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Dig For Valedictory

Carefully positioning the blade of the spade against the line that ran the length of the unkempt plot, I pushed it into the ground to continue the straight edge. One spade width inside the plot I did the same, then, turning the tool through 90 degrees and moving it half a spade width back from the open trench in front of me, I pushed with my right foot and the spade sank slowly into the ground, the full depth of the blade.

Precision is important in a job like this; it makes for neat work and gives me something to concentrate on. I pulled back on the worn handle and lifted the earth out of its socket, turning the spade through 180 degrees and depositing the clump just below the lip of the trench so that the grassy mat was at the bottom and would be buried by the soil when I returned along the next line, the last line.

Unhurriedly, methodically, cut, measure, push, lift, twist, dump, I reached the end of the row. I stood and before I walked along the straight as a die, freshly turned mound to start the last row, I looked at my handiwork. Five acres of cultivated soil. Even in my prison chains and with twenty years for murder behind me, I took pride in my work.

The guard blew the whistle. My last day in prison and I hadn't time to finish the task I had set myself as a freshly convicted, scared shitless newby twenty years ago.

I turned to face the guard, holding the earth-sharpened spade in both hands and smiled at him...

Story by:

Richard Nicholson

10 October 2012