by yt sumner
I found the hole by accident.
In my backyard, just after a storm, with my bed sheets flapping around me in big soggy slaps as I tried to pull them down. That’s when I saw it. It wasn’t very wide but it looked deep and when I leaned over I couldn’t see the bottom. I nibbled my lip. It would not do having a hole in my garden like this. Someone could fall in.
I knocked next door and after apologising about the hour asked my neighbour if I could borrow a shovel. He nodded and went to the shed smirking.
He smiled like that because he’d seen me naked once.
Late at night, dashing out in the rain to take my sheets off the line, there he was with his hands pressed against his window. It always seemed to rain when I washed my linen but it was the last time I forgot to put anything on before I rescued it.
Whenever he smiled like this I knew he was seeing me naked again, the rain bouncing off my arse. It made me feel queasy but I couldn’t do anything about it and anyway I needed a shovel.
I seized it from him when he returned, careful not to let our fingers touch, and hurried back to my yard. It was getting late but I didn’t start right away. I leaned on the edge of the shovel, balancing on one foot. Not until lightning cracked and illuminated the yard did I give it a stamp and wedge up a dark clump. I liked the sound of the grass and roots tearing apart as I lifted it free and I was smiling as I carried the earth to the edge of the hole. It smelled pretty good. Not many things smelled as good as rain, but the smell of fresh earth always smelled like a brand new start.
I was about to toss the first heap down, like that bit they throw on a coffin at a funeral, when I heard the voice.
Don’t you dare.
I paused, the heap of dirt hovering over the hole. I paused because I do have an active imagination. My mother calls it over-active, but it’s not like I see fairies at the bottom of the garden. I giggled at the thought considering my current situation and had to admit sometimes I did giggle at thoughts I probably shouldn’t have.
Throwing dirt is not a nice thing to do, you know.
This was definitely a voice. Coming from the bottom of the hole.
Are you okay?
I probably should have asked something else but that’s what came out.
Not as bad as you’d think. It’s a bit muddy down here but comfortable enough I suppose.
His tone was conversational and I wasn’t sure what else to say. I was getting uncomfortable in this awkward position and a little dirt trembled off the side of the shovel.
All right then.
I said down the hole.
All right what?
I frowned. I didn’t know. It was just something I said when I wanted to wrap things up, like when my mother wouldn’t stop talking on the phone.
Aren’t you going to ask me up?
I blushed. I hadn’t even thought of it. He was probably cold and would like a cup of tea. It was rude of me to not ask. My mouth opened with the invitation but I stopped it with a new thought.
What are you doing down there?
I frowned at how quickly he replied. It reminded me of babysitting my nephews and how they answered when I asked what they held behind their backs. Whenever they answered that fast it was usually something like a bloated toad or a fossilised dog turd.
I raised my voice as thunder rolled overhead and it started raining again.
I mean, what are you doing in a hole in my garden?
There was pause.
Er… can’t I just come up? It’s difficult to explain down here in the mud.
At his embarrassed expression I blushed again and pushed my wet fringe out of my eyes.
I’m sorry, of course.
I heard scrabbling and then a new tone emerged from the hole, closer this time.
Well, thank god for that…
His voice didn’t sound that civil anymore.
Because I was getting damn lonely down there…
His voice definitely had lost its conversational tone. It sounded deeper, in fact it sounded almost like a growl.
To tell the truth, I’m absolutely starving–
The top of his head emerged but all I saw before I brought the shovel down was that there was an awful lot of hair.
His yell turned to a yelp as he thudded and cried out that he was covered in mud and instead of blushing I grinned. I was still grinning when I heard the cough behind me and I swung around with the shovel to see my neighbour standing in the rain smirking at my clinging wet T-shirt.
What do you want?
I was as surprised at my tone as he looked. It didn’t sound like my usual one, in fact it sounded more like the one down the hole.
I was wondering if you needed a hand.
We turned towards the hole as the thunder clapped above and, underneath it, I could just make out the hollering deep in the ground.
I think I’ll be fine from now on, don’t you?
He muttered something about keeping the shovel as he hurried back next door and, as he disappeared behind the fence, I lifted my shovel in the rain and kept filling the hole in my garden.
yt sumner likes words and people that write them. People that listen to them. People that read them. Eavesdroppers. Stutterers. Silvertongues. She was born in the UK, raised all over Australia and settled happily in Melbourne. Her short stories have appeared in various literary journals, anthologies and magazines and she’s currently coaxing a motley group of them into a collection. Visit her at lambeatswolf.wordpress.com and then send her a postcard.