This Happened: How to Dig
You're seven, and the two neighbor girl's father is standing in the back yard talking to your dad.  You listen to them talk, two deep voices blending in the cool spring air.  They are standing in front of the tool shed, next to a big wheelbarrow.

The screen door clacks when you step out, and the men stop talking as you tromp, barefooted, through the grass and look over the lip of the wheelbarrow.  You see a mess of blood matted fur, and a single glassy eye that stares up at the clouds.  Denver, the neighbor's basset hound.

"I found him over by the road," says the neighbor, "It must have happened in the last hour.  He was at the house when the girls came home from school."

You nod stupidly, still staring at the dog.  You'd been on the bus with the girls, your neighbors, and had watched the dog run up to them as they'd walked up the road towards their house. 

"They went shopping with their mother," the man, Mr. Woods, continues, "I don't want them to see him like this."

"Sure," your dad says, "take him behind the shed."

Mr. Woods grips the wheelbarrow's handles and pushes it down the yard, disappearing behind the shed, right next to the gap in the barbed wire fence that grant you and the girls access to Mr. Baily's pond and cow fields.  You hear the shed doors creak open, thump closed, and look up only when a large, warm hand drops down on your shoulder.  Your dad hands you a spade.

"Here," he says, hefting a mattock over his shoulder,  "Help us."

You take the spade, feel the grain of the shaft in your hand as you follow him around the shed to where Mr. Woods is waiting.  The two men take turns working with the mattock, tearing great chunks of grass and red clay out of the earth.  They stop ever few minutes to let you use the spade to shovel out the loose dirt and rock that settles down at the bottom of the hole, and then tell you to dig around the edges, making it wider or longer, before again laying into the ground.  When they finally stop the hole is nearly as deep as you are tall.

Mr. Woods takes Denver out of the wheelbarrow.  The dog's head and tail dangle lifelessly in his arms and settle at odd angles at the bottom of the hole.  The neighbor man takes a moment to turn the dog's head as though he was just sleeping.  You think about all the fun times that you've had with that dog, realize that those time are over, and feel a pinch in your gut.

The men are standing by the tall pile of red dirt, looking at you.  You realize that they're waiting for you to help fill in the hole.  The tool had seemed long and awkward when you'd been digging, but it slides into the loose dirt easily, and you find yourself holding a spade full of dirt over the unmoving dog.  For a moment you entertain the fantasy that Denver will jump up and run off into the field.

Your dad says, "Nothing for it, son." And you let out a breath that you didn't even know you'd been holding.

"I know." You say, and turn the spade over.

Later, by the well spickett, when you and your dad are washing the dirt off of your hands and you can hear the sound of frying okra coming out of the open kitchen window, you ask, "Why'd you and Mr. Woods have me do that.  Why not Rebecka and Carrie?"

Your dad looks down at you as he wipes his hands dry on an old towel.  "Because", he says, "every man needs to know how to dig."

This happened...
His back hurt.

God did his back hurt.  It was such that every step he took was going to be the moment where all of the bones and muscles that made up his lower spine grabbed hold of his brain stem and demanded that he stop moving.  He'd about decided that the only reason he could put one foot in front of the other was the liquor that was slowing numbing his senses.

Besides, if walking hurt, than standing was even worse.

He winced and chuckled, turning bearded check into an icy, cutting wind and pulling his dirty jacket close around him.  "Don't complain," he muttered," 's just what you get for moving break drums without the tow-motor."

There was his car, that old reliable rice burner that he'd parked next to the White Lily factory, a block away from the bustle and light of the old city.  The echos from his own footsteps were swallowed up by the whistling breeze, and he cursed as a fit of shivers turned the pain from an irritating tingle into a wrenching spasm.  Suddenly the whole damn alley seemed just a little more miserable.  He looked down as he fumbled for his keys.

The car door was swinging open when he caught a whisper of movement out of the corner of his eye and yelled, surprised and frightened, as another body slammed into him, pushing him off balance and sending him crashing into the side of his car.  Someone was trying to kick his legs out from under him, but he managed to get a grip on a layered mat of coats and sweaters and shoved back hard.

He stood straight, growling at the hurt, pulled out his work knife and glared at the tall pile of rags that was picking itself off the pavement.  For one long moment his thundering heart waited to see if his attacker would pull a gun, but as he watched he realized that the man was smaller than him, probably much smaller if you peeled away the layers of coats and sweaters.  The would-be mugger seemed to realize this too, and disappeared into the dark behind the factory as though he'd been a trick of the flickering street light.

Taking a second to take a deep, shuddering breath, he eased down into his car and went home.

Greeting from a bird (and a mouse)
Here's the hello to all the other odd folk who enjoy reading up on perfect strangers.  Thank God for us, else the internet would be a very cold, friendless place filled only with porn and political screeds.  Anyway, a word of warning; if you're here to gaze deeply into my personal life I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.  I'm a fairly private fellow, and am more than a little paranoid about the fact that what is put out on the 'net can never really be taken back.  However, I've no problem relating funny (usually at my expense) stories when they pop up, or making some up if nothing's fallen on me in awhile.  Sometimes I might fabricate a blatant lie and dress it up as the truth.  In my more honest moments I might even write a story and call it fiction.

Who knows?

So, just because you took the time to read all of that, here is a treat.  Not an hour ago I was outsmarted by a mouse.

Yes, a mouse.

I've lived in my apartment for two years now.  There was a slight problem with vermin when I first arrived, but I made war upon the pests and cleansed my domain of their wretched presence and they have dared only once to try to resettle.  That is, until last week, when late one night I heard the distinctive scrabbling of critters behind my walls.  Now for seven days I have laid out tasty poison treats, vacuumed, cleaned up whatever clutter there was on the floor and generally made it difficult for the enemy to hide should they venture out where I can see them.

One ventured out today as I was shaving.  All I saw was a quick shadow, but I gave chase and soon had a gray mouse cornered.  Unfortunately, I had him cornered under my TV stand, which was too heavy to move quickly, so when I attempted to capture the little blighter by moving the stand and tromping down with an old shoebox he escaped and ran under my couch.  This was unacceptable as I often sleep on said couch, so I quickly grabbed one side and swung it out away from the wall, fully intending to crunch my uninvited guest.  I'd expected him to make for the kitchen, but he was wily and ran under my legs to hid beneath my big bookcase, which is far too heavy to move without taking all the books out and the space that he fled too small for me to fit any effective killing instruments.  What's worse is that the case stretches about a mile, and I have nothing long enough to block the tiny genius inside.

So, now I'm fixing to go to work, knowing that he's under there, watching me, waiting for me to walk out the door so he can have the run of the place.  But no matter; I will strike back.  I've already called for reinforcements.  The Orkin men will put the fear of God into the interlopers, and if they don't leave of their own free will than they will go, like their ancestors, to a grizzly end.

Now to work.


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