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Who Would Steal a Broken Shovel?

  

"Who would steal a broken shovel?"

"Not I, not I."

It was the light mocking tone of her twin that told Kara the matter was being taken with a particularly tiny grain of salt.

"I'm serious."

"And my response was equally serious."

Kara put her one non-crooked finger to her pursed lips, trying to get lost in deep, revelatory thought. It would be hard to come by. An unexpectedly busy week was winding down and she knew the best thing for mind and body would be to rest both.

Amy seemed to embrace such moments intuitively, having lit some incense, poured a glass of Riesling, and cracked open yet another Donald Westlake novel she took from the bookshelf in their father's study.

Kara regarded this scene in front of her as an attempt by her twin to reclaim the past. Amy was lounging on the same couch where the two of them used to fight tooth and nail over the remote. Her indifference towards what concerned Kara was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to-

Stop.

Just stop.

Kara could tell her facial features squirmed with distaste as she slammed on the brakes of her armchair psychiatrist. Fortunately Amy was already lost in her father's stories and missed her slightly older sister's brow furrowing over which parent's voice she caught in her own demand to-

Stop.

Just stop.

Truth be told, the shovel was perfectly serviceable. Only the cheap plastic handle was broken. Completely torn off, actually. Kara had no idea how it happened. Neither did her twin, but she had a knack for being playfully dismissive when a truth she saw as ridiculous was being pursued. So instead of a black plastic handle there was a black plastic nub at the end of the wooden stick. If you had your gloves on and you grasped this nub with the intention of treating it like something akin to a handle, the shovel wouldn't let you down.

So perhaps broken wasn't the right word. Damaged? It sounded too serious, too melodramatic.

Too people.

"You don't seem to be upset that someone was walking around in our parents' backyard last night and stole something."

"It was just a shovel. You need to calm down. Have a glass of wine. Or a pill. Or read a book. Whatever you do to relax"

For siblings, Kara and Amy weren't close. For twins, they were practically strangers. Certainly there was the familial love between them that their patient, caring, and all the other goods words that came out in yesterday's eulogy parents raised them with. But that 'special bond' thing that everyone assumed exists between all people that were conceived with the same sperm and egg? Well, a couple wires must have crossed in their mother's uterus, because no dice.

In college, people would ask Kara if she could tell when her twin was drunk, eating, getting laid, etc. Kara would say no, she couldn't, and that with Amy going to a post-secondary institution six hours away, she didn't know anything that wasn't discussed in a phone call or text message.

Even their parents got suckered into the notion of closeness. When the four of them found themselves under the same roof before going to extended family reunion, their mother finally said she was surprised that they didn't end up going to the same college, and that maybe they would have had a better time - academically and socially - if they were there to support each other. Their father later told them the irony was not lost on him when both Kara and Amy launched almost complimentary tirades on what they felt was their mother's superficial assumptions, immortalized by Amy's rhetorical query, 'can't we just not get along?'

That was roughly six months ago.

"I'm going outside to check if they took anything else."

"You don't even know for sure that the shovel was taken. It might just be somewhere in the garage."

As Kara went to the mat at the front door to grab her boots, she couldn't help but focus on the word Amy used. 'Taken', not 'stolen'. Already giving up, rationalizing that these things happen so why bother trying to do anything about it? Why not use the word 'borrow' and let the petty thieves come by every night and 'borrow' anything else they could get their hands on?

It was just cold enough that Kara wished she had put on a coat. To compensate she kept moving, looking here and there for anything that might be out of place. Its what she was here to do. The last few days of living in her parents' home once again to put the family's affairs in order had all the hallmarks of a homecoming. Seeing old friends and distant cousins. Driving around to old haunts that were either still there (the pizza place), torn down (the hair salon), or had mutated into something practically unrecognizable (the new wing on the high school). The house was big enough (save for the backyard) that she and Amy never had to cross paths unless absolutely necessary, which usually meant cooking meals (and in this respect, their tastes and eating habits dovetailed nicely).

A pity the funeral had to cast such a shadow. Such mild-mannered excursions and activities were right up both their parents' mild-mannered alleys.

Kara rubbed her hands together for a bit of heat. The real measure of the cold was the tips of the ears, though, and right now they were fine. The problem was that this was no time to be doing a sort of inventory of an area where she hadn't really spent any time for years. The sun had set and the two lights for the deck were just that. For the deck.

Once she was on the thin stone pathway or patches of grass that was surrounded by a compact garden (currently dirt) she only had the brightness of her cell phone screen to light the area around her feet, and even that was a meagre tool for the task.

She soon found herself staring at the deck, and trying to rationalize searching underneath it. But why would anyone have stowed the shovel there? Would Amy? Kara crouches down anyway to get a good look but quickly realizes that wasn't going to cut it, and for one moment she feels that question - 'what am I doing here?' - creep over her with jagged shivers. She wants clarification first. At this moment or in the greater sense? And which answer would come off more foolish? It's not easily brushed aside. You have to grab it by the lapel, pick it up off its tiny feet and throw it far off your path so you won't have to deal with it again until you're much further down the line.

Kara was already on her hands and knees - her head cocked just right to allow most of her long hair to get intimate with the cold wet grass - when she decided there was no way she would be able to see anything under the deck, and that she'd rather see nothing than a pair of raccoon eyes shining back at her.

But she looked anyway because she's already in place to do so and at first her brown eyes pass it because it's not what her rational and dependable mind expects to see. It's not a shovel or varmint so it doesn't register at first. A blind spot that a shrugging Amy might attribute to a hardheadedness that doesn't do Kara any good.

It was far at the back, against the house, and whatever it was glowed green. It was like a light but it wasn't and she knew this knee-jerk explanation was absolutely useless but as she stared at it a bit longer waiting for her eyes to adjust somewhat she realized they already had and that's all there was. A continuous green glow, slowly pulsating like a tiny heartbeat.

A shovel is a poor symbol. A broken shovel is mildly better. But a glow? An unyielding, unexplainable glow?

It's the stuff that dreams and critical essays are made of.

She wanted to get closer, to crawl under the deck, but she hadn't fit under there since she was eleven, going underneath one autumn afternoon for no other reason than seeing if Amy would follow her. Amy ultimately did, and beat her at the game she didn't know she was playing by staying under there for hours, until she crawled out because their father order her to come to the table for dinner. Kara was there beside her father when Amy emerged, aping his displeasure by putting her own hands on her hips and looking equally disapproving. Her stern countenance lasted only seconds, as the first thing Amy said after sorry was permission to go to the bathroom because she had to pee sooooo bad, which sent Kara into a fit of giggles.

And now, lost in a sort of childlike wonder, she didn't want to hear that six feet away from her was a malfunctioning pot light, or some sort of reflection from the candles in the basement that Amy had lit for no real reason except to give Kara something to worry about.

She stares and waits for it to change slightly. To flicker, to move, to grow, to make its point, to make it count.

Kara feels the wet dirt between her fingers. The damp grass is soaking her knees through her khakis.

That's a start.

The time fell into irrelevancy.

Let the explanations tumble forth and perform mesmerizing unbelievable tricks.

Their father was secretly hiding radioactive material in the backyard. He was a spy, a secret scientist, a terrorist, a patriot, it would all make for a great movie. Kara and Amy can sell the rights and live high on the hog for years to come.

Their mother, keeper of the garden, had returned to them from beyond the grave, reminding them to keep her memory alive by tending for the backyard, which - at the time of her tragically abrupt demise - meant the world to her.

Tiny alien life forms crash-landed and sought shelter under the deck from the unfamiliar elements that come with an oxygen based biosphere. Unable to cope, they die quickly and decay slowly, leaving only their skeletal green glow as proof that they were ever here.

It was sign from the ultimate reality - call it god, if you'd like, with all the positive and negative human personality traits you'd like to imprint upon it - and if Kara applied the proper formulas of tense math to the glow's amplitude, she would decode a message suggesting that she stop worrying about x, y, and z and start focusing on a, b, and r.

Goosebumps were the cost of her mental toiling, her twisting of the situation into a sigil or utensil for her quickly unfolding future.

Tell me what to do about my job prospects where to go to actually relax how to talk to Amy when to invest in the housing market where to set down roots why there is suffering in the world who stole my father's broken shovel-

Kara heard the backdoor open and footsteps clack across the deck. She tried to imagine what she would look like to her twin. Like she lost an earring under a sofa, but the setting got gummed up in the works. On her hands and knees, head practically stuck in the ground like an ostrich at which point Amy would nonchalantly point out that they don't actually do that it's just a myth.

The footsteps get closer and she can feel eyes roam over the scenario and assess. Kara's eyes haven't left the green glow, which she is now worried about. It might disappear, spooked by the approach of another. It might be revealed to be nothing more than a figment of poor Kara Luxmore's imagination.

But the green glow never disappears, never waivers, never moves, never changes. Seems to be as dependable as the seasons.

The footsteps stop right beside her. Kara pictures her sister standing there in her short sleeves, quickly folding her arms not out of exasperation but out of cold. Amy complained more about the temperature than she did.

Lost in the glow she suddenly has the feeling that her twin was about to say something so she quickly shoots out a couple words to just barely beat Amy to the punch.

"I'm waiting-"

"Can you even see anything under there?"

Tell me what to say. At least give me that. Make my wet knees and my butt sticking stupidly in the night air practically mooning my sister worth something. It doesn't have to complex, it doesn't have to be a life changing revelation, it can just be a single word-

"Yes."

"The shovel's there? Is it too far back to reach?"

Kara barely registered her sister's response. She's trying to sort out where exactly her own single reply came from. One word tumbled out of her when she asked for one word from the object of her laser-like attention. Coincidence? A matter of good or bad timing? It was clear the matter wouldn't be settled until she got more information. One word clearly wasn't good enough. She needs more from the green glow to confirm or disprove. Kara was getting greedy. And her sister is waiting. Perhaps now she is folding her arms out of exasperation.

Without so much of a blink or sigh or quiet whisper Kara stands up - almost jumps up, really, like a rocket lifting off - and stares overeagerly Amy's suddenly surprised face.

"No, it's not the shovel. Not at all. It's something else."

"Oh. All right. What is it?"

Kara wasn't going to fall for that one. Why bother wasting precious words? Accept no substitute to your own eyes.

"Look yourself. Just under there. Trust me."

"You aren't going to tell me?"

Amy sounded almost hurt and Kara had to bite her lip slightly to prevent herself from just saying the same thing over but with more passion. Instead she gestured towards the deck, trying to make it clear how simple and rewarding the task would be.

Her twin looked at her, more wary than bemused, aware that this wasn't like Kara. Which could possibly be a good thing after what's happened recently. Deciding to humour her more than anything else, Amy slowly bends down - making a greater effort than Kara to keep her hair and clothes dry - and inspects the darkness beneath the deck.

Kara watches her twin carefully, looking and listening for any sort of muscle twitch or a started gasp which would confirm that her own marbles are still accounted for.

Seconds passed with no reply. She begins to get anxious and dance lightly on her tip toes before opening her mouth.

"Do you see it? There in the back corner? What do you think?"

"It's-"

And silence reigned for too long after that, and just when Kara was about to ask for clarification, her twin slowly sat up, using the edge of the deck to steady herself, facing away from Kara.

"Amy?"

"I swear I didn't mean to."

A bewildering sort of confession is not what she was expecting, so Kara took five quick footsteps around to face Amy Luxmore, and found tears crawling down her twin sister's eyes when she got there.

 

END

 

Change a person's mind and you can change anything