TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
All the townsfolk said she’d not survive out here alone. Yet, here she was, working the soil for the second Spring. After a frigid winter, she could finally dig her fingers into the warming Earth. She patiently sifted clumps, making way for the tiny roots her carrots would put down as they sought ancient nutrients left there by their rotted brethren.
One clump did not feel like dirt at all. Puzzled, she grabbed hold of it, pulled, and…
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
I’ve always liked digging in the dirt.
When I was a boy, I especially liked digging in the no man’s land between our ramshackle mobile homes—ours and the Wilsons’.
That was the empty place where the Murphy’s ratty trailer sat before it blew up and the cops and county hauled away what was left. The adults told us the Murphys were cooking something they shouldn’t have, and not to think about it anymore.
No one wanted the Murphys’ old space, so it just sat there vacant, a big, scruffy empty lot, with mounds of dirt, piles of ash, loads of weeds, bits of concrete and twisted metal.
The other kids’ parents told them not to play there. So, the little sissies stayed away, said the place was icky, weird, haunted, made excuses for being chicken. I remember hearing Bobby Ford talking about it, using a swear word—con-damn-in-ation.
Let him swear if he wanted. All the better for me.
I dug in that lot all the time. My parents couldn’t have cared less. Too busy arguing, often about my gran, who freeloaded off of us.
I went out there in the hot sun, when the earth was dry and cracked. And I dug. The ground would fight my stubborn little trowel and the broken-handled shovel I borrowed from the Wilsons’ shed and never took back. They’d ratted me out when I busted their window, so I figured they owed me. Anyway, the ground resisted, but I dug, scraped, cut through. Wanted to scoop out a cave and hide in it.
I went out after the rain, into the slosh and the dark mud, and dug up big wet clods, dripping with rotten muck, sometimes crawling with worms. Or more often there were dead ones, slimy pieces tumbling here and there as I slung the earth about.
I liked looking at the holes I dug. I made patterns. I hollowed out holes for eyes, empty, staring at the sky, hoping to see stars. And mouths, wide open, waiting to be fed.
Sometimes I pretended I was a gopher, but digging from up above, not from below. I never saw a real gopher on that lot. Not a live one, anyway.
Once, I tried digging through to China. Gran had told me China was down on the other side. But after a few feet, all I had was whole bunch of sweat and a big blister on my right hand. I found soil, pebbles, old roots. But not as much as a moldy old fortune cookie or a Chinese panda. Someone had lied to my gran. Or she lied to me.
Often my digging was to bury things. Like my sister’s toy tea cup. She cried a lot but never guessed. My dad’s comb with clumps of hair still on it. One of mom’s pearl earrings. I heard her cuss and say it wasn’t real anyway. I buried my least favorite marble, the tiger eye that was chipped. Good riddance. I buried my teacher’s ruler, the one she liked to slap slowly between her hands. Itching to slap us, we always suspected.
And I buried my gran’s false teeth. Swiped them from a green tumbler by her cot. Oh, what a ruckus, but no one ever figured it out.
I also dug to find things. I looked for pirate treasures, for lost coins, for dinosaur bones, for bits of meteors. I looked for pieces of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, but I guessed they were blown up too good. No skulls hidden in the dirt neither.
But I found plenty of things anyway. Parts of that old trailer. Nails, some straight, some bent. Crinkly metal slivers from the yucky yellow siding. A charred chimney ring. Wires coiled like snakes. An aluminum number, a 6. Or it could have been a 9. Rotten pieces of cloth. A spoon. Coffee filters. Part of a syringe. Soggy old papers. A tooth. Hair clips. Bottle caps. Chunks of batteries. Fragments of glass you could make shiny if you washed them good.
Once, I dug up a dead cat. Gross. I slung it into the Wilson’s yard.
Oh yes, when I was a boy, I liked digging. And I still do. But nowadays I dig for pay, and for pretty good wages too.
Dirt beneath my nails makes me feel connected to the earth. Digging gives me a chance to somehow shape things a little. The earth yields to me, and I create new little worlds, the hereafter.
But I don’t dig to find stuff as much as I once did. Hell, this is a cemetery. What am I going to find? Bones?
No, today, it’s much more about burying. I bury people, of course. But as I get older, I find myself burying plenty of other things. Including facts. Deeds. Memories. Some of those probably best belong out of view.
Like how when I was six or so, I sneaked into the Murphys’ stinky old trailer, ran my hands over the strange plumbing, toyed with the creepy wires, opened glass jars and cans, played with lighting the burners. I guess I left one of those burners on. I didn’t know the Murphys were passed out drunk in the back.
Yep, I reckon it’s best to bury some things. And to keep them buried.