by Thomas Cooper
A month after I watched Mom's casket lowered into the ground, Dad bought a metal detector. That night I hunkered in the backyard dirt and dug another hole with a garden trowel. There were so many little holes around me that it looked like a mole infestation. Dad waded through the high milkweed and grass, swept the metal detector in wide slow swaths. I was thankful for the backyard fence, though I still imagined the neighbors going, "What whackjobs, what hicks." So far we'd found bottle caps, rusty nails, even a stainless steel money clip, everything but the time capsule. "I'm not sure if we planned on burying it, or really did bury it," Dad said for the third or fourth time from under the laurel oak tree. Maybe he'd had a few too many beers. I gripped the trowel with splintered fingers and tossed dirt behind my shoulder. Summer heat lingered in the grass, warmed my bare knees. Somewhere charcoal briquettes burned. A few streets over some of my grade school classmates played a ball game and their shrieking carried in the dusk. "Dig, goddamn it, dig," Dad cried, so I did.
A 2008 Pushcart Prize nominee, Thomas Cooper's short stories currently appear or are forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, Lake Effect, Bayou, Opium, elimae, wigleaf, Thieves Jargon, and elsewhere. He is at work on a short story collection and novel. http://www.myspace.com/thepapercastle