Digging Up Dirt

sledgehammer, hammer, renovation, marriage“I’ve heard that people pay to do this,” Joe huffs as he bangs on their kitchen wall with a sledgehammer.

His wife, Beth, replies while panting, making her own sledgehammer dents in the wall, “It’s supposed … to ….reduce …. stress.”

Joe stops his arm in mid-hammer and stares at his wife. “Are you stressed?”

Beth drops her wrecking tool and looks at her husband of five years as if he’s just asked her if she’s purple, or an alien, or a Republican.

“I am,” she finally whispers. Then she runs out of the kitchen, out the back door, and toward their back yard, where their dog Gee Gee is digging a hole.

Now where’d that come from? Joe asks himself. Women. He thought he knew Beth well before they married. They lived together for two years, had a blockbuster of a wedding, but their relationship has gone downhill since then.

He figures his work load is the culprit, since he’s rarely home before 9 every night. Beth has become more and more distant. So a month ago Joe suggested, “Let’s redo our kitchen. You can design it any way you want.” kitchen renovation, marraige

Beth had looked at him much the same way she just looked at him now when he asked if she was stressed.

As if he is as clueless as a monkey trying to climb up a giraffe.

Perhaps he has overreached with his idea that they can renovate this 30-year-old kitchen in the 100-year-old house themselves, but he thought it was a project that could bring them together again.

Instead, he feels Beth sliding further and further away.

WHAM. As Joe returns to banging on the old wall, something flutters out from between the battered sheetrock.

“Hey Beth,” Joe yells. She should be here doing this with him anyway. That was the point.

bone, femur, scary storyGee Gee bounces in with a bone in her mouth. A long bone that looks old and gruesome. When Joe tries to pry it out of Gee Gee’s mouth, the silly poodle snarls like a wolf.

“Beth!” Joe yells again, even louder. When she returns to the kitchen, he shoots her a resentful glance. “Where’d Gee Gee get this… bone?” he asks.

“That’s why you called me?” she answers, as annoyed as he’s angry.

Joe reaches down to the floor and picks up the yellow-stained envelope that had been stuck behind the kitchen wall. “Look at this. Maybe there are hundred dollar bills in here, or a treasure map, or a….”

Beth grabs the envelope and opens it gingerly, taking out the small wispy note with just a few blue-inked words scrawled on it. old letter, scary story, renovation

Husband and wife huddle together as Beth reads the sentence out loud:

“I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Gee Gee growls at that instant, the long bone quivering between her teeth.



119 thoughts on “Digging Up Dirt

    • Halloween is happy to most because of the candy and the smiles on neighbors’ faces as they open the door and say “Trick or Treat!” To writers, Halloween is a happy chance to write a spooky story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m sure you won’t find it surprising, Pam, that I’m running the back story and between the lines through the lens of real life and human relationships. How much of Joe’s internal monologue has he shared with Beth? Has he acknowledged aloud that he doesn’t like the distance, and that he’s suggested this renovation in hopes of reconnecting? Has he asked his wife what she thinks is causing the distance, rather than just wondering to himself? If it’s the late hours, can he choose Beth over work—even if it means a pay decrease for a while—and find a new job that will allow them to reconnect?

    That’s just me. But it also illustrates the hidden power of flash fiction (or any writing, for that matter) when done well.

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    • So great to see you here, Erik! NO, I don’t find it surprising at all. A writer likes the fact that a reader has some internal dialogue of “What? Why? Where? Who” and perhaps ending the story in his/her own way. .The glory of Flash Fiction. 🙂


    • I should have you write a synopsis for each of my books, Diana. You are so good at them (“bodies, murder, man-eating poodle and Halloween”). Perfect one-liner for this Halloween tale. Hoping you have a fun Thursday night. Rain expected here, but I know that won’t stop my 3 NE grands. However, in the bay area, they still have no power, and not sure what Thursday will hold….

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      • We don’t get any trick-or-treaters here, Pam. I would love it, but no one ventures out this far for a candy bar. *Sigh* Wrap those grandies in reflective tape! I hope you have a wonderful, well-lighted, dry-ish Halloween. 🙂

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    • I’m that kind of writer, Bette. The kind who likes to “keep ’em guessing.” 🙂 Happy Halloween to you in your gorgeous Maine, where I imagine all the leaves are on the ground now…? We still have some reds and orange, but suddenly the trees are looking rather bare.

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      • Guessing and begging for more…Kudos! 🙂 Still lots of stragglers hanging on to the branches for dear life… Resurrection day will come and in the meantime, I’ll have time to get caught up on some reading and writing. Hugs! xx

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        • That’s the attitude, Bette. I run out and try to catch the falling leaves, screaming, Nooooo! and begging them to attach themselves back on. 😉 (just kidding, but you get my drift). But yes, I must accept the next season and see it as an opportunity to hibernate with good books and more writing. ❤

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    • So happy you enjoyed my surprising Halloween suspense, Jet. Hoping Joe and Beth have found no more bones in the backyard, and have added no others. ;-0
      Thinking of you and all those in the bay area and Sonoma. Hope you are okay. Scary, scary times.


  2. Your story is a swell treat for Halloween, Pam!

    Well, well, well . . .
    Don’t ask, don’t tell . . .
    But I pushed the farmer into the well
    His body caused the water to swell
    Now he’s the farmer in the dell

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    • Did you make up that ditty? Because it’s good, and it’s harrowing for Halloween. Heigh ho the Derry-O, the farmer in the dell’s well. 🙂
      I looked up “The farmer in the Dell” verse and Derry – as a kid I though it was “dariO.” This is what I found out: “The song probably originated in Germany and was brought to America by immigrants. The word “derry” is the anglicization of the Old Irish Gaelic word Daire (in Modern Irish Gaelic Doire) which means oak grove and/or an area densely wooded with oak trees.”


    • As do I, Jacqui, as do I. 🙂
      Just recommended your books to a male writing student who wrote a piece of prehistoric flash fiction in my writing class. Hope he buys your books – they are so GREAT.


  3. Well of all things, something sinister is going on here. I believe the husband had better run for his life at this point. A very nice tail here, Pam and oh so suitable for Halloween. I must say I love your header with all of the pumpkins and ornamental squash/gourds.

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  4. Wrecking with tools seems to be a thing, lately:) My husband and I have been married almost 41 years and RENOVATING would have been the death of us. Just picking one paint colour for the outside of our house took us a few months.

    Coming to the end of your story……..laughter……….then nervous laughter……then goosebumps.

    The unfortunate part, truth is stranger than fiction.

    Always a great story, Pam!

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    • I’m with you on this point, Robbie. My guy traveled a lot for many years, and it was understood that this was part of his job (and in fact, I enjoyed the little reprieve – made our get-togethers when he returned that much sweeter). But I worked part time when raising our kids, so we didn’t have the extreme stress that I see couples have now, bringing up children and being expected to be “on call” for work almost constantly.


    • That’s a positive thought, Annika. I hope the thought of someone long ago saying: “I couldn’t take it anymore” helps them open their eyes to each other, be kinder, more understanding, and make a few changes.
      But then again, I’m called “Pollyanna.” 🙂

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    • Do you have a photo of that, Peta? I bet it’s a classic. I think the best Halloween costumes are originals, made-at-home like yours. I doubt there’s any Halloween trick or treating in Vietnam.


  5. Well, that was fun. Your husband is a good sport and I guess you two will be o.k. LOL Since my son is doing over a house from the 1700s I’ll tell him to keep his eye open for any old bones that might be in the walls…Happy Halloween Pam.

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