Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Breaking the Lawn, or, Death of a Gardener

From the age of 7 to 8 I lived in a beautiful sectioned-off Victorian house, in Prescott, Arizona, which was very similar to one in the movie, "Coraline." The portion of the house my mom and I lived in had one front-facing window, and our only entrance was the former back-door of the full house. In the living room was a door-to-nowhere that originally led to a stairway, but when the house was divided they walled off one side, and left the functional door in place, which was only useful for tricking people who came to our house for the first time, and asked me where the bathroom was. If I had a place like that now, I would put a mirror the same size as the door frame in there, but I'm getting off topic. This is a story about me and my friend from down the street.

Joanne's parents owned a place two houses down from mine. She and her family lived in Phoenix most of the year, but during summers they would stay in Prescott, so I spent most of my time playing with her.

One day Joanne's father was outside doing some gardening. We asked to help, so he gave us teaspoons, and said to dig up beside the sidewalk, where he wanted to put in some flowers. After digging happily for a few minutes, glad to be helping an adult with something important, Joanne dug up a small, dirty, necklace. We'd found treasure! Forgetting our original task, we went to work, with much more vigor, searching for more loot that had obviously been buried by a former tenant.

In our greedy minds, an old woman's family had only loved her for her money, so she did the only thing available to her, and that was hide her money in the front yard, then cover it with grass. Not finding anything in our first hole, we started another one a few inches further away from the sidewalk, because, naturally, the old woman wouldn't want her stuff to be too easy to find directly next to the sidewalk. Six inches from the sidewalk, however, would totally confuse her greedy relatives.

The second hole was about five or six inches deep, and about the same width, when Joanne found something weird. It was round, and white and kind of squishy, but we couldn't get a good grasp on it with our fingers, and the dirt around it was harder, so we moved on, and widened the hole again, occasionally poking at the white thing, to figure out what it was. After more digging, we got to about the same depth in the widened area, and found... another round, white, kind of squishy thing.

Using our magical powers of 8 yr old logic, we quickly ran through a list of what those two things could possibly be...

ping pong balls
bouncy balls
paddle balls
racket balls

Then we both realized the ONLY thing they could be.


Joanne and I looked at each other; her eyes were huge, and I'm sure mine were as well. We dropped our spoons, screamed, and teleported the 15 feet, or so, to Joanne's dad, where we hid, trying not to see what we had just seen.

We told him all about our hideous discovery: The necklace, the first eyeball that we weren't sure about, and the second eyeball that made us SURE it was eyeballs, and we KNEW there was a dead person buried under his front lawn!

Once he had calmed us down some, Joanne asked her dad if he was going to call the police, or if she and I should walk down the police station to report it. We weren't old enough to make phone calls on our own, but we were allowed to walk just about anywhere we wanted to.

After thinking a minute, Joanne's dad told us

"If there's a corpse there, you'll have to dig it up, so you have something to show the police! They're going to want to see more than just eyeballs."

Somehow this made complete sense to us, so we crept back over to the hole in the lawn, each carrying a handful of grass, and gently covered the eyeballs, so we wouldn't have to see them, and went back to digging.

For a while we dug in our hole, slowly working away from the sidewalk, using the eyeballs as a guide for a good guess where the chin would be. While we were digging we had a good talk, and figured the police would be okay with us just digging up the head and letting them do the rest of the work later.

Probably feeling sorry for us doing so much digging with tiny spoons, Joanne's dad finally handed us a couple of trowels. This made our work much faster, and we went straight to where we were sure the jaw would be.

Finding nothing in that direction, we came to the realization that the corpse wasn't just buried in the lawn, it was underneath the sidewalk too, and by digging in the direction we had, we'd just missed finding the top of the head.

Joanne's dad had been resting on the porch steps while we were searching for the jaw, but when we switched directions and decided we had to dig up the sidewalk to find our evidence, he went inside. Joanne said it was because he was thirsty, but I secretly knew, by the way he'd been covering his face and fake coughing, that the fear of what we'd discovered was tearing him apart inside.

While her dad was inside, Joanne decided that she'd had enough of this and ran over to grab the shovel he'd been using. After some bickering back and forth about the best place to dig (beside the head, or straight down to it), it was agreed that we should probably make sure they were really eyes, by popping one of them.

Neither of us wanted to do the job, but both of us were extremely curious. Finally, we both held onto the shovel handle, closed our eyes, and stabbed downward on the count of three.

Slowly uncovering our eyes, and forcing ourselves to look into the hole we saw that... we'd completely missed both of our targets, so we tried again, this time setting the shovel tip against one of the white orbs, and stepping on the shovel at the same time.

It worked! We looked down and saw... the inside of a mushroom.

Feeling defeated, we filled the hole up, and never updated her dad on what we'd discovered. She may have told him later that night, but he never mentioned it to me.

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