El Sanchez woke with a start. The sound of metal shovel against hard clay dirt was not one he had heard since childhood, but there it was, cutting through the night. The darkness in El Sanchez’s room was not something his eyes were ready for; what with his ears receiving such strong signals, it hardly seemed fair.
El Sanchez followed his ears to his bedroom window, across the room from his bed. He climbed up onto his window seat, and looked out into the gloom, feeling the cold night air pressing up against the outside of the glass. El Sanchez only had a small strip of lawn running beside his house, and the rest of his view was taken up behind his back fence, looking out into his neighbour’s backyard. El Sanchez could tell this was definitely where the shovel sound was coming from. As he waited for his eyes to adjust, El Sanchez’s mind raced ahead of him, trying to picture what could be making the sound. Surely no one could be digging at this time of night, he thought. Perhaps it was a dog, but then again, El Sanchez was not sure his neighbour had a dog.
Then, suddenly, there it was. Teredo, the neighbour, he of the hulking shoulders, was crouched next to a hole right in the middle of the backyard, flexing his back, like it was sore. Teredo did lots of weight training, almost too much, El Sanchez thought, although he didn’t really know about these things. Teredo was usually always indoors, or at his gym. El Sanchez had often wondered why Teredo’s enormous backyard was kept so meticulously tidy when Teredo was never there to look after it.
Teredo stood up, wiping his forehead with his forearm. Then he plunged the shovel into the dirt beside the hole, ploughing his weight behind the wooden handle, pressing down on the shovel with one foot, which sported what looked like—to El Sanchez—a medicated massage sandal. As the scene became sharper in El Sanchez’s eyes, he saw Teredo was digging a very large oblong hole whose edges seemed to suggest considerable depth. What was most interesting, though, was the care with which Teredo piled the dirt he dug out of the hole. After every two or three plunges of the shovel, Teredo very carefully climbed into the hole and scooped out the dirt, tangled with clay and tree roots, and placed it on the grass. Then he climbed out of the hole, put the dirt back onto the shovel, and placed it into a black garbage bag that sat next to four others that were already full.
El Sanchez lost track of time as he watched his neighbour—whom he had hardly said hello to before—performing such a strange task. It was only when the first pink leaks of daylight began to spill over the horizon that El Sanchez realised how long he had been watching. Teredo seemed to sense the light too, because soon enough he stopped digging, tied up the garbage bags, and dragged them back into his house. He came back a few moments later with a large blue tarpaulin, which he used to cover the hole. Then he was gone again, and El Sanchez was left to reflect on what a strange thing it was he had seen.