The Grave of Junius Brutus Booth, Jr

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Eight

They called him June. He was tucked away in a corner, lichen-sprayed white granite in the shape of a book that bore his name. His wife was next to him. Her name was Agnes. She remarried, after he died, but kept the surname that bore an acting pedigree. We couldn’t blame her. We agreed we’d probably do the same.

We had walked straight from the beach in cheap flip-flops and bikini tops and denim cutoffs. We had cheeks flushed from the sun and hair crusted with salt. The search had begun when we were sitting on the red-white rocks and letting waves roll over the sunburnt tops of our feet, trying to deduce which of the mansions on the adjacent road had once been his. The cottage he’d lived in was still around, somewhere, but the hotel he ran when he retired shamefaced and grief-stricken to our little town burned down a century ago. We decided to leave behind the stirring ocean and burning sand and go find him.

We weren’t quite sure what to do once we found it. June was here because of the idyllic veneer that covered the lovely ugliness of our town, we knew that much. It struck us, looking at his shadowed stone, how ridiculous we looked in our bathing suits in the cemetery, out of place and maybe even disrespectful. He must have felt out of place too, we speculated, shouldering the name of a genius alcoholic father, working managerial roles while his more handsome, more talented brothers took on the American stage. Did he wish for the wider acclaim of his eccentric, heartthrob brothers? When June was at the opera house in Cincinnati and he found out what his brother John had done was he horrified or was he solemnly resigned, did he fear for his brother’s safety or just for his own reputation?

One of us voiced the question we had all been thinking. “Do you think he knew he was just going to be remembered as the brother of the guy who killed Lincoln?”

We looked at the stone for a little while. Someone found a ten dollar bill in the front pocket of her cutoffs and thought maybe we could split an ice cream. We all agreed but didn’t move for a long time, as if rooted to the spot, as if glued to our seats watching a performance of Julius Caesar with three brothers in the leading roles, watching them try to out-kill each other.

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