The Bone

This piece began as an idea which I morphed to meet the week’s Speakeasy challenge, for a less than 750 word story beginning with the words, “Tell me if you’re game,” referencing the picture below and without reference to family. I didn’t complete in time to submit and rather suspect that I intentionally missed the deadline to avoid the disappointment of not getting selected. If any of my faithful readers want a good story there are some winners, well worth reading, on Speakeasy.


“Tell me if you’re game.” The five men nodded in unison, Joe and Mike, the two youngest, exchanged a high-five. The others looked less excited; they had been here before and knew that any work involving digging, even in a public park adjacent to green playing fields, involved surprises. They could upset some ardent conservationist group, hit an undocumented utility, or a huge rock, uncover a limestone cave entrance, water or, heaven forbid, an endangered species habitat or artifact; or they could be rained out or have an accident. Any of these would put the plan off schedule and ruin their “game,” compromising their hoped for early completion bonus. Underground utility work was like that.

After the first week their hopes were up, they were ahead of schedule. The site smelled of raw earth and the deep trench was almost 75% dug. The Cat’s incessant “beep, beep” as it backed up accompanied by the clanking of its long arm and earth scoop filled their days. Pipe was delivered and they began to lay the first section.

Everything came to a halt at Mike’s shout, “A bone, that’s a bone.”

They grouped around Mike to inspect it, happy for relief from the Cat’s noise and for a moment of relaxation from their labors. The bone lay in the dirt and mocked them white and clean about twenty inches long – too big for a cat or a dog and, fortunately, too small for a dinosaur. Their foreman shook his head sadly, “Damn, there goes our completion bonus.” He sighed, “Surely that bone is human. We can’t hide it. We’ll have to call the police.”

He gingerly picked up the bone so that he could describe it to the police dispatcher, “Old, looks like a human femur, one end appears to be mauled, I think it’s the hip-joint end. The other end, I think it’s the knee-joint end, is clean with a small hole through it. Yeah a small hole, looks as though it was drilled. Yep, odd, but that’s what I see.”

Two squad cars arrived. They interviewed the crew and cordoned off the area. They put the bone in a large plastic bag ready to send to their forensic pathologist. They told the crew to limit activities to those outside the “area of concern.” No one said “crime scene” but it was obvious that this is what was on everyone’s mind. A police team would be out the next day to search the area for the rest of the skeleton.

A crowd of onlookers materialized out of nowhere; they were accompanied by the press. The newspaper cameramen photographed the site and the attractive reporter interviewed anyone willing to talk. The work gang wondered whether this attention made up for their loss, while the foreman agonized over the probability that this delay would incur a late penalty.

The next day the local newspaper carried a story “Tortured bone found”. They included a scholarly dissertation on the last fifty years of unsolved murders. Days later, when the thorough Police sponsored search had turned up no additional relics, the newspaper reported on the pathologist’s report and confirmed that the bone, almost 100 years old, was a right male femur from a man in his sixties. They called for their readers to assist in solving the mystery. Why was the bone here? Where was the rest of the skeleton? Why did the bone have that curious hole in it? When had the hole been made?

Macabre explanations poured in, each more extraordinary than the last. Just when interest was lagging the newspaper received a letter from a Dr. Moore. He wrote that his grandfather, also a doctor, had owned a full closet skeleton. He had lived close to the site where the bone was found. When he died, about twenty years ago, Dr. Moore had decided that the skeleton should be deconstructed and given a “decent” graveyard burial. But when he prepared the bones his dog, a large Great Dane, had made off with the right femur and he had never been able to find. He was certain that this was the missing bone, identified by age, size and the telltale hole drilled for the connecting articulation wires. He asked that it be assigned to him for interment beside the rest of the skeleton. He praised the construction crew and offered his own gift of $5,000 to them. He wrote, “Consider it a thank-you on behalf of the skeleton.”


15 thoughts on “The Bone

  1. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after
    browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new
    to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and
    checking back frequently!

  2. The dog did it!

    Oh well, we’ve to release the usual suspects – the politicians, priests and bankers!

    Jane, seriously – you have a marvellous style in carrying your readers through to the end.

    Thank you for this good read 🙂

    • Yep, that dammed dog! Seriously, I think that some of my readers had trouble with the dog, but I needed a simple explanation to a story which could have turned into a murder mystery. Thank you for your visit.

    • Thank you, thank you for your visit. How do you find the time? By the way I loved your winning story based on the same prompts, and yes I think that the link goes to Speakeasy and thence on to it. One of these days I’ll have to figure out how to put in the Speakeasy logo with the link embedded. I suggest that Speakeasy ought to publish an, easy to find, step by step “how to”. Jane

      • Jane, I had trouble with it at first, but someone finally explained it where it made sense. On Speakeasy, you highlight the text under the badge (to make sure I get it all, I click in it and then hit cntrl and the letter ‘a’ on my keyboard). Then in your post, you click the ‘text’ tab in the upper right corner right above where the post text begins, click in the post where you want the badge to show, paste text, and click the ‘visual’ tab. You should see the badge photo at this point. It’s easier than it sounds 🙂

        • Thank you THANK YOU. At present I am embroiled in preparing a house design for a friend but, as soon as I get my head above water again I’ll use this and make a post with all the proper bells and whistles.. All the best to you; you are a very special writer.
          Thank you,

  3. You had my interest all the way, Jane, though I think I like your longer stories better. Really short pieces (and that annoying ADHD genre called flash fiction) tend to bore me, they are such unripe, malnourished things. I also empathize with your psychology about the deadline. But your story does raise interesting questions. I have a suspicion that if I found such a bone–even one as large as a human femur–in my garden, I might neglect to inform any authorities and let sleeping bones lie!

    • I agree about the stories Cynthia. The exercise is good for me but the straight jacket combination of length and prompts tends to curtail. This story began before Speakeasy, as an individual, such as yourself, finding a bone in their back yard and then wondering what to do with it. I morphed it into the above to answer the challenge. I speculate that the story featuring an individual’s struggle over what to do was probably a much better, more believable and seductive narrative. Jane

    • Maybe the story is a little unclear, as. I didn’t envision the bone being buried very deep. Might it not have been close to the surface? As usual, I thank you for your visit and critical read – most encouraging. Jane

  4. Thank you. I agree about the fun – but what would one do if one uncovered an ancient human bone in one’s garden – let the police dig the entire place up?
    Food for thought and, hopefully, never closer than speculation.

    • Thank you. I agree about the fun – but what would one do if one uncovered an ancient human bone in one’s garden – let the police dig the entire place up?
      Food for thought and, hopefully, never closer than speculation.

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