Holes Deep Enough for Our Sins

by S.D. Bullard

Grandpappy Moses always says, “Intentions ain’t worth the infected hair on a pig’s rump.” I’m not sure what it means, but I get enough to realize saying “we never meant to” won’t help us a whit.

Standin’ at the edge of the ravine in silence so unnatural and complete, all of our intentions freeze like ice shards in our veins. Cold. Cutting. I turn my eyes to Zae, and he looks back at me. Matching expressions on faces where the ghost of fear and panic mottles our warm, brown skin a ghastly gray. We stand, petrified, each silently beggin’ the other to say it didn’t happen. To be the one to go look. To say what to do next.

We told King he couldn’t come. He was too little. Ms. Lilah and Grandpappy Moses always say we have to include him, but it seems like whenever we do, Zae and me are the ones who end up in trouble.

Like last week, we was makin’ ramps to ride our bike over. We told King he couldn’t ride the ramp with trainin’ wheels. But he went caterwauling to Ms. Lilah, and she said we had to let him play. Ms. Lilah said we was the closest in age to King, since the only other kids in the house were Phillip, who was fifteen, and the baby, and King didn’t have no one else to play with. I said since Zae and me were ten, and the baby was one, King was actually closer to the baby’s age. Grandpappy Moses told me to stop being a smart mouth. So, we made King crouch down by the ramp and said we’d jump our bike over him. It worked, too. First, Zae went, then me, but when Zae was about to go again, King moved and kicked the ramp sideways. Zae went wobbly and flew off all wrong. He just barely bumped King’s head with his foot. I don’t know what King was wailin’ about. Zae’s the one that ended up with skin missin’ all over his elbows and knees, and it was our bike that got all bent up so it wouldn’t work. But Zae and me was the ones who got yelled at, Grandpappy Moses sayin’ if we ever did somethin’ so stupid again he’d tan our hides, and he didn’t care what “the system” said about usin’ “corporal punishment” on foster kids.

Without sayin’ anything, me and Zae step closer to the edge. We lock arms, holdin’ each other’s shoulders, and move together. Somethin’ twists deep in my stomach, sick and sticky and hot, as we peer over at the broken form on the ravine floor. It’s still so silent. None of this feels real. Except for the nausea in my belly. I might puke, and based on the gagging sounds Zae is makin’, I think he might, too.

Grandpappy Moses said he wasn’t gonna buy us a new bike or fix our broken one. It was our own fault it broke and we could fix it ourselves or do without. We tried, but the front wheel was too bent to roll.

It was Zae that had the idea, though I’d never say. The bike was just sittin’ in the garage. Huge, red, and shiny. Phillip hadn’t touched it since Ms. Lilah got it for his birthday. He’d rather sit in his room and play on his phone. But Phillip liked to bully and control, and told me and Zae he’d pound us if we even looked at it. We gave it a good five minutes of thought and planning. We’d go to the woods behind the park so Ms. Lilah and Phillip wouldn’t see us out the window. And we’d use the air pump first, make sure the tires were full so we didn’t hurt the rims. We’d put it right back when we were done and nobody would ever know. Our plan was as foolproof as any ten-year-old’s. Until King heard us tell Ms. Lilah we were goin’ to the park. We fought our best fight, but Ms. Lilah said we could take King or not go at all. When we got there we put King on the playground and told him not to leave, not to follow us, and that he couldn’t tell Phillip, or Ms. Lilah, or Grandpappy Moses about the bike. But King never has been good at listenin’.

I yell for King, now, standing by the ravine in the woods behind the playground. It’s the first thing either of us have said. But King’s not answering. And me and Zae have to decide what we’re gonna do next. It takes fifteen minutes to run back to the house and grab shovels. Another fifteen to climb and slide to the bottom of the ravine. Hours to dig a pit in the muddy clay. Grandpappy Moses says you can’t hide your sins. I say if we dig a deep enough hole, maybe we can.

It’s nearly dark when we stand side by side, lookin’ at the fresh mound of dirt, covered in filth and the shame of what we’ve done. We’re beyond tears. Beyond everything, except the silent promise snaking unspoken between us: that we’ll never tell what happened here today.

It’s fully dark when we get home and stow the shovels. Ms. Lilah rails at us when we come in. Where have we been? Why are we so late? Why are we as filthy as a couple of pigs in slop? We bow our heads and let her tongue-lashing roll over us like a penance, our guilty souls still by that grave in the ravine. As we trudge upstairs to “clean ourselves off before we dare sit at her supper table,” I see King crouched in a corner, trying to melt into the shadows. I catch his eye, ready to threaten him into silence. But there’s guilt and the terror of responsibility in his eyes. It was him tryin’ to tussle the handlebars away that did it. I don’t need to say nothin’. None of us will ever speak a word about today, content to be silently haunted by the empty space in the garage and the bike-sized grave in the bottom of the ravine.

S.D. Bullard

S.D. has been writing since she was a child. It’s her hobby and passion and, maybe someday, something more. She lives in middle Tennessee with her two kids, three dogs, and plenty of chaos.

S.D. Bullard

S.D. has been writing since she was a child. It’s her hobby and passion and, maybe someday, something more. She lives in middle Tennessee with her two kids, three dogs, and plenty of chaos.

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