They watched intently as Peter’s skin began to melt away and organs started to make their appearances. “That’s disgusting,” Caulfield said, hand still holding his nose, as they all cringed in horror.

“Henry… how do the bones turn to ash?” Edwin wondered aloud, turning his head to his eldest. Meanwhile, a blast a smoke hit them all right in the eyes. Each boy coughed heartily, eyes watering freely.

Henry looked up into the air for a moment, most likely pondering the question. He glanced at Caulfield, then at Edwin, then back to the sky.

Edwin implored. “Well!?”

“I don’t rightly know, to be honest. I just assumed everything burns then disintegrates into little crap called ash. Dust. You know, from the Bible… ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” Henry felt proud of himself for remembering an entry from the good book, diverting his lack of knowledge about the ash, in his mind anyway.

The boys watched in silence. Minutes passed. Caulfield got anxious, “Dangit, Hank. How long is this gonna take?” He said this while one hand held his privates, signaling that someone had to urinate. His left hand still held his nostrils closed, as did all of them.

Another minute of silent viewing passed. Nothing seemed to be remaining of their brothers remains and the fire was mere embers. They all took a few steps forward, to get a better look at what was left. As the smoke dissipated, it was plain as day obvious that Peter’s entire skeleton was still intact. Skinless, yes. Organ-less, sure. But all bones intact, and no signs of ash.

“What in the all-time hell?” Edwin delivered slowly, accentuating the word hell on account of that he was forbidden to curse by Mother.

Caulfield looked around by his feet, finding a thick twig. With his right hand, he scooped it up, while still plugging his nose with the other. He poked at Peter’s smoldering femur, gently at first then a hard couple jabs. It cracked upon impact and ash sifted into one of the pans.

Immediately, both other boys looked for weapons to crush their brother’s bones. Henry found an ax and Little Edwin found old baseball bat, amidst the junk strewn around the yard.

With hands off noses, they smashed up that skeleton good. They nailed it so hard, ash flew up into the air, along with falling onto the baking pans. Henry axed Peter’s face good with the butt end. The other two boys worked on disintegrating the rest of the burning bones.

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