Rich stood by the tree, his hand gripped to the high end of the trunk. His gray tennis shoe balanced on the shoulder of the shovel’s blade, its face stabbed between roots. His father Stanley labored beside him, bent forward at a right angle, his shovel held in both hands childishly close to the business end. He sliced the metal through the dirt, the repetition like the sound of the earth breathing.
“I asked you out here to help me.” Stanley complained.
“You asked me nothing.” Rich said, letting his shoe leave the shovel and plant onto the dirt. “I came out here to make sure you don't wander off into the street.”
Stanley stopped his digging. Still bent over, he looked up to his son caught in an absent glare.
“I’m not the one always lost in space.” Stanley started. “I’ve known this home since I was a child. Hell, it’s why I’m digging.”
“You’re digging because you’ve grown senile and you need something to fill the gap.”
Stanley went back to his work. The shovel only picked up enough dirt to fill a sandwich bag, but piled on the patchy grass near the sidewalk, he had himself a mound calf-high.
“My father bought this place when I was three years old.” Stanley began.
“I know. I know. Bought it before the town had a single stoplight. Bought it before Main was Main and before the factories came and went. Everyone made fun, until LIFE magazine named it a top 25 town to raise a family. Way back in ‘63”
“Right around the time you were coming up.” Stanley added.
“We lived in Fresno then, pop.”
The shovel stopped and Stanley shrugged. “Guess so.”
“You know pop, you still live here, and the neighbors are going to wonder what you’re doing.”
“That’s why I thought you’d help. It’d go a lot faster if there were two shovels moving.” He stopped his work and clanked his shovel against his son’s.
Rich lifted the blade from its shallow earthen pocket and stabbed it between roots on the other side of the tree.
“When I hid them,” Stanley started. “I thought of it as a game, but as time passed, it became an investment. You’ll be shocked, boy-o. Some as big as quail eggs.”
Rich sighed. “There are no diamonds, dad. It’s a false memory, or a dream masked as memory. Regardless, there’s nothing to dig up, just the tree and its roots.”
Stanley stopped his shovel and stood almost strait. “You don’t know. You think you do, but you don't.”
Rich stood silent.
Stanley eyed him aggressively. “I buried them.” He shouted, pinning his thumb his chest. “I buried them, and they’re here.” He lifted the shovel and stuck the blade downward with all his might and struck a root. The reverberation sprung his rickety hand open and widened his eyes. The shovel fell from his hand, its wood shaft bounced to rest on the sidewalk. Stanley’s head trembled staring through his son at his pain. Tears filled his eyes.
Rich bent down to pick up the shovel.
“Leave it.” Stanley snapped, freezing Rich mid crouch. “Don't help me, if you’re not going to help me.”
Stanley clenched his hand into a fist before opening it slowly, repeating the act until the movement settled the pain.
A child works fiendishly on all fours. He has stolen a gardening shovel from the garage. If his father catches him, he’ll get the belt. His seven-year-old hand grips half of the tree trunk he works under. His father told him that he and the tree will grow together, but the tree seems so big already, the boy can’t imagine how he’ll catch up. He turns the garden shovel around in his hand, lifts it up over his head and begins stabbing the earth again and again, forming soft clots of dirt before tossing the little shovel aside and using his hands to form a round cradle for the diamonds.
An MFA student at CSUSB, Ruben Rodriguez writes, paints, and wastes his time at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. He is the fiction editor of The Great American Lit Mag. Many of his stories have been deemed fit for consumption by the likes of Reunion: The Dallas Review, TINGE, The Nassau Review, ZAUM, theNewerYork, and others. His chapbook We Do What We Want (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2015) is due out later this year. You can find him at www.rubenstuff.com.
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