in the dirt

by James

It was funny, all four of us lads didn't give a shit, so why were we so dead set on waking up at three in the morning, sneaking out of the hostel then walking twenty minutes just to step on some beans? I wanted to stay in my bed. Good it was to sleep somewhere quiet, without the sirens, or the screams of junkies fighting over a milligram to jolt me from slumber. Instead it was a guy called Neil who called me pussy when I hesitated to spring from my bed in the middle of the light.

My plan was to go with them, to kick my feet about enough to get my shoes scuffed up, but Neil said we all had to, then all of us were into it together. None of us could snitch on the others, right? Not even the light of a falling star, all our faces in shadow, but I knew he was looking at me.

We'd spent the whole day planting those little shoots. First the old guy had us clearing the weeds, then he had us loosen it up with a flat piece of metal on the end of the stick. Then he had us touch it. That was disgusting. Billions and billions of tiny creatures living in that dirt, and then he told us how in the old days people actually used to grow all their food in dirt, and if that wasn't enough, they trained animals to take a dump in, fertiliser see.

That was the first time the old guy smiled. We all had our hands in the dirt, Neil had some up close to his face to see what it smelled like, and then the old guy said how there were no handy animals in these parts, just him, so...

That's when the detention guards who were there to watch over us started to roll about laughing.

I gritted my teeth as the first shoots crunched beneath the soles of my shoes. His fault it was, and even if he hadn’t been taking a shit in the dirt it was the principle of the thing. If the gods had a big secret book of idiots our names would have been down it, couldn’t have that.

Course not. Guys like me and Neil, tearaways us, we’d have been out there in the dark no matter if the old man had given us chocolates and cake and beer. For guys like us it’s like there’s an arrow pointing – this way to be little shits.

But so long as I feel bad about it, right? So long as next morning I head back there and help the old man rake the dirt smooth and gather up the broken stakes and stop him before he digs through the dirt where Neil really did take a shit, right?