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The Sirens of Suspense





David Bell is the author of five novels including the recently released NEVER COME BACK, THE HIDING PLACE (NAL/Penguin), CEMETERY GIRL, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS and THE CONDEMNED.

His short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including Cemetery Dance, Western Humanities Review and Backwards City Review. With Molly McCaffrey, he co-edited the short fiction anthology COMMUTABILITY: STORIES ABOUT THE JOURNEY FROM HERE TO THERE, which was published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Western Humanities Review, Backwards City Review and other journals. His work has been nominated for the Kentucky Literary Award and translated into several foreign languages including French, Italian, and Mandarin.

In preparation for his life as a writer, he worked as a delivery driver, film projectionist, telemarketer, and bookstore clerk before attending graduate school at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. He currently teaches English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY.

Find David on Twitter and Facebook.


Let me tell you about something that happened to me this morning. I’ve spoken before about my house and its close proximity to both a cemetery and a park. If you’ve read my novel, CEMETERY GIRL, you know that this park and cemetery inspired the setting in that book. Every morning I take a walk down the alley behind my house, past the cemetery and into the park and then loop back through the cemetery on my way home.

This morning as I went down the alley, I saw that they were setting up for a burial. The children’s section of the cemetery is closest to the alley, and as I passed by I saw the preparations: an astroturf covered box was sitting on top of a plot. It meant that a funeral was coming, that a tiny coffin would be placed on top of that box while the mourners gathered to say their final good-byes. I noted it and did what we all do—I went about my business.

Have I mentioned that it’s been a beautiful fall here in Kentucky? The leaves are just a bit past their peak, and it’s getting cooler, but the days are still amazing. The park was mostly empty as I wandered through it alone. (My wife, Molly, has planter fasciitis so she was off on a bike ride.) When I walk through the park and the cemetery, my thoughts turn to a lot of things. The work I have to do in the day ahead. Plots for novels. Memories. Nothing clears the mind better than a walk through the autumn leaves.

To be honest, my mind became so clear that I forgot all about that little astroturf covered box in the cemetery. I spent an hour walking around, burrowing deep into my own mind, and when I came walking back up the alley and saw all the cars assembled in the cemetery, I was momentarily surprised. But then I remembered. “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “someone is burying their child today…”

One of the families who live across the alley from the cemetery have a dog. A big, playful, chocolate Lab. He knows me. He sniffs me through the bars of the fence on an almost daily basis. As I walked up, approaching the site of the burial, the dog saw me, and let’s just say, he went nuts. That dog barked at me like I’d never heard him bark before. He ran up and down the fence, barking away, and I realized that all of those people standing around the kid’s grave were hearing it. Whatever the minister or priest was saying had to be drowned out by the barking of that dog. I understand that’s a risk when you have a graveside service on a busy street. Cars honk. People yell. But that dog just went nuts. And the owner wasn’t around to bring him in.

“Shhhhhhh,” I said. “Shhhhhhh.”

Of course, he didn’t listen to me. Why would he? I’m not the dog whisperer. So I hurried past, feeling bad. And then I came even with that graveside service.

There were a lot of people there. Maybe seventy-five. If I keeled over right now, you might be hard-pressed to find twenty people to stand around my grave. But, of course, when a child dies…more people come out. Cousins, aunts, grandparents, friends of the parents etc. Two little kids, maybe three or four years old, stood off to the side. They seemed oblivious to the ceremony. They played together, standing on top of the graves of other kids about the same age as they were. The dog continued to bark, the kids continued to laugh.

And then I heard the voices. Someone was speaking Spanish. I didn’t understand what was being said. Prayers? Hopes? Funeral rites? I didn’t know. I hustled past, my head down, hoping they didn’t blame me for the insanity of the dog. I heard a little thumping noise, like a drum. And soon people started singing. All of those people started singing. Loud and clear and in Spanish. Again, I don’t know what the song meant, but it sounded amazing on a crisp autumn morning. They drowned out the crazy, barking dog. They sang and sang until I was out of earshot.

And after that…I went on with my day. But I didn’t forget. I share it here. Life is beautiful, sad, nutty. I feel lucky to be alive.




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