Sophia Alonzo’s father had left her four acres of land, a rundown mobile home, and two hundred dollars. The two hundred dollars had long since been spent, and the mobile home had burned down under questionable circumstance. But she still had the land, though it was dry and cracked and smelled kind of weird. It wasn’t good for much, aside from raising the dead now and then.
Jody, Sophia’s boyfriend, handed her another beer as they watched old Mrs. Knutson dig up her husband under the moonlight. She was a tough old bird, but the land was hard. Progress was slow.
“Are you sure you can’t help?” she asked.
“Now, Mrs. Knutson,” said Jody. “We told you before we started. For five hundred, we’ll bury him for you. But the living have to dig up their own. That’s in the rules.”
She wiped the sweat from her withered gray head and grumbled. The spade bit into the earth, and the earth bit back as she wrestled with the shovel. Diablo Cactus stood silent watch over the whole affair. There was nothing special about the old saguaro aside from the fact if you buried dead people beside it under the right circumstances, they could come back.
Sophia and Jody sat in folding chairs. She checked the safety on the shotgun resting in her lap. She was always afraid the damned thing would go off by accident.
“What do you think?” she asked. “Fifty / fifty?”
“Mr. Knutson was a mean son of a bitch,” replied Jody. “I’d say seventy / thirty.”
Coming back from the dead was hard on a soul. People who did were never quite the same, and everybody came back worse. They’d debated whether a person’s previous life had any effect on their resurrected one, whether a person’s soul influenced how they came back, or if it was mostly random. Sophia thought the soul had to count for something. Jody thought there was no such thing, and even if there was, it’d probably left the body during the three days it lay in the ground.
Both of them agreed it was always a bad idea to raise the dead, but five hundred bucks was five hundred bucks.
It took Mrs. Knutson the better part of the night to unearth her husband from the shallow grave. When the last bit of dirt was shoveled away, Mr. Knutson opened his eyes and sat up.
“Step back, Mrs. Knutson.” Jody gently pushed the old woman aside as Sophia stepped forward, shotgun at the ready.
“Alright, Mr. Knutson, I’m going to need you to answer this question before I let you out of that grave.” Jody pulled an index card from his pocket.
“When’s your anniversary?”
“Seventh of October,” replied Mr. Knutson in a dry, cracked voice.
Jody nodded to Sophia who lowered her weapon.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, sir.”
Mrs. Knutson wrested the shotgun from Sophia and blew a hole in her husband’s chest. He fell over dead again. Something inhuman howled as wisps of glowing smoke slipped from his mouth.
“That wasn’t Lars,” she said.
“But he got the question right,” said Sophia.
Mrs. Knutson waddled to a folding chair. “Thirty-nine years of marriage, the old bastard never once remembered it. Not once.”
“Fourth time’s the charm, right?” said Jody as he grabbed the shovel and started burying the corpse again.