Margo raised her shovel and slammed it to the ground. She was going to turn this wasteland of a backyard into a garden. She raised it again, and brought it down with as much strength as she could muster. It reverberated back so hard she dropped it and cried out in pain.
“What happened?” her husband, Rhett, called out.
“I hit something. Really hard! It hurt.”
She rubbed her hands over her aching arms.
He ran out from the back patio to inspect. He grabbed the shovel and poked around. The ground jingled. He hit it with more force. A loud ring echoed deep.
“Something metal,” he said.
They got down on their hands and knees and pulled back chunks of earth, revealing more of the mysterious element. Margo had seen this before in college chemistry class.
“It’s lead. Why is it here? I can’t garden now, Rhett. Nothing will take root!”
This garden was supposed to be the next step in becoming a fully functioning adult.
“It might not be that big,” he said, trying to reassure her. He paused before adding, “But I think it goes deep.”
He tapped it one more time with the shovel.
TING, TINg, TIng, Ting, ting… The sound got quieter and quieter, but it was impossible to tell where it ended.
A neighborhood stray wandered up. She was a young calico with a notch in her left ear. She trotted confidently in front of them and plopped down on the newly uncovered surface. She rolled all over it, turning the white of her fur brown with dirt. Margo had never heard a cat purr so loudly.
“Shoo,” Rhett said, waving his hand around the cat but being careful not to touch it. It playfully batted a paw at his fingers and he swiftly recoiled. “I said shoo!”
Margo rolled her eyes and moved the calico out the way. Rhett had always been nervous around felines. His family cat growing up seemed to relish in torturing him. He was also quite allergic.
“Now what?” he asked, still watching the lurking cat out the corner of his eye.
“Keep digging!” Margo suggested. “I’ve got to know what this thing is!”
“We shouldn’t call someone first or…?”
His worried pleas fell on deaf ears. She tossed him a spade and told him to get going. They each took a side. Rhett dug towards the house and Margo towards the back of the fence. When they hit a dead end, one went left and one went right. They dug until the sun went down and their only source of illumination was the dim porch floodlight. They dug until their hands calloused and the calluses peeled off and bled. They dug until the misty dawn filled the sky. They dug until they hit sidewalk and collapsed in defeat.
“I don’t get it,” Margo said exhaustedly. “It just keeps going.”
She wiped the sweat off her forehead, smearing dirt across her glistening skin.
“I’m a fool.”
She laid her head on Rhett’s shoulder. It was damp from sweat and smelled like earth.
Rhett hopelessly picked up chunks of dirt and grass and tossed them into the road.
“We’re both fools.”
The pretty calico kitten wandered up and sat between them. The couple had been so preoccupied they hadn’t noticed her watching them, following behind and inspecting their work. She had waited years for this, and it had finally happened. The previous homeowners were hopeless. They didn’t even mow the grass. She flopped down and rolled her body over the surface as before, picking up dirt with her soft fur. Rhett watched in disdain, but was too tired to do anything about it. Satisfied with her work, she stepped aside to reveal what she had uncovered.
Rhett stared blankly.
There was a row of four, small, glowing red lights.
“What is it?” Margo cried.
“Buttons?” Rhett guessed.
The cat knew. She hadn’t seen them in ages, but she remembered what to do. She placed a white and orange speckled paw on the lead slab next to the lights. A soft glow peered between her fuzzy toes. There was a hissing sound and a pop. Rhett and Margo shot to their feet and stumbled back. They stared in wonderment as a small, square door flipped open. The cat gingerly walked inside.
An indistinct, but excited voice came from within – “It’s about time, ZuZu! We’ve been waiting for you!”
They heard a soft meow in response.
Then the mysterious voice again – “Won’t you invite your friends? We ought to thank them for their hard work.”
There was another, louder meow.
Rhett looked at Margo. Margo looked at Rhett and nodded. They held each other’s hands tight as they stepped inside.
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