Friday 21 May 2010

Friday Flash - Strictly No Digging

Today's Friday Flash is actually inspired by a bizarre sign I spotted near Leicester Square in London. Normally I wouldn't have dreamed of digging up the public highway, but of course the very second you're told not to, you can't help but want to!

Strictly No Digging 

Davey pointed out the sign the first time we ever cut through Perdition Square. The black oblong of metal was screwed to a bollard near old man Jenkins' cafe. Big white handpainted letters spelled out 'Strictly No Digging'.

"Why, man? What don't they want us to find?" said Dave. He pointed at the sign, a goofy look of conspiracy plastered on his face.I simply shrugged.

"Could be anything. Water pipes, maybe?"

"Nah, man. There's got to be something they're hiding there. That's why they don't want us to dig." He gesticulated wildly with spindly fingers. Dozens of bracelets made of wooden beads knocked together on his skinny arms.

"Bollocks. Jenkins probably doesn't want people taking up the cobbles."

"I'm tellin' you, man. It's got to be parliament." Davey's eyes were wide. They were also bloodshot, and I wondered for the umpteenth time what he'd been smoking this time.

"I doubt it."

"Look, they're telling us not to dig. So, I gotta dig now. I wouldn't have thought of it before, but now...I gotta know what they're hidin' under this place." I thought I caught a whiff of stale moonshine on Davey's breath as he leaned close.

"Do whatever you want."

I left him standing in the square, contemplating the sign.

Eleven hours later, I found myself standing in the square again. Thick clouds blotted out the moonlight, and shadows clustered in doorways. I looked around at the silent buildings, feeling the heavy weight of the windows' stare. Davey jabbed his dad's spade between the cobbles around the bollard. The grate of metal on stone set my teeth on edge.

"Do you HAVE to do this?" I hissed. "You've already broken my shovel and that one isn't looking too healthy. My dad's gonna kill me!"

"I'm nearly there," replied Davey. He tossed aside his own shovel, ignoring the large crack that ran the length of the wooden handle. He dropped to his knees, and clawed at the loose cobbles. I looked around the square. A shiver ran down my spine as I looked at the windows. I wondered if anyone sat beyond the glass, watching us from a darkened room.

"I don't believe it."

I looked down at Davey. A small pile of cobbles sat on the ground beside him. He still clutched one, dirt clinging to his fingers. I peered down into the hole he'd made. A single piece of white card lay at the bottom.
I fished it out and held it up, brushing crumbs of soil from the card. A breath of wind drove the clouds from the moon, and I could read the black script.

Come to O'Nally's, for all your hardware needs! Shovels, 
gardening equipment, pick axes - if you need it, we have it!


Anonymous said...

Great description here. I wonder what will happen if they go to O'Nally's, get new gear, and come back and dig some more?

Great characters, too. Nicely done.

Mark Kerstetter said...

Great marketing campaign. Get people to break their picks and shovels, then tell them where to get new ones. The beginning was really funny - implacable human nature.

Marisa Birns said...

This was quite amusing!

Loved the line where he said his shovel was not looking "too healthy". :)

That was a bizarre sign, but happy that it made a great prompt for you!

Jen said...

*laughs!* I didn't see it coming. And I'll never see those road signs the same way again.

Icy Sedgwick said...

That sign REALLY appeals to my curious side. What IS under there?!

Carrie Clevenger said...

That is clever!!!!!! Good one, you got me. :D

John Wiswell said...

That is a fabulous sign. No, I can't blame you for prose-dreaming about violating the law. That it all might be an advertising ploy is hilarious.

Unknown said...

Nice twist at the end. I didn't expect that.

Anonymous said...

This made me laugh.
I've always thought that if you wore a bright orange safety vest, put out some witches hats and a tape cordon, you could dig anywhere you wanted and no one would question you.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

haha, very funny twist! Your preamble made me laugh too, I want to dig up a public highway now :)

Sam said...

You've got me going now, I fear a trip to London avec shovel may be in my future. ;) Really enjoyed this, I particularly like the dialogue between the characters. I wonder if O'Nally's card is all there is, or might there be something else waiting to be discovered deeper in that hole?

Icy Sedgwick said...

I think a teeny bit of me might have been influenced by Ghostbusters 2!! But whenever I see people digging in the street, I ALWAYS wonder how official they are. The street outside my office gets dug up about every five weeks or so. Why?!

Laura Eno said...

Ha Ha! Great way to drum up business. We all want to do what we're told not to... What a strange place to put that sign.

Eric J. Krause said...

Brilliant marketing! Good story. And you're right. What is it about human nature that makes us only want to do certain things after we're told not to?

Icy Sedgwick said...

The sad thing is, you know they'll buy a couple more shovels and keep digging!

Emma Newman said...

Oh I *love* it! You really had me going there - and I rarely read a story that makes me laugh out loud. Thank you!

Joz Varlo said...

Great job, Icy. Thought they'd find a scary old tomb with something undead. The ending left me laughing so hard I think my spleen burst. Great play on human nature. We always want what we can't have. Loved it.

Icy Sedgwick said...

@Emma - Glad I made you chuckle!

@Maria - Yeah, normally I'd go for something creepy or horror-related but I'm in a good mood at the moment so I thought I'd have a go at humour!

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