The Bone Trowel

by Tarn MacArthur

A relic out of time and place. My grandfather, down in his garden rising and falling to the rhythm of work days before death, the bone trowel in hand. This is us, he said, scooping holes in the earth, half teaching me the work and half telling me the work is what you are. Hacked off and sanded down, the mandible of a pilot whale turned tool then heirloom, particles of dirt from St Kilda to Ontario carried in its calcareous cracks. I dropped seed after seed then tamped the soil with a child’s attempt at solemnity, but what I really wanted was to ride on the tractor and listen to stories that from anyone else would have passed for fantasy – the myth of the huntress with her longbow and knives, or the tale of the House of the Faeries. We finished our work then went inside. One week later I stood at his grave while my father and uncles passed a shovel between them. Of course, death meant next to nothing to me then. So when they asked what I wanted to remember him by I picked up the bone trowel. Afterwards we must have stayed on for weeks. I saw my father cry. I watched as the living day by day grew from the touch of the dead.