Ricky and I have made it to the fourth grade. We are never in the same class; the school seems to think I’m quite a bit smarter than he is (I know different). The school insists I’m just working below my full potential. Rick and I meet up after the last bell rings and start the trek toward our homes. We are not going home. We walk along the creek. The creek is fifty feet from our school and one hundred feet from my house, almost a miles walk. The Polly Wogs are abundant this year, thousand of black swimming apostrophes hoping to someday become frogs. But we have no time for Polly Wogs this afternoon. We are headed for “The Hill”. The hill is an unnatural protuberance. Last year a flock of excavators and dump trucks worked for months digging and hauling muddy dirt out of the bottom of the creek. All the dirt was piled in an empty field near our house. From the top of “The Hill” you can see over US Market all the way to the orange shaped, orange juice stand. The Hill is lined with small paths; some switch back and fourth, some head almost straight up. Ricky and I pick a path and head toward the top cutting across the front face of the mountain. When we reach our work site the twins, Jerome and Jarrett, are already at work.
“How goes the tunneling?” I holler at the entrance to the cave we are working on.
From about five feet in Jerome, the oldest of the twins by almost two minutes, hollers back, “we are making good progress” and starts scooting back leaving Jarrett to dig alone.
“I think we are far enough in to start widening it out” Jerome says as soon as his head clears the entrance. “Jarrett is going to see if he can get it wide enough to turn around in before he comes out.”
I listen at the opening and hear Jarrett humming his favorite working song, I Love to Go a Wandering; he can really make something out of the Hi-Dee- Hi Does. Every once in a while his feet kick a pile of dirt to within three feet of the cave’s entrance and we pull it the rest of the way out with shovels and hands. It’s good work and Jarrett seems to be making good progress by the looks of the pile of brown dry dirt we have pulled out.
“Looking good Jarrett!” I shout encouragingly into the hole. Jarrett kicks a small pile of dirt at me letting me know he doesn’t need encouragement and continues his song. I stand away from the cave and take a minute to wipe the sand out of my eyes. I can hear someone panting their way up the hill.
“Someone is coming”, I whisper to Jerome. He drops to the ground and crawls, keeping out of sight, seeking a vantage point where he can see down the path without being seen.
“It’s my mom”, he whispers as I crawl up next to him. A slightly overweight, twenty-six year old lady, in a skirt just a bit to long for hiking puffs her way up the hill. She does not look happy. She is mumbling something we cannot make out but are pretty sure it isn’t in our favor. Jerome stands up so his mother can see him.
“Jerome and Jarrett I’ve been looking for you for half and hour”, she says in between breaths. I have never heard her call for just Jerome or just Jarrett, they are always together and she always calls them Jerome and Jarrett. I stand up beside Jerome. As I stand up I feel a soft swish of air and hear a slight thump coming from the cave. Jerome and I turn in unison and see dust coming from the mouth of our excavation. The earth above Jarrett is concave. We forget about Jerome and Jarrett’s mother and both grab shovels. Ricky already has dirt flying. We need to get Jarrett out. At first we attacked the entrance but that only seems to make more dirt fall in so we start pushing away the loose dirt right on top of where we assumed Jarrett is, until I hear the scream.
“My Jarrett!” Jerome and Jarrett’s mom has made it to the top of the path and, to her credit, figured out almost instantly what has happened to her younger twin boy. Again she screamed, “My Jarrett!” her feet are bolted to the ground and she is shaking all over. I put down my shovel and stand beside her. I hold her hand in mine as Jerome and Ricky continue to franticly dig.
“It’s going to be Okay”, I say to Jerome and Jarrett’s mother in a calm and soothing voice, “We are going to get him out.” She stops shaking a little and her eyes fill with water.
“I found a foot”, Jerome says and waves me over. We pull dirt away with our hands until we can get a hold of both of his brown shoes. We brace ourselves again the pile of dirt and pull. Jarrett body starts to slide out. Jarrett starts kicking and squirming, a good sign. We pull and he squirms until the four of us sit on top of what had once been our cave. Jarrett’s face is covered with mud from all the crying he has done while he thought he was going to die. Jerome and Jarrett’s mother grabs Jerome’s arm with one hand and Jarrett’s arm with the other. Without looking at Ricky or me she pulls them down The Hill toward their home.
“I’m thinking we might not need a cave”, Ricky says as he watches the twins being dragged home.
“I’m thinking if we just dug a big hole first, and then cover it with timbers and covered the timbers with dirt?” We start shoveling out the soft dirt.