Salt of the Earth

by Copper Rose

 

Marnie stared at her bank statement.  Everything they owned had gone to taking care of Melvin. Years of sacrifice and there was nothing left to show for it. Not even enough for her to buy a little salt shaker to complete her collection.

Marnie had started the collection when she was ten years old, adding a few special shakers each year. At least she had added to the collection until she met and married Melvin. Her goal was to have one hundred shakers in her collection and all she had needed was one more, just one special salt shaker. But salt shakers were forbidden in their house. Salt was the bane of Melvin’s existence. Salt was killing him, enlarging his heart.

Melvin had ordered Marnie to remove the shakers from their residence and she had stashed them in her friend’s storage unit. Then Marnie had set about doing what she could to take care of Melvin. But for five years nothing had helped. Melvin had died at home, in his bed, on a foggy Sunday.

A few acquaintances showed up early at his funeral to make polite comments about the photos of Melvin holding up his collection of cockroaches. The largest cockroach was three inches long. There were two photos of Marnie and Melvin during their first and third anniversaries. There had been no anniversary photos after that. Marnie knew the people had only come to the memorial to make sure Melvin was dead and his ashes placed securely in the urn. She was beginning to understand other people knew more about Melvin than she did.

They closed the memorial service an hour early when no one else showed up to sit next to Marnie in her designated seat in the front row, in front of the urn. Someone had brought a small bouquet of wilted lemon tree leaves. A favorite snack for cockroaches. Marnie knew those people cared more about the cockroaches than they did Melvin. Marnie picked up the urn and left the funeral home. She didn’t stay to watch the funeral director lock the door after she left.

Marnie kept the urn on her kitchen table for three days, alternating between glancing at the urn and the bank statement. A change was inevitable so she went to her friend’s storage unit and brought her collection of salt shakers home. She wanted them there when she buried Melvin in the garden. She was ready to empty the urn but the lid wouldn’t come off. She went in the garage and searched through Melvin’s tool box. She found what she was looking for. She took the urn out on the front steps, where she had been sorting through the shakers in her collection, and began drilling holes in the top of Melvin’s urn, blowing the white-gray dust from the drill bit away from her nose.

She stopped when she realized her neighbor was standing there watching her.

“That’s one big salt shaker,” he said.

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