Ben came home from basketball Wednesday night to find Erin in the backyard with a shovel. She was digging holes.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I didn’t want that bush there anymore,” she said, gesturing to the now vacant space underneath the kitchen window.
“What are you going to do with those roots?”
“That’s where you come in. I’m digging these holes around it so we can uproot it.”
“Honey, it’s huge.”
Scooter Thomas was at the back door window, watching. As if to convey how huge it was, he stood on his haunches, like a miniature bear, and began pawing at the window.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I know we can do this. If you keep digging around it, I’m sure we can get this up.”
Ben began digging. Erin pulled up stray roots. A motorcycle chugged by, backfiring.
“Why does Deer Park have a motorcycle gang?” Ben said, pausing to wipe his brow. “I swear, that same motorcycle comes through here every night at eleven o’clock.”
“I think you’re just jealous you’re not in the gang.”
“I think you’re jealous you’re not a motorcycle groupie.”
“Hey, is he trying to tell us something?” Erin said, gesturing to the window. Scooter remained on his haunches. He meowed silently behind the glass.
“I think he’s trying to tell us we’re going to dig up a dead body.”
“I think he’s trying to tell you he’d respect you more if you drove a Harley.”
“I think I’d respect him more if he could clean up his own poop.”
Ben continued digging. Erin gave the cluster of roots a tug. It was getting dark.
“What if this house was built on top of a secret Indian burial ground, like in that ‘Simpsons’ episode?”
“Then we’d put this house on the market immediately.”
“How’s it coming?”
This was our neighbor across the way. She was letting her pug Gordo out.
“You hit paydirt yet?” she called.
“Almost there. It’s gonna be Texas tea.”
“How long have you been at it?” she asked.
“What time is it?” Erin asked.
“Really? Well, then, about three hours, I guess.”
“You’ve been at this three hours?” Ben said.
“I wanted to get it,” Erin said.
“You two are kind of crazy,” our neighbor called. “I mean that in a good way.”
“She probably thinks we’re burying a dead body,” Ben said later. “Wouldn’t you think that if you saw your neighbors digging holes in their backyard at ten o’clock on a weeknight?”
“You’ve seen The Burbs too many times.”
“Hey, I think I’m making progress over here. Let’s give it a try.”
Ben used his shovel as a lever while Erin pulled from the top. There was much grunting.
“We’re close. I think you need to get this side a little more.”
Ben moved to that side. Erin poked and prodded around the root system.
“You never read The Ruins, did you?” he asked.
“That’s probably a good thing.”
“Was that the book about the flesh-eating plant that spoke German?”
“No, you’re thinking of The Great Gatsby.”
Ben tried prying the roots up from below again. Suddenly a chunk lifted.
“Ooooh!” Erin said. “We’re close!”
“Here, you pull from that side and I’ll try and pry it up from over here.”
More grunting ensued. In the distance, a motorcycle — maybe the same one, maybe his compadre — accelerated and then backfired.
From the intercom on the patio table, Sam cried.
“I will murder that motorcycle gang,” Erin said.
“I told you. They’re evil.”
Ben pried with the shovel one more time. Erin grabbed the biggest roots and leaned back. The earth moved.
“Great Gary Sinise! It’s huge!”
“I can’t believe we did that!”
From across the street: “Did you get it?”
“We got it!”
“Can you hold it up?”
“There is no way we can hold that up,” Ben said, bent over. “It would crush us.”
“Nope, sorry,” Erin called. “We would if we could.”
“I’ll just picture you holding it above your head. Like a wrestling belt, right?”
“That’s a pretty picture,” Erin said.
“Congratulations, you two.”
Erin and Ben, hands on hips, breathing heavy, surveyed their handiwork.
“We gotta get a picture,” Ben said.
“Go get the camera.”
“It doesn’t look as big as it really is,” Erin said.
“Well, you look terrifying,” Ben replied.
“Let’s take another one.”
“I told you we could get it,” Erin said.
“I never doubted,” Ben replied.
“Yes you did.”
“OK, maybe a little.”
“Good work, honey. I love you.”
“I’ll love you too once you take a shower.”
“The feeling is mutual.”