I stopped working and watched her come in my direction. She was picking her way gingerly through the headstones. She looked lost and wasn’t wearing the right shoes. It made her walk harder than it needed to be. I leaned on my shovel and waited for her to get closer. When she got close, about two rows over, she stopped and studied me. She was a pretty girl. I pegged her as in her late teens or early twenties; tall, at least six feet, and skinny as a rail. Her kinky blonde hair stood off from her head by almost a foot, adding to her height. It glowed in the morning light and appeared as a halo. She was wearing a brightly colored, flower-print dress. It was short, sleeveless, youthful, and summery. I thought she must be cold, as the morning chill still lingered in the air
Breaking the spell, I spoke up, “Can I help you, Miss?”
She looked around as if confirming that I was indeed speaking to her. There was no one else in sight besides the two of us so, she pursed her lips, raised her eyebrows and pointed at herself, questioningly.
“Maybe.” she ventured. “Can you tell me where I am? Can you tell me who you are?”
“Folks call me Digger,” I said. “You’re here… in the graveyard.”
“How did I get here? Why am I here?”
“I’d reckon that you’re here ‘cause you got something to bury. That’s usually why people come.”
“What?” she questioned. “How?”
“Yeah,” I said, “most folks know why they came. Maybe you oughta sit down so we can figger this out. Here, over here.” I took off my jacket and laid it on one of the stones for her.
She sat with her knees together and her feet splayed apart. She looked like a kid and leaned back on both arms, elbows locked and watched me as I went back to work.
“What is this graveyard?” she asked, “who’s buried here?”
“It’s not who,” I said, “It’s more like what. Are you lost? What section of the grounds are you supposed to be in?”
“What’s buried here, Mr. Digger?” she asked.
I stopped working and looked right at her. I thought she might be joking but she looked genuinely perplexed. “Are you putting me on? Miss… sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“Goldie,” she said. “My name’s Goldie.”
“Are you putting me on Miss Goldie? You really don’t know?”
“Not Miss Goldie, just Goldie. And, I really don’t know.”
I stuck the blade of my shovel into the dirt pile next to my hole. I sat on the pile of dirt and looked at her. “It’s dreams, Goldie. This is the graveyard of dreams. When someone gives up on their dreams or when dreams die, they come here. We give ‘em a proper burial. Try to make ‘em comfortable.” I waved my hands to take in the expanse of the place. “Lotta dreams get abandoned and die Goldie. Some days it’s all I can do to keep up.”
“But, why am I here?” she asked.
“I reckon there could be two reasons,” I said. “Either you’re someone’s dream and they’ve given up hope; or you’re here to give up on a dream of your own.”
She snorted, “I guarantee I’m nobody’s dream, unless I’m a nightmare, and I’m too young to give up on my own dreams yet. I’m not even twenty-one years old, Mr. Digger. I still believe in my dreams.”
“Just Digger please, Goldie. Just Digger.”
“OK, sorry Digger.”
“Maybe you are lost then,” I said. “Look, Goldie if you’re not an abandoned and dead dream then you must be here to give one up. Folks who come to bury their dreams generally get a receipt from Reverend Applegate. They show that receipt to the gatekeeper and they can get out. They can go home. Nobody just accidentally arrives here. It never happens!”
“It has now,” she said, “I’ll just go explain to the gatekeeper and he can point me back home.”
“He won’t let you out.”
“Course he will,” she said, “I’ll just explain that there’s been a mistake. Which way’s the gate?”
I pointed. She took off her shoes and stood up. Damn, she was tall. She started walking towards the gate and I returned to my work. Soon she was back.
“Which way to the preacher?” she asked.
I pointed out the steeple of the chapel that Reverend Applegate used for business and she started walking that way.
When she came back this time, she was crying. “What am I going to do, Digger? I can’t give up on my dreams! Not yet.” She sat back down on the headstone and I handed her my handkerchief. She blew her nose and went to give it back.
“That’s OK, Goldie,” I said, “keep it.”
“Thanks,” she wadded it in her hand and held it with a death grip.
“Don’t you have a little dream you can let go of?” I asked her.
She shook her head and wiped her nose.
“How ‘bout a really big dream?” I ventured, “You know, an impossible dream. Something that’ll never come true. Give that up now, you’re young. You can replace it easily enough with something else.”
She shook her head again. She was stubborn, this Goldie. I liked her but I didn’t see how I could help. “I don’t know then Goldie. By the rules, you’re stuck.”
She stood up and wandered off – heading towards the trees. I almost cried for her. This was tragic.
From time to time over the next couple of years, I would see her wandering around the perimeter. She seemed to stay close to the fence as though she was looking for a hole in the security.
Then one day I was working on a pretty big hole east of the chapel when I spotted her running fast towards me.
“Digger, Digger,” she yelled and she was waving a slip of paper in her hand. “I got a receipt but I wanted to say goodbye before I left.”
“I’m happy for you, Goldie,” I said, “I’m sorry you had to give up on your dream.”
“It’s OK Digger. I told the Reverend that I was giving up my dream of ever getting out of here. He gave me a receipt. I’m leaving.”
“Damn,” I said, “that must be what this big hole is for. No one told me. I hope I never see you again Goldie. I hope your dreams never die, that they all come true.”
“Thanks,” She said and she gave me a peck on the cheek then she turned and ran towards the gate. I haven’t seen her again. She’s living the dream!