Setting: American Civil War
By Steven Thomas Howell
Read by Shawn Robertson
Neck deep in the grave, Sam Watkins paused at the clatter of an approaching supply wagon. Covered with sweat and caked with red Tennessee soil, he had dug without a break for most of the late August morning. He leaned the spade in a corner of the rectangular hole and scratched his dark beard, listening to the sounds of the world above. He wanted a chew from his knapsack, but decided he couldn’t afford the moisture it took to spit.
The sprawling oak in whose shade Sam worked grew on a small hummock, the only tree in the middle of a wide field. Over the edge of the grave, Sam could see a whitewashed farmhouse gleaming in the sun a quarter mile away beside a field of tall corn. If civilians were about, they had wisely made themselves and their livestock scarce.
The sergeant leaning against the oak’s massive trunk drained his canteen as a two-horse supply rig appeared around the bend, a good musket shot up the tree- lined road to Shelbyville. No single horses, so no officers. Sam left his straw hat and gray coat hanging from the low branch overhead. He wiped sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his filthy gingham shirt, nodded toward the sergeant, and looked up the road.
Silhouetted against the plume of brown dust trailing their wagon, two straight- spined men bounced toward the lone oak on the hill. A third man rode in the back, bobbing and swaying on the rough road. That would be the dead man.