It was a job Abe could have done by himself twenty years earlier. And in half the time, too.
Now, with the cold November wind whipping around his legs and tearing the breath from his lungs, he stood stooped and heaving, clutching the handle end of a planted shovel to hold himself off the ground.
Ten feet away, Roscoe was pale, gasping for air. And together, the brothers were barely halfway finished.
“We better get back to work old man,” Abe said, pushing up on the worn and splintered wood. He wiggled the shovel loose and took an unsteady step forward.
Roscoe held up a hand but nodded. “Just a minute longer.”
Abe grunted. “No more than that. Winter is coming, and we have a lot of work to do yet.”
He jabbed at the ground with the spade, hopped on the broad backend of its scoop for leverage.
Roscoe wheezed as he shuffled into place across from he brother, just seven feet away now.
“Which one of us do you think it will be?” Roscoe asked.
Abe tossed a hunk of clumped soil over his shoulder and dug in for another. “Don’t know that it matters.” He didn’t look at Roscoe. “What matters is that we finish before the ground freezes.”
Roscoe managed a weak poke into the earth. He turned his shovel sideways. A few ounces of dirt plopped onto the brown grass.
“What if it’s both of us?” He asked, resting his hands on his knees again, studying his brother.
“Then I reckon it’ll be someone else’s problem,” Abe said. He regarded the ground in front of him for a moment. “One is plenty for our purposes.”
Roscoe groaned as he dug in again.
They were three feet down, with another three to go.
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