“Unfortunately this means we’re going to have to dig up the garden,” Brian said.

Louise felt like crying at the idea of the garden being deconstructed, but she had no other choice if she wanted to get to the bottom of things. She fixed a bedroom for Brian, put fresh linens on the bed, stored away her father’s collection of eelskin memorabilia, went to pick up some groceries at the AtoZ Market, English muffins and coffee beans, since Brian would probably expect breakfast.

Although he was only a first-year graduate student, Brian was exceedingly professional. Soon enough the rear garden looked like a proper archaeological dig. It was roped off and divided into sections. The little white fence Louise had painted so carefully had been pulled down. She looked out her window and saw the roses and runner beans flipped over into a pile. Louise thought of all the money she’d spent on fertilizer as the mounds of dug earth began to collect. She counted all the hours she’d put in.

“Louise!” she heard Brian shout one day when she was sitting in the kitchen, drinking tea and reading a guidebook about Vancouver. In her plans to leave town she had begun to think the colder, the better. She had become interested in Canada and Scandinavia.

She ran outside in her pajamas and fishing boots when she heard Brian. He was covered with dirt, having been digging since 5:00 a.m. Actually, people in the neighborhood were beginning to be annoyed at the chink clink of his shovel so early in the day. He was standing in a hole six feet deep. Louise stepped over the dead roses and pepper plants and peered down. At the very bottom of the hole was a pile of bones, including several huge ribs.

“Hallelujah,” Brian said.

THEY WENT OUT to celebrate at the Jack Straw Bar and Grill. This time, Louise had on a sundress and flip-flops and had run a brush through her hair.

“What an authentic place,” Brian said, glancing around at the knotty pine, the fireplace that was always roaring in winter, the dartboard, which could look picturesque if you didn’t know Tim Kelly was blind in one eye because of a fight with his brother Simon over whose dart had come closer to the bull’s-eye.

Brian went to the bar and pounded his fist joyfully. “Jack Daniel’s!”

“ID,” the bartender demanded. Brian looked like a punk to him and was definitely an out of towner. “Hey.” He nodded to Louise while Brian was thumbing through his wallet for his driver’s license.

“Hey,” she said back. “I’ll have the chardonnay.”


Louise gazed around. There were a few locals at the far end of the bar. Somebody was fooling around with the jukebox. If they punched in “When Doves Cry,” she’d take it as a sign that she should never come back.

“He’s not here,” the bartender said when he noticed her looking.

“Who?” Louise gulped some chardonnay. Lately she hadn’t been getting those hang-up phone calls.

Brian presented his ID and turned to Louise. “At this point, whatever’s in your garden could be just about anything,” he said, interrupting. He gulped down the first shot of whisky as soon as he was served. “We’ll have to collect the bones, clean them, then send them to Cambridge and have them carbon dated. I’ll have to call Professor Seymour in on this.” He laughed, delighted. “I’m in way over my head.”

When Brian turned away for a moment, the bartender leaned in. “He’s in the hospital,” he told Louise. “His appendix burst.”

“People don’t even need their appendixes,” Brian assured Louise when he noticed she looked stricken. He was already pouring another shot. He planned on getting drunk. “I’m going to be famous. Your house is going to be famous.”

“It already is,” Louise said.

THERE WAS NO chinking of the shovel the next day at 5:00 a.m. While Brian was sleeping off his hangover, Louise went out to the garden. She peered down at the pile of bones. She had a shivery feeling, as if they’d perhaps discovered something that was meant to be left alone. She gathered an armful of flowers from the piles that had been torn out, then set off in her mother’s Jeep. It wasn’t yet visiting hour at the hospital, but the floor nurse recognized her from all those weeks she’d spent at her mother’s bedside and let her in.

Louise had told herself she’d never walk into another hospital, but here she was. Johnny Mott was sharing a room with Mr. Hirsch, who was the principal of the high school. Mr. Hirsch had had a seizure the doctors thought might have been a stroke and was there for observation. Johnny looked aggravated over being trapped in a hospital bed, especially in a room with Mr. Hirsch, who had suspended him from high school three times for ridiculous infractions. Johnny had had his share of trouble as a kid and was headed in the wrong direction, then had straightened himself out. He still had scars and tattoos that seemed to belong to somebody else.

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