Thursday, April 22, 2010

3-Minute Fiction: Digging Holes

The earth came out of the ground, but it wouldn’t return. There just wasn’t enough room for the earth to fit back in the ground, what with the antique desk in there.
That was the third day.

The first day began after he left for the airport. She already had some notion where it would go. Behind their cozy home a couple of lovely acres stretched, covered with a thick fur of grass. How much time and money had been spent to aerate the soil and generously nourish that yard with water and fertilizer? The yard was the first investment they agreed upon.
In the weeks before his trip, she mentioned two or three times the idea of creating a garden. She said this a couple of times, at the end or beginning of a conversation such that it would be lost beside these matters. It was a lateral remark, perfectly poised to insinuate itself yet remain in the background of daily life. She had to plant the idea.
The first day she carefully removed a patch of topsoil, large enough both for the plot where she would dig as well as the space across which she would drag the desk and then lower it into the hole. She planned to leave no trace of her work; the surface had to be preserved.

The second day she cleaned out the desk, putting its contents in a box. Everything was set aside, except for those nasty pages she found behind a practically hidden panel near the foot of the desk, the day that the desk lamp shorted after she pressed the on/off button and she climbed beneath that desk to unplug it and then saw it. That was two months ago. During those two months she read all of those handwritten pages. And she began writing a similar apologia. The task consumed her, her state of mind oscillating between rage and erotic provocation. It was complete the day before his flight, an elaborate narrative constructed out of every insipid detail that could be coaxed from her memories. She clung tightly to him that night in bed, her pages warming the floor beneath their bed. The next day he left for the airport.
She took her apologia, bound it and replaced it behind the hidden panel at the foot of the desk. She dragged the desk, on its top, across the yard on a tarp, quickly, so as not to disturb the grass too much. It flipped over onto its feet as it fell into the hole. It sat a little more than a foot beneath the surface. Then she tried to replace the earth.

The third day she had to replace the grassy surface, somehow such that no trace would remain and that within a week or so the grass roots would reach back into the ground. But more than a wheelbarrow’s load of dirt remained, that would not fit back into the ground. After replacing the grass (and watering it), she pushed the wheelbarrow to the edge of the yard, around the perimeter slowly, no space being quite right.
He would fly back tomorrow. She would say she’d sold that ugly, antique desk. He would be mad, but …
And then she realized, she would simply leave the full wheelbarrow in the middle of the yard. Except for the handful she put into a bowl and placed underneath their bed.
Next month, before she left to visit her mother, she would tell him to dig out the area she had staked out. His shovel would strike the desk, revealing her trick.

2 comments:

DOCTOR J said...

Chet, I really *love* this. Especially the part about her "planting" the idea. Nicely done there. Also love the description of a "lateral remark." Perf. I wish you hadn't been obligated to use the word "trick" in the last line. It works, of course, by which I mean it's an appropriate word, but it's not the noun you would have independently used to describe her project, I think.

I couldn't get the word "button" into my story to save my life. Your "button" was so seamlessly incorporated that I had to read back over it three times before I found the word.

I think you and Ideas Man and I should come up with our own challenges & post them on our blogs like this.

DOCTOR J said...

Also love that her pages "warmed the floor" underneath their bed. And I like the idea of competing apologias. Brilliant.