Surrogacy For The Lost :: N2W 221015

Petra stood by her father’s open grave site and thought, Damn – I hate this.  Unconsciously, her right hip began to twitch. She pinched her lips, trying to suppress the nervous reflex she knew she could not control. 

N2W- graveyard

Why can’t I just cry like anyone else. Everyone would expect that rather than standing here looking like I need to pee.

So many wanted to expound on how great her father was, his impact on their lives, careers and the business he developed, a business she had inherited only four days ago. But his death had exposed a dark side of his life. It was the side that trafficked in young foreign girls one-at-a-time, kept in a safe house for his exclusive use until he tired of them and sold them to who-knows-where.

At least it’s stopped, and the worst news won’t go public for a while. But how could he?  How could I have missed all this?

Her much-younger brother nudged her and leaned to whisper, “Are you okay?”

She looked up in frustration, bit her lip and leaned to whisper back, “Yes, but I can’t stand here. It’s too much to bear. Ride with Uncle Ernest and I’ll meet you at the reception.”

“Um – okaaay., but . . .”

Petra spun and walked through the crowd avoiding everyone’s eyes. Her pinched lips screamed ‘stay out of my way’.

She walked past parked cars. Walking helped calm and stop the twitching, but she both wanted to be back at her father’s grave site and never wanted to be there ever again.  Am I just humiliated or angry? If there’s a hearing, I’ll have to testify. They should suspect me – how could I not have known? I’m a college graduate. I lived with him! How could I have not seen this?

That strange substance from his autopsy triggered the investigation of his bank records which exposed his not-so-safe-house and they found that poor girl.

An imagined image of her father secretly playing with her came to mind and her stomach seized. The image slammed into her last memory of him – his last hug – saying how much he loved her – how proud he was and – Damn it! How can both be true?  Which was real? Was either? The investigator is going to want to know if anyone helped him do this? I sure would. How can I know who I can and should talk to?  I’m going to have to work with these people. I’m their boss now.

In the next few days, I’m going to have to lead many of them to keep the business running. How do I deal with who knew and who didn’t? I’ll give dad’s attorney a call – oh my god! Did his attorney know? How can I trust him?

Her mind spun. Damn it, Dad! You’ve left such a bloody mess!

The road took a turn and glancing back, she could no longer see the crowd at her father’s grave. Just being out of their sight gave her a nugget of comfort. They’re out of sight. Maybe now I can cry.

Glad to be alone on this path, she noticed a word on a headstone.

Vietnam? This guy might have been a soldier there like dad – yes, the inscription says so.

There was a dirty concrete bench beside the man’s grave. She took a few steps to examine it. Filthy. Well, who cares?  She sat and stared at the headstone.

“Hello – um – Captain Nate Gharibian. Can we talk?

“You and my father served in the same war, Vietnam. He was in Navy Intelligence. They taught him how to make sound decisions quickly. He became a successful businessman, but the war also injured him.

“Just a few days ago, he died. It was a complete surprise. They did an autopsy, found poison which caused an investigation, and it was discovered that dad was doing something immoral.

“He left his company to me, and I don’t know who all knows about his secret pastime, but law enforcement is now involved, and they tell me I’m not a suspect, but I think, how can they not?

“I thought I knew my dad, but clearly, I didn’t. I miss him, but when the news gets out, everyone will rightly think that he was some kind of monster.

“I want to be back over there mourning for him, but I’m also afraid of being seen anywhere near him but he’s dead so that makes no sense. I can’t sort what I do and do not know. I want to cry for my father, but now I can’t. Right now, he’s a stranger who I don’t trust. I don’t know who I can trust.


#             #             #             #


“Well – I’ll be. . . Jamie come here.”

“What?  What’s wrong Al?.

“Look out there. See the woman sitting at that one bench?”

“Yep – I know about it. It’s a pain to mow around and I’m glad it’s the only one we have.”

“That’s Captain Nate Gharibian’s grave. I was here when he arrived. He was a marine who died the day we evacuated South Vietnam. I recall his burial because no one showed up to mourn him. It was sad, but that gal seems to be mourning him now. I always thought he must have someone out there. Maybe she finally found him. Good! A man dies fighting for his country should have someone to miss him. I hope he speaks to her.”

“Um – Al?”

“Oh – don’t worry. I’m not going all weird on you, but you work a cemetery long enough and you learn that the dead have ways of unburdening those willing to talk with them.”


#             #             #             #


“Mr. Gharibian, I need a good cry. I – I need to mourn. Your headstone says you were a soldier. It looks honorable. I badly need this cry, but I can’t go back there – not yet. This is awkward, but, Sir, can I cry for you? “

980 Words, inspired by KL Caley’s October. 13, 2022 #WRITEPHOTO
challenge to write a short story about a ‘Cemetery”.

N2W- graveyard

GW bio card 4

17 thoughts on “Surrogacy For The Lost :: N2W 221015

      1. You have to love a story that can leave emotional scars – something to think about long after the reading.
        I want to be able to tell those stories.


  1. My headstone was in the Stokesdale United Methodist Church Cemetery. It belonged to Roy Glenn Marshall and sat in the back all alone. Stokesdale was the little town in NC I’d moved to when I left Petaluma in 1978 and when I took long walks down the dirt road each evening from home to the volunteer fire department the cemetery was on the way home and a quiet place to stop to watch a sunset or thunderstorm come in. I’d sit on Roy Glenn’s headstone and talk with him about so many things. For over 11 years he listened to me about moving, class work, job hunts, and changes, learning to live in the South as a California girl, lack of boyfriends, having a boyfriend, getting married and divorced, heartbreak, moving, more heartbreak, confusion. He was a good man. Then I had a new man, moved to a new small town, and left Roy Glenn behind.

    My new husband’s sister was born exactly 10 years to the day before I was and had worked in the same building at the same business that I had for six months before I left my job to go to work for the County at Emergency Services. We briefly were acquainted, kinda. They were from Guilford County, NC going back generations.

    His mom had dementia and I’d take her on drives to soothe her. Turns out she had lived in Stokesdale when she was a little girl. In fact, she had gone to Stokesdale United Methodist Church and some of “her people” were buried there, the Purgasons. So one day we drove over and I showed her where I’d lived down the dirt road from the church. She didn’t recognize it as it was now made of brick. When she went there it had been white wood, then torn down to rebuild with rock. Oh, that was the wooden frame of a window my sister and I had found while riding horses down in the woods years before and I now had hanging in my kitchen at home. We’d salvaged it from now rotten pieces that had been thrown away during the construction process. She remembered watching them tear it down and build it. And I’d been there when the rock church was torn down and had bought one of the church’s hanging lights for my foyer at home that she saw every time she walked in, and had watched this brick church being built. We wandered through the Purgason part of the cemetery and she saw her cousins, her dad, and her mother. Then she said, “there’s my aunt Sarah Marshall.” Wait, what? Her aunt had married a Marshall. Sarah’s son was Roy Glenn.

    I love cemeteries. I love talking to people in graves. I love their stories. I love that strange things happen in life that can’t be explained. Oh, yes, I love my husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Zuzu,
      Wow – I really tripped over a slice of your own history with this story.
      Your experience with your MIL and Roy Glenn really grabs the mind. I too love cemeteries. I can’t walk through them without having stories come to mind.

      Yours above, is one great slice of accidental reality!

      Great feedback and event. It must have taken your breath away.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a splendidly complex short, so much to it, so much to ponder and that conflict. Goodness would that blow your mind, finding that out, rewriting your whole script in an instant. So we’ll done Gary. One of your best

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Geoff.
      You just made the days I spent wrestling and angsting about it worth the effort. I’m sure you know the type, the story that had to be convinced to be written.
      Thanks for the feedback and giving it a read.


  3. I really enjoyed this story with the accompanying conflict and emotions Gary, well done on pulling it together so succinctly. And what a great comment from Zuzu!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deb. Sorry for delay in responding. Work happened.
      This story was a fun wrestling match between me and the whole scene. The photo was pretty serene – but the story bloomed like a dense movie. My only constraint was to get it laid out in less than 1000 words – which I do sometimes just to force myself to be succinct.
      Thanks for giving it a read and letting me know.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Gary, wow what an intriguing tale. You captured the girls inner torment so well. I loved the inclusion of the solder and the last line was brilliant. Thank you for a fantastic entry to #writephoto. KL ❤


    1. Hi KL,
      Thank you for reading my story and for your kind feedback. I do love a yarn that leaves a mark on my readers mind. This one is still rattling around in my own thoughts. I have no experience of such things but wanted to see if I could capture such a situation maybe as a hook into a full novel. After this chapter, I’d be tempted to read the book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely Gary. You do dialogue particularly well. I think you’d make a great novelist! Have you got some ideas sizzling away? I’m doing nano this month, I think the story has been tormenting me for about 9 months so biting the bullet and putting pen to paper so-to-speak, now. I’m enjoying it so far. KL ❤


      2. Sigh – someday KL, I want to try again to get a book out with my name on it. There are so many barriers though and the market is so bad for new authors that I have plenty of voices in my head telling me it would be a waste of time and effort because my chances of being noticed, let alone read, are just so unlikely. At least with blogging, I get a few readers and almost everyone one who has commented has been very kind and encouraging. I’ve not nurtured many thoughts of producing a novel mostly because I think success with one is still out of reach. On the other hand, for the few thoughts along this line that I have had – are all from stories that your weekly prompt has inspired. I’m very proud of several of those stories and have day-dreamed about enlarging one or more of those.
        Thanks for pulling up so many of us newer writers.


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