The Earth Move

Andy’s thighs got all red from the coffee spill, but there wouldn’t even be time for them to develop blisters. His mother, when seeking him out a week later, all worried about why he stopped returning her calls, would find the broken cup and wonder if it was some kind of suicide note. After all, the tiny old cups with the blue floral pattern had been a gift from Andy’s favorite aunt. Was it a message? And if so, what was it?


Andy couldn’t quite make out that the dark patch on the backyard lawn was an actual hole, five feet deep. He just winced at this glaring, as yet undefined, defamation of the perfect lawn on the perfect property on this perfect morning: the first morning he’d woken up in their dream house. He winced hard enough that he dropped his favorite cup filled with burning hot coffee, spilling the contents onto his thighs. He got out in the garden without noticing that the cup broke.

Staring into the hole, he wondered: Why would anybody dig a hole on another man’s lawn? It’s a lot of work for nothing. And where would they have gotten rid of the dirt they dug up? Next to the hole was just a few buckets’ worth of soil.

But mostly, he was rehearsing the terrible anger he’d unleash on the fool, if he found him, no: when he found him. Surely this was a friendly neighborhood, and perhaps this was some sort of friendly prank that, most likely, a friendly neighbor would laugh about loud enough for Andy to hear. And once he heard it, he’d take that friendliness to task, and there would be no more silly pranks.

Such was the plan of Andy Blake.

The hole in the ground had a different plan.

It had been up all night, and it was hungry. It looked approvingly at Andy from below. It stretched its arms wide open. He was sitting right on its cusp. Just a little bit more … Yes: the edge of the hole crumbled, and grass and dirt and a handsome man in his early thirties came tumbling down, tumbling down.

Five feet is not a big fall, it’s not dangerous if you’re at all prepared for it. Because Andy wasn’t, he fell flat on his face and spent precious seconds wondering about why the realtor hadn’t warned them of earthquakes. She knew they were newcomers to the area; wasn’t there any ethical code binding her to disclose such information?

While he was working up his irritation with the realtor to the same rough level as his anger with the prankster-neighbor, the hole got to work. It shifted dirt and rocks around, making it nearly impossible for Andy to find his balance. It brought back out the bigger rocks, the layers of sand and mud and dirt it had been without all night, engulfing Andy completely, holding him close, welcoming him home.

Then it let out a satisfied burp, and moved on to other things.

An hour or so later, Christopher Blake returned from the building supply store. He unloaded the concrete deck blocks onto the truck, rolled it around the house, and …

Well, this was mysterious. Christopher walked over to the shovel and picked it up. It had fresh, wet dirt on it. That part wasn’t mysterious, as he had used it to dig a hole during the night. It had been hard work, but he didn’t mind. He’d looked forward to seeing Andy’s face once the shack was finished. A recording studio separate from the house. It would be perfect.

“Everything alright there?”

Christopher looked around. The neighbor, mr … Hang on, he knew this … Mr Finkel, was looking just a little bit too interested.

“Uh-huh,” said Christopher. “Just getting settled. Had a little project in mind here for the backyard lawn.”

Mr Finkel leaned in over the fence.

“You brought that shovel with you in the move?”

“What, this one? Nah, we were in an apartment complex. But the previous owner left a bunch of tools in the basement.”

Mr Finkel twisted his lips into a faint smile, that didn’t reach his eyes.

“I better go inside. Good luck on that project, son.”

Christopher shook his head, trying to let go of some of the confusion. Maybe digging that hole had just been a very vivid dream.

He went inside and put on some coffee. He brought it to the porch and sat down on the steps. When he noticed a hole on the front lawn, he swallowed so hard that the coffee burned all the way down.

It was the right shape, but the wrong size and in the wrong place. No way that he had been that off last night.

Christopher walked over to the hole. It was much deeper than he’d dug it, too. The deck blocks needed just ten inches or so. This hole was at least five feet.

His head was spinning. He sat down on the ground, dangling his feet into the hole.

Oh, this day was a very productive one for the hole.

Emily Plesner

Image: Zach