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. http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/fiction-challenge-160-winner/

Earthmover

“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.”