The oversized tires
obliterated the rural roadway before the large truck came to an abrupt stop.
The driver stalled the engine. Dust rose in a curious flowering cloud, swirling
in front of the vehicle’s hood and creeping toward the back of the camper
shell. When the surrounding vicinity finally cleared, a dense forest landscape
The truck overlooked the sheer
cliff and rugged scenery that had become a permanent roadblock. The usual
silence of the deserted region was interrupted by the incessant and rhythmic
sound of a cooling engine.
Tick… Tick… Tick…
The vehicle remained parked.
No one moved inside the cab or got out. The truck stayed immobile as if an
unlikely statue in the vast wilderness—a distinct contrast between nature and
The truck sat at the ideal
vantage spot, which was both mesmerizing and terrifying for any spectator; but
still the occupant chose to wait. The intense high beams pierced ahead into the
picturesque hills, leaving a hazy view of the area above the massed trees.
When the driver’s door finally
opened, a man stepped out, his steel-toed leather work boots hitting the dirt.
They were well-worn, reflecting the many miles he had walked and the many hours
he had labored. Swiftly the door shut as the man, medium build and wearing only
a plain dark T-shirt, walked to the back of the truck and, with a loud bang,
released the lift gate. He moved with purpose and with a calm assertiveness, as
if he had performed this particular task many times before. His weathered
hands, calloused from years of working with heavy tools and machinery without
the protection of leather gloves, had a certain agility and speed.
He grasped two well-used
shovels, a large arching pick, and a bulky utility garbage bag. As he tossed
the bag onto the ground, the top burst open and several medium-sized teddy
bears spilled out. Their smiling faces accentuated the brightly colored ribbons
tied around their necks, contrasting with the muted shades of their
The man pushed the floppy bag
aside with the toe of his boot. He worked in quiet solitude, no humming, no
whistling, and no talk.
He flipped on the flashlight
fixed to his baseball cap. Straight ahead and slightly arced, the large beam
illuminated his path while he strode steadily toward a particular wooded area.
The surrounding thickets and
trees remained still without any wind to rustle the leaves. The only audible
sound was the man’s quick footsteps—never with any hesitation. He walked with
the gait of a young man, despite his stature of someone older.
He hesitated as if he had
forgotten something, standing motionless with his arms down at his sides and
his head hung forward as he shone the bright light at the ground and the tops
of his boots. He still held firmly to the tools. He mumbled a few inaudible
sentences of a memorized prayer, which sounded more like a warning than a
passage from the Bible, then he raised his head and continued to walk into the
Dropping his tools, he
carefully pushed a pine branch aside and secured it with a worn piece of rope
that had been left for the purpose. An opening was exposed—a tunnel barely
large enough for a man to enter.
He grabbed his digging tools
once again and proceeded. The flashlight on the front of his cap brightened the
passageway as it veered to the right. He followed, only ducking his head twice
before the path opened to an area with several boulders sticking out of the
cliff. Clusters of unusual rock shapes, some sharp, some rounded, made the
terrain appear more like a movie set or backdrop.
A narrow dirt path of crude,
sloping man-made steps dropped fifteen feet to a landing jutting out from the
rock formation. A small yellow flag was stuck into the earth, marking a spot. A
slight evening breeze picked up, causing the flag to flutter.
The man balanced the shovels
and pick against the hillside and pulled a hunting knife from a sheath attached
to his belt. Pressing the bone handle tight against his palm, he drew the blade
through the packed dirt to mark a rectangular pattern on the ground.
He stared intently at the
soil, then retrieved the pick, gripping it tight, and swung it hard against the
dry, heavily compacted earth. It dented the surface, spewing chips of dirt in
every direction. A few small rocks buried in the soil since the beginning of
time hampered his progress, but after several more arced swings, the ground
began to crumble, exposing the fresh earth.
The heavy pick was exchanged
for one of the shovels. Soon there was a small pile of California soil,
comprised of sand, silt, clay, and small rock. The repeated movements of dig,
scoop, and deposit continued for more than forty-five minutes at a brisk pace.
The hard work of manual labor didn’t deter him. It only made him more
determined to create a work of genius—his ultimate masterpiece.
last he stepped back and admired his handiwork, perspiring heavily through his
shirt from the effort. Exhilaration filled his body, keeping his muscles flexed
and his heart pumping hard. He leaned against the shovel, a smile forming on
his lips as he waited for his pulse to return to normal, and marveled at the
unmistakable outline of a freshly dug grave.