by JP Vallieres
illustrator Daniel Egnéus
We woke up with our usual hangovers. We were freezing and the grass was soaking with dew. Our wet clothes went straight through to our bones. The fire pit was smoking and there were young people scattered throughout the wooded area passed out from the prior night’s activities. Kevin Porter and I began walking home until I noticed something that looked not right (of course if you spoke to Kevin Porter he would tell you it was he that noticed it first). We walked over and saw the thin line in the earth. It stretched for a distance and we got down on our hands and knees and began scraping away, removing all the old sticks and pine needles to get a close look. Yes, it was a thin crack in the earth. But really nothing more. We went home and didn’t think too much of it.
The next weekend there was another party. We loved our parties. Something about being in two strange worlds at the same time: the woods and drunken heads. We’d drag large coolers full of beer back in the woods behind St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church. Some of our pockets held ample amounts of weed. Some of us held better quality weed than others. I usually had the shitty stuff—“home grown.” It would make you fall into a deep sleep, bypassing all the highs and heading straight to the lows.
Anyway, we fell into that sleep and woke up the next morning and checked the ground. It was a little wider we thought, maybe deeper, but really we weren’t too sure. And it seemed since no one else mentioned it that it was not that big of a deal, or maybe one of those things that is common sense to everyone but us. So the week went on and we found another place to party that was a little better because the town cops—an asshole named Newman in particular—were on to our underage drinking fest behind the church. The new place was better, way more remote and still a lot of fun. Deep in the woods off route 177, near Edmon Gulf, which is a pretty cool gorge if you ask me. For the rest of the summer we were there, doing what we do best.
Then one sunny afternoon Kevin Porter or I mentioned the crack in the earth behind St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church and since we had nothing going on we went to check it out. It had been a month or two since we’d been back there. This time we noticed it from farther away. We saw it as we were approaching—it was that much wider. Three inches at least, and deep. We stuck our hands in as far as they could go and got a little freaked out and excited about what it all could mean. Like, if this wasn’t a common sense thing, which we began to think it certainly was not, if this was a true discovery then what are we going to do with this knowledge? We decided it needed to be a secret until we had worked it all out in our minds.
We talked about the crack in the earth behind the church. But we couldn’t come up with too much to say.
Kevin Porter: “Do you think it will get wider?”
Me: “I do.”
Kevin Porter: “Why do you think that?”
Me: “Because it’s more fun to think of it like that.”
Kevin Porter: “I think about it when I’m bored.”
Me: “On the bus to school.”
Kevin Porter: “In English class.”
Me: “Right before I fall asleep at night.”
By the end of the summer it grew like a mouth slowly beginning to sing a soft song. The length was about the size of a person, but it was the width that spread forth into that yawn. Kevin Porter got into the opening one day and squeezed himself through up to his armpits. It looked fun so I did the same. The bottom seemed never ending and that was the best part. We threw stuff down there. All kinds of stuff: rocks, branches, old beer cans we found laying around. It was great having a hole like that. Then the fall came and we had to go back to school and soon thereafter the snow came and we concentrated on basketball and were also hoping to get laid for the first time in each of our lives. Who would get laid first? That was the real question. I thought more girls liked me but I was the shy one, so maybe it would be Kevin first. Maybe we could both get laid on the same night and call it even? That would have been the best scenario.
But it was Kevin Porter who got laid first. I think it had something to do with me falling in love with a cheerleader, that’s probably it. I mean, yeah we made love and all but only when it was just the right moment. Kevin Porter did it with the biggest hooch in Adams out in the Bedores cornfield. Her name was Misty. Misty pitched a four-season tent out there in the middle of old Bedores’ land and made sure the pathway to it was shoveled every weekend. Some say she would just lie out there in her sleeping bag reading a book or something, just waiting for the next guy to keep her company.
Me: “Could you feel anything?”
Kevin Porter: “Of course. What kind of question is that?”
Me: “I heard she’s so loose it’s like stickin’ it through a garage door.”
Kevin Porter: “No, you’re thinkin’ of a girl just after she had a baby. Remember that’s what Brandon told us about Heidi after she had her kid.”
Me: “That’s right. I remember now.”
We both thought about it some more. About that video in health class about actually doing it with the hairy lady who just gave birth in front of the camera. Doing it like a day or so after the delivery, once she was all cleaned up.
Me: “Hey, I was thinkin’ that you probably won’t get anyone better than Misty.”
Kevin Porter: “Why’s that?”
Me: “I don’t know. I guess I figure she’s been with so many she knows all the tricks. The good moves, you know. Does she have some good moves?”
Kevin Porter: “I was mostly drunk. I can hardly remember it. But I think I lasted pretty long.”
Me: “Yeah? That’s good. I probably would’ve heard by now if you were only a three-pump thumper.”
Kevin Porter: “Honestly, between you and me, it was awful.”
Me: “How could it be awful?”
Kevin Porter: “I don’t know. It just was.”
He was right. For some reason it did sound awful.
What happened was Kevin Porter, like so many other boys from our school, ended up being a regular customer at Misty’s tent. I shouldn’t say “customer”—he wasn’t paying for anything—but there was something there that seemed, to me at least, that a deal between them had been made. He never told me about the visits, I think he may have been ashamed, but word gets out and the whole school knew.
I didn’t think that much about it because I had a real girlfriend. I was in love and when spring came and the snow was gone I took her directly to the growing hole behind St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church. We brought a blanket and a basket full of goodies. We laid the blanket next to the hole. We laid ourselves on our stomachs and peered down into the darkness. That’s when she wanted to do it for the first time. Right there next to the hole. I didn’t know how I felt about that. I should have been overjoyed, but right here next to this hole? Something seemed wrong with that. But I gave in pretty quick and it happened, right there. Then we slept. Then we ate. She seemed pleased but it’s not an easy thing to tell. There were no moans or even the slightest notion of what I thought it was supposed to be.
She: “It was sweet.”
Which is possibly the worst thing I ever heard.
I would have preferred: “That was hot.”
Whatever, it was over. I didn’t feel any different. The hole was not closing up or anything and I began throwing stuff down there like Kevin Porter and I used to. I found a big rock I could barely pick up and dropped it in. It almost took me with it which frightened me to the point I had to spend the rest of the afternoon looking the other way. She mainly spent her time looking directly into it. She yelled down there and heard her voice rush back up to her. She told me she thought it sounded like someone else.
We went back to the hole everyday. We would do it. Then we would play around the hole and watch as it stretched. As far as making love sweetly, I came to a state of acceptance. What could I do differently? Nothing. I tried things. Believe me, I tried all those things but the results were always the same. No matter, We smoked my crappy weed and let it slough us off to sleep. We dreamed the same dreams as each other. I guess you could say that was the one real advantage of home grown weed. We mostly dreamed of the hole and what it was like at the bottom. Kevin Porter showed up in a few of the dreams which made us wonder if he was smoking the stuff at the exact same time. We’d have conversations in our dreams (there wasn’t much to say). We tried to fly together but when we got up there we just began to fall and that was terrifying.
Of course we had to go down into the hole. I invited Kevin Porter along and I told him to bring Misty if he wanted to. The four of us gathered around the hole. It was big now but we all had long arms and we held hands in a circle looking down to its very depths. The plan was to take the plunge together. It wasn’t a well-thought out plan. How would we get back up?
Misty started talking about all her past lovers. Kevin Porter stood there holding her hand and holding mine, seemingly unperturbed. He was mesmerized by the hole we had discovered so long ago. Misty told us detail after detail like someone reminiscing about war, a good hard fought war men used to be proud of. We listened intently. It was fascinating to hear about all those times with all those boys.
Misty: “I miss my tent.”
It wouldn’t block a hard rain like it used to. It was getting old and transparent. When she was finished she went back to looking where Kevin Porter was looking, into the hole’s darkness.
My girlfriend wanted more than anything to drop down into it and would not take no for an answer.
She: “Do you love me?”
I immediately said yes—and it was very true—but it didn’t mean that much because I have learned that I am a person who falls in love at the drop of a hat. But still, I had my eyes on no one else. So we lowered her down gently as far as our arms could take her. She talked to us. She told us what it was like. It was a magnificent hole. It got colder the further she went down. I’m not sure how but our arms began to stretch and grow strong to the point where they became like roots or very close to roots. She kept talking but she was so far down now. We couldn’t see her and her speech was delayed, reaching us well after she mouthed the words. She soon became an echoed jumble of sounds until we could hear nothing at all. But we were willing to take her as far as she was willing to go. We acquired the strength of ten great armies.
Who we pulled up was a different person altogether. She told us that the other one, who happened to be the love of my life, didn’t want to come back up. She wanted to stay in that other place forever. This new girl had red hair and wanted to leave that other place. Their hole it turned out developed at the same time ours did. Her world was very much like ours but without all the trees.
Red-headed girl: “But I was beginning to feel tired of it.”
Red-headed girl: “And I like these trees.”
We were glad to have our arms back.
Misty and Kevin Porter ran away together after Misty’s tent finally collapsed in on itself. They hit the road and I imagine they haven’t slowed down one bit. Me and the redhead began to date. The redhead though was not like my other girlfriend. She had strange habits. She drank a gallon of milk each day. She began to reek of old milk, which made me nearly vomit every time we did it. I missed the other girl badly and would go alone to the hole. I would scream into it. A voice I did not recognize screamed back. Why couldn’t I go in after her? Why couldn’t I be rid of this world as she did? If there is something wrong with our world, what exactly is it?
The hole had no answers and began slowly, right before my eyes, to close.