The Hole Truth
by Bruce Costello
“Listen, Mate,” said the farmer, wagging his finger. “When I was your age, shovels was all we had to dig holes with.”
“Shovels!” The student wiped the sweat from his face and flicked back his long straggly hair.
“Work never done nobody no harm,” the farmer continued.
“What I mean, Boss, is I’d been looking forward to a spell of farm work, after being at university all year, but never thought I’d be digging friggin’ holes!”
The farmer, wearing old rugby shorts riddled with air vents in all the wrong places and a grimy black singlet, stomped his shovel into hard clay. He whipped off his battered felt hat, plonked it on the shovel handle and stood, hands on hips. “If you don’t like it, Mate, shove off. I’m not paying you to stand around bleating.”
“Alright, keep your hair on, Boss. And my name’s Craig, not Mate.”
“That right? Well mine’s Woody, not Boss.”
“So, Mate,” Woody went on, “We gotta get this last hole dug today because the builder’s coming tomorrow to sink the piles for me new cowshed.” He resumed shoveling. “If you wanna earn some dough to buy that filthy stuff you young fools are into...”
“I never touch it,” Craig protested.
“Yeah, well, the two lads working for me on Monday started digging again after smoko, then bloody vanished. Didn’t even stop to get their pay!”
* * *
Woody and Craig dug in silence. One hour passed and another and another. The sun was high. Pigs grunted and squealed in the fields, their smell carrying on the breeze.
Woody clambered from the hole and threw his shovel onto the growing mound of soil. He peered down at Craig’s sunburned neck and yelled: “Reckon another coupla hours’ll do it!”
“Time for smoko, Woody?” Craig called back.
“Yeah, right-o,” Woody answered, offering him a hand up.
“You’re getting into the swing of it, Mate.”
“It’s okay once you get the rhythm,” Craig said, rubbing spit into his blisters.
“It’s called work, son.”
Woody placed a hairy arm around Craig’s shoulder. “Let’s see what the wife left us before she shot into town.”
* * *
Milk’ss in the fridge — the big white thing in the corner, said a note in looping handwriting beside a large plate of biscuits. An electric jug, two cups and some teabags were next to it, with another note explaining how to make tea.
“The wife likes having me on,” grunted Woody, searching the kitchen for a spoon. “Gotta girlfriend, Craig?”
Craig blushed and shook his head.
“Well, what’re you doing at university?”
“A Doctorate in Philosophy.”
“Writing a thesis on Alethic Actualism.”
Woody raised an eyebrow.
Craig looked up, then carried on examining his blisters.
“Get stuck in,” said Woody, pushing the plate across the table. “The wife’s a beaut at baking.”
“Cool,” replied Craig, picking up a biscuit. He studied its greenish tinge, sniffed it and looked quizzically at Woody.
“Fill ya boots,” Woody encouraged. “I never eats biscuits meself, gives me gout.”
Craig took a bite and a smile spread across his features.
“Gobble as many as you like,” Woody said. “The wife’s got a big stash hidden away. Shove some in your pockets for later.”
* * *
Leaping to the bottom of the hole, Craig caressed the shovel, then plunged it into the earth, working like a demon, shooting the dirt into buckets and throwing them up to Woody with the ease of a faultless rugby pass. Once or twice he bent over, giggling as Woody dropped the ball and a bucketful of dirt dumped on his head.
The deeper he dug, the darker it became, but the clay took on a rainbow fluorescence, and the hole embraced him. “Mother Gaia!” he called out and, sinking to his knees, he stretched his arms upwards, towards infinity, beyond the blue patch of sky above the hole.
He felt extraordinarily at home in his skin and the contents of his head were soft and bright, like baker’s dough that a guy can mould into any shape he wants.
There’s no limit to how deep a man’s land goes, he thought. However far I dig, it’s all Woody’s land, right down to Spain. But....what if someone on the other side reckons it’s his?
There was no time to lose.
Thrusting another biscuit into his mouth, Craig jumped to his feet and dug with great fury and energy, plunging his shovel ever deeper into the planet. Overhead he heard Woody’s voice calling him, but he kept going, faster and faster and faster....on and on and on.
The last scoop of earth broke apart and his shovel burst through into open air. Craig leapt out of the hole, nearly knocking over a man hoeing an onion field.
“Sorry about that,” Craig said, holding out his hand. “I’m Craig from New Zealand. How ya going, Mate?
“Buenos días, señor,” the man replied, kissing Craig on both cheeks. “Bienvenido! You are the third New Zealand man who visit us this week.” A smile spread across his face. “Have you bringed more of the biscuits of Señora Woody?”
Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Costello