The Short Shovel - By Brian Law

He thought it odd, especially since everybody in town knew about Jonas’ bad back. Why would a man of Jonas’ size and stature own such a short shovel?  But there it was, leaning right up against the back wall of old dead Jonas’ tool shed along with his other regular sized tools. It didn’t make much sense. 

“How much you asking for that short little shovel in the shed, Madge?” he asked the woman who was running the estate sale. 

She laughed and asked him if he had midgets working for him this year. Madge had a strange sense of humor, but she didn’t mean anything by it. Then she told him he could have it for two bucks. He held up a dollar, which she accepted and then told her son, Will, to get the little shovel from the back of the tool shed for the man. 

Will wasn’t too bright so it took him a while, but he eventually reappeared with the little shovel and handed it to the man. As he did, he said, “Another fellow wants this little shovel real bad, Mr. Allison. Told me he’ll meet you out front if you want to sell it for a profit.” Will pointed out the other fellow who was standing over by the big tree alongside the driveway. 

“Thanks, Will. You going to mow my lawn this week like we talked about?” 

Will nodded and smiled and wiped his nose with his arm. Not too bright, Allison thought, but a good kid just the same as he turned and walked towards the other man. 

The other man was even taller than Jonas’ used to be, which didn’t make any sense, either. Allison held the little shovel in front of him as he said to the other fellow, “Will tells me you’re interested in buying this little shovel.” 

“Yes. The boy told me you got it for a dollar. I’ll give you twenty dollars for it.” 


“You got midgets working for you this year?” he joked holding up the little shovel. He didn’t know this other fellow so he figured a little humor couldn’t hurt. Then, seeing the other fellow’s reaction, he quickly added, “Don’t mind me, Mister. I don’t mean nothing by it.” 

“Well, you want to sell it or not?” he heard the other fellow say. 

“Well, see, this here little shovel just happens to be a part of this town’s history, Mister. I’ve lived here all my life, as did my parents and grandparents before me, so I know a little about where stuff comes from around here. This shovel dates way back . . . to the Witch Trials.” Allison knew almost nothing about the town’s history, but since the other fellow was offering big money for this little shovel, he figured he might as well puff up its value with a harmless lie. 

“So, you have an eye for such things, do you?” the other fellow replied. “I’ll tell you what. Rather than us standing here haggling over the perceived value of this item, let’s just assume that your historical assumption is correct and then you tell me what you think is a fair price that we can both agree upon.” 

Allison was surprised by this and realized he needed a bit more time , so he lied some more and added, “Well, I guess then you know how they really used this little shovel during the Witch Trials. There were several of these as the story goes, but this is the only one I’ve ever seen anywhere in these parts. Last one makes it pretty valuable.” 

“Again, let’s just assume that you’re correct about the historical significance of this object. Give me a dollar figure and we can go from there,” the other fellow said, not showing any emotion or concern. 

“Well, let’s say three hundred bucks.” 

“Fine. Are hundreds okay with you?” the other fellow asked, reaching into his inside jacket pocket. 

“Hundreds are fine,” Allison answered already sorry he hadn’t ask for more, a lot more. 

The money and the little short shovel were exchanged as they shook hands. The other fellow then turned and walked towards the curb while Allison just stood by the big tree holding his money. 

After a short wait, a sleek, long, black limousine pulled up and stopped next to the other man, its side rear window open. From within its darkened interior, a gnarled hand reached out, grasped the little shovel and then the limousine sped away. 

The other fellow continued to stand by the curb as if waiting for a ride. “Hey, Mister,” Allison yelled at him. “Can I ask you something?” 

The other fellow turned, motioned for him to come over to the curb, and then indicated he didn’t have much time. “You have a question?” the other fellow asked as they stood together at the curb. 

“Yeah. How high would you have gone, anyway? Just wondering?” he asked the other fellow. “Would you have paid a lot more than three bills?” 

“For the last existing short shovel from the Witch Trial era, as you so aptly described it?” he replied, a strange smile on his face. “Oh, yes, my employer had authorized me to go much higher.” 

Another limo pulled up and as the other man opened its rear door and slid into its dim interior, Allison peered in and ventured, “Just like that, huh? You folks would spend that kind of money just on my word alone?” 

Reaching over to close the limousine’s door, the other man looked at Allison coldly and replied, “He was paying for your lie, Mr. Allison. You cannot imagine the delight that he and those in his immediate circle experience when they hold that little short shovel that embodies the pronouncements of an accomplished liar such as yourself. It is the closest thing to holding your soul, sir. It is indescribable!” 

Allison straightened up as the limo’s door closed and it and the other man slowly pulled away from the curb. Allison looked down at the three one hundred dollar bills in his hand and felt good about himself for the first time in weeks. 

Like the other man had just said, he was accomplished. That was really something! 


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