Black Marker and a Shovel

-Tracy Engle-

It was so wrong. We had planned it, too. Although, we couldn't do something so strange on a whim. We'd have to be crazy. That's what I thought as I stood in the dirt and watched my best friend dig the hole. Maybe we were crazy. I almost wanted to call it off, to tell her to stop, to head back through the waist-high weeds and go home. But it was too late. We had come this far; we couldn't turn back now.

Yes, we were crazy. We always had been. However, I never thought it would come to this - this vile act of blasphemy, of an unimaginable and unexplainable evil. What it came down to was an act so crazy, so strange, that not even the revered Edgar Alan Poe would have dared to write about it. No, this was real.

She cursed. The ground was too hard and dry to break with a shovel. Throwing the shovel aside, she used her hands to pull the dirt apart. When that didn't work, she used her flip-flop and a stick to scrape away the hard layer of ground. Amused, I looked on. The discarded shovel was held together only by duct-tape and wouldn't have been much help even if the ground was soft. Nevertheless, she loved it. If only because it was mangled to the point of hilarity, she loved it and insisted upon bringing it. Not that we could have gotten another shovel, anyway - we didn't want to make anyone suspicious by asking for one. This was something we had to do, and nobody else could know about it. Not yet, anyway.

Originally, it had been my idea. But, since I could never bring myself to do such a thing alone, I had called my best friend and dragged her into it. She came immediately, curious about why I was so upset. When I showed her, she understood and agreed, quickly making plans and plotting our deceit. That night, we didn't sleep. We were too excited, too filled with anticipation and dread. We even went as far as blacking out pages with a permanent black marker. We destroyed our proof, our only justification for what we were about to do. And we giggled like school girls while doing so. As soon as the sun warmed the ground, and before the dew on the grass disappeared, we were outside in search of the shovel that was now lying motionless in the weeds in front of me. I turned away, unable to watch her follow through with the crime - the crime I had proposed. In truth, I was bored (and far too lazy to dig a hole in the heat).

I glanced across the horizon. From the little hill we stood on, I could see part of the city and more of the Sierra Nevada mountains than I could see from the house. They were breathtaking - covered in snow and tinted blue because of the distance. A spider crawled over my foot, and I screamed, backing up onto the concrete and burning my feet, which were already scratched and sore from the weeds. The concrete was the original foundation for the house, which was so far away from us that my grandma looked like she was two inches tall.

My... Grandma...

"Hurry up," I hissed, realizing that I had been watching my grandma walk across the lawn for the past five minutes. She was waving at us, and the faint sound of her voice barely reached us. "OKAY!" I screamed back, waving to tell her that we understood whatever it was that she had said. Really, I had no idea what she shouted, but I could guess. The shadows around us had deepened, and the Sierras, which were directly east of us, had grown more blue and hazy. It must have been nearly four o'clock. Dinner time. Everyone was probably getting suspicious, so we had to get back fast.

"Done," she said cheerily, dusting her hands on her pants. The hole wasn't very big, and she noticed my skeptical look. "It'll fit," she said. "Well, it should..."

I shrugged and braced myself. She dug the hole; I had to do the rest. Unfortunately, this meant crossing most of the hot concrete. I sighed, stood clumsily on my tip-toes, and ran. When I reached my shoes, tan suede boots ruined by the stickers from the weeds - torpedo-shaped stickers that, to this day, I can't pull out of those shoes - I looked around frantically. What did I do with it? My scorched feet screamed in agony while I began running in circles. "Where did it go? It was right there!" Finally, she ran across the concrete to come to my aid. It was behind the broken, concrete and rock column that I had set it on. She laughed, and I picked it up begrudgingly.

This was why we were here. I cradled it gently, and followed her solemnly back to the hole. She placed it inside. Naturally, it did not fit, but she wiggled it deeper and dropped extra chunks of dirt on it. Then, she jumped up and down on the new mound to get the dirt to stay. I sighed again, sadly this time, as she swung the broken shovel over her shoulder and bounded back to the house. I followed, choosing my path carefully so I wouldn't find more stickers than necessary. She said that if I skipped like she did, I would avoid them. I proved her wrong by somehow getting one stuck in my shorts.

With the odd sensation of wanting to laugh and cry at the same time, I pulled the sticker gingerly out of my clothing. It was over. I had a few more feet to go before I was home-free. I didn't regret what I did. In fact, I smiled. It felt good to go through that dime-store romance novel with a permanent black marker, to viciously mark out all of the explicit scenes and scribble "bad book" along the sides. The only thing I regretted was that, out of 324 pages, I only made it to page 222. I hadn't even finished reading it. It plagues me to this very day. What happened in the end? I will never know.

After brushing on an even more disagreeable sticker than the one before, I ran the last few feet to the green, weedless yard and yanked off my shoes. "I can't believe we did that!" I hollered at her - my best friend, the only one who could possibly understand.

No, Edgar Alan Poe wouldn't have written about this. The dime-store romance novels of his day were a lot more subtle. . . . And most often, dime store romance novels did not make a habit of falling into the hands of insane thirteen-year-olds.