I pushed the rusty shovel into the softening black earth. I was almost there. Sweat trickled down my forehead, the back of my neck, under my arms. The weather was cool enough. However, digging a hole four feet long, two feet wide and six feet deep was not an easy task in winter ground, even in Texas.
I didn’t notice the little boy walk up behind me until he spoke.
“What are you doing?”
I started from my mission, slipping on the edge of the hole and almost falling into the nearly completed rectangle.
“Wh…where did you come from?”
“You know where I came from. I asked first, anyway.”
Little smart aleck, I said I under my breath. I didn’t want to scare the poor kid, but he was kind of asking for it. I peered down into his light blue eyes, slightly familiar to me, but I couldn’t place why, “I’m digging a grave, kid, you wanna help, or something?”
“Nah,” his hand shielded his eyes from the sun. “Did your pet die or somethin’?”
“Yeah, I guess you could have called him a pet. At one time he was a pet, but later, he became a part of me, and then a little pain in the... well, anyway.”
“Are all of these your pets, too?”
I looked back at the row of small crosses at the head of the graves, some the dirt had already settled upon, others the dirt just days, or weeks old. “Yeah, they were pets once, too, until the end.”
“Hmm,” he grunted.
I pushed the shovel a few more times, tap, scrape, swoosh, tap, scrape, swoosh, then stopped and wiped my brow with the back of my hand, and looked down at the brat.
“You just gonna stand there and watch?”
“Just til you’re done.”
“Why, ya got some hang up about cemeteries or something? Or maybe you’re just a little creep, huh?”
“You would know better than I.”
Boy, I wanted to whack him with the shovel for that smart mouth of his, then maybe I could just stick him in the hole and cover him up. I wonder if anyone would miss him? Probably not.
I went back to my digging. He went back to watching. The sun glinted off his white hair. He was so fair skinned; I just knew he would burn badly if he stayed out too much longer, even though it was only 55 degrees.
“Say, don’t ya think ya outta go home to your mom or dad or somebody. Surely somebody’s missin’ ya?”
“Yeah, they already do.”
“So, go home, then and leave me to my chores.”
“What, dear old Mom lock ya out for that smart mouth?” Tap, scrape, swoosh, tap, scrape, swoosh. I didn’t hear his reply over the shoveling.
He sure looked familiar, but there weren’t any little boys in the neighborhood, not that I recalled.
I leaned on the shovel and glared at him, “How old are you?”
“You should know, but since you asked, twelve. You must be getting senile.”
“What? Why, I should turn you over my knee right here and now!”
“Fat lotta good that would do ya’!” He rolled his eyes, clearly annoyed. “Do you think you could speed up the digging a little? I’d like to see it done pretty soon.”
“Say, what? Boy, didn’t your mother teach you any manners? You don’t speak to your elders that way.”
“Yeah, okay, whatever. Just dig.”
The more I looked at him, the more familiar he appeared to me. I thought and thought, but couldn’t come up with the answer.
Well, I had a hole to dig, and I wasn’t getting it finished listening to this little punk. In fact, this very hole was for a little punk his age. I killed him just this morning. Tap, scrape, swoosh, tap, scrape swoosh. The pile of dirt grew and so did the hole.
Some people would think it strange, me digging a hole this size for the reason I had for digging it, but I wasn’t most people.
After I killed the first one off, the grief got to me so badly that I decided I needed some closure. So, I came out, dug a hole the right size, placed her in it, and filled it in, saying a few words about what a great time we had had together and how much money she would make me in the long run. Yep, found out that closure was the way to go, because once you kill them the guilt and grief just eat away at you until you have to do something because you can’t go forward with another one until you end it completely with the last one. Sad thing it is.
Well, there. I looked down at my hole, four feet long, two feet wide and six feet deep. Just the right size for…
Holy Cow! That’s where I recognized that kid from. I turned to look at him, again, a little scared this time.
“Say, how did you come back?”
“Don’t worry. You really took care of me at the end of the story, but the entire plot was so weird that I thought maybe the funeral should be, too.”
Then he jumped into the hole, laid down with his arms crossed over his chest, and closed his eyes waiting for the dirt to pile up.
In a flash, his eyes popped open and he added, “Oh yeah, and when you say the part about the money, make sure to mention that I will make you the most, because people really like weird stories these days. This one will make it into the theatres practically after the book hits the shelves! Oh, and you might add how there will never be another like me.”
He closed his eyes again.
Smug little brat!
I shoveled the dirt on faster than normal. Most of it I just pushed back in.
When I was finished filling it in, I slammed the shovel down with a crack and left without saying a word.
That boy really was a pain! He really got on my nerves, and had since page one. Hell, I was glad to see his little behind gone! He was sure right about there not being another like him! I’d see to it!
I went back into the house, poured a drink and sat down at my computer, a new character already taking shape in my mind, one better than the last.
Ha, ha, ha!