Shallow Graves

The neighbourhood children banded together and asked the old man, who had the biggest lawn behind the leafiest hedges, if they could build the thing on his lawn. He was an old man and cranky, but he liked to watch things get put together, now that he couldn’t put them together himself, so he gave them permission. For a week and four days they dragged discarded lumber, old nails, hammers, screws, flat pieces of metal, springs, clocks, barometers, knives, rope, wheels and pulleys, thermometers, gloves, shovels, picks, lengths of twine, tubes, funnels, and boxes to the old man’s lawn, and piled them upon and beneath two giant tarps that the old man had lent them.

On the twelfth day it began to rain and all work stopped. It rained for two weeks without stopping. Water overran the ditches, tracked silvery across their lawns, puddled and dripped from their eaves, but the thing was safe and dry beneath the tarps. The old man went out to check on it every day, taking a proprietary pride in the muddle. He wore galoshes and carried a large black bumbershoot against the weather. The smoke from his cigar was shredded by the wind and the rain.

On the twenty-sixth day the rain stopped; on the twenty-seventh the lawn was dry; on the twenty-eighth the children returned and construction began.