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“I don’t use a machine,” the gravedigger said

Saturday, 29 June, 2019

“He was walking back through the cemetery to his car when he came upon a black man digging a grave with a shovel. The man was standing about two feet down in the unfinished grave and stopped shoveling and hurling the dirt out to the side as the visitor approached him. He wore dark coveralls and an old baseball cap, and from the gray in his mustache and the lines in his face he looked to be at least fifty. His frame, however, was still thick and strong.

“I thought they did this with a machine,” he said to the gravedigger.

“In big cemeteries, where they do many graves, a lot of times they use a machine, that’s right.” He spoke like a Southerner, but very matter-of-factly, very precisely, more like a pedantic schoolteacher than a physical laborer. “I don’t use a machine,” the gravedigger continued, “because it can sink the other graves. The soil can give and it can crush in on the box. And you have the gravestones you have to deal with. It’s just easier in my case to do everything by hand. Much neater. Easier to take the dirt away without ruining anything else. ” — Philip Roth, Everyman

Grave


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