Digging Holes

He took his shovel into the woods, as usual, and dug a hole, as usual. Sometimes he would continue digging a hole he had started previously. Other times he would start a new hole. And once in a while he would find that one of his holes had been filled in, and he would have to dig it out again. That was almost always easier, because the dirt was loose, and he didn’t have to worry about tree roots—he would have chopped them out the first time. Once whoever filled in his hole had put rocks in first, big rocks he could barely lift, getting that hole re-dug was a lot of work. He managed it, though. After all, it was important to have all the holes properly dug.

He hadn’t always dug big holes in the woods. When he was a child he had taken a trowel out of the garage and dug small holes in the back yard. That ended with a severe spanking and a total prohibition on digging holes in the yard; his father had hit a hole while mowing the lawn and broken a wheel on the mower.

When the family went to the beach for summer vacation, he never went in the water. He just spent his time digging holes in the sand with his plastic shovel. It wasn’t very satisfying, you just about got deep enough and water would seep in and destroy the hole, but it was something.

All through high school and college he had to keep a tight rein on his digging. He thought a double major in Geology and Archeology might give him an opportunity, but it didn’t help. Geology classes never did field trips. He did get to go on Archeology digs two summers, but he always had to dig where the Professor told him, not where he knew the holes should be.

Shortly after he finished college a rich uncle died, and he got a substantial inheritance. He figured it out, if he invested it and lived very frugally, he could live without having to work for at least thirty years, maybe more. He bought a little piece of land with a decrepit single-wide on it, right on the edge of a huge tract of wooded government land, and he moved in. For the next seventeen years he dug holes.


He took his shovel into the woods, as usual, and dug a hole, as usual. But this day was special, this hole was the last one needed to complete the pattern. He finished it and climbed out. He looked up into the sky and saw what he had been seeking all of his life. He was never seen again on Earth.


James Hartley  James Hartley's website is a former computer programmer. Originally from northern New Jersey, he now lives in sunny central Florida. He has published a fantasy novel, Teen Angel, and stories in Illusion’s Transmitter, Written Word Online, Clonepod, Every Day Fiction, Lorelei Signal, KidVisions, Raygun Revival, and the anthology Desolate Places. He is currently working on a second novel, The Ghost of Grover’s Ridge.