It was a suggestion, not an order. Unfortunately, Vern Jerkin, didn’t get the difference. He did, however, get a shovel. And that’s when things went south.
Vern wasn’t like other men who spent their days drinking beer on the porch of Burt’s Town Store. He wasn’t married and he had no taste for hunting, fishing, or board games. Vern’s only love in life was work—grueling, hard, work. So, when he lost his job at the coal mine due to an unfortunate accident that was entirely his fault, Vern found himself with a load of free time. And everyone in town knew that there were two things that did NOT go together: Vern Jerkin and free time.
“You heard ‘bout Vern?” The old rocker groaned and creaked as Joe squeezed his oversized rump into it. Clem nodded and spit brown tobacco juice into an old soda can.
The store’s door bells jingled as Bill came out with three ice cold beers. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead and upper lip, but it had nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with Bill’s sluggish metabolism. The walk from the store’s beer cooler to the porch had him winded and overheated. He divvied up the beers and rubbed the cold bottle on his forehead. He lifted his gut, scooted into a vacant chair between the guys, then let go; allowing his ample pudge to flop over the arms of the rocker.
“Did I hear ya ask bout Vern?” Bill wheezed and popped the lid off his beer.
“Um hmm.” (Creak…creak…creak)
“That boy can’t sit still to save his life.”
“He got a bad case of “the fidgets”. (Creak…creak…creak)
“makes me uneasy…like my skin’s crawlin’ when he’s around.”
“Yup. Me too. I get all itchy and antsy.”
“Like static electricity in a storm…right before …”
“Yup. Um hmm.” (Creak…creak..creak…)
They rocked in silence for a while; conserving their energy. (Creak…)
Joe stopped rocking and slapped his feet on the ground. He squinted and leaned over as far as his girth would allow.
“Well, I’ll be. Speak o’ the devil.” Joe nodded toward a worn path that led down a hill.
Sure enough, the hurried, mumbling figure making a beeline for the store was none other than, Vern Jerkin.
“My word. That boy looks like he’s constipated with a nuclear turd.” (Creak…creak…creak).
When he reached the store, Vern didn’t go inside—Nor did he sit in the vacant rocker next to the men on the porch. Instead, Vern paced. Back and forth. This way, that way.
The men on the porch watched Vern pace in front of them. Back and forth. Left and right.
“He ain’t gon sit, is he?” (Back and forth)
“Nope. He ain’t.” (This way, that way)
“You think he’ll get tired? Wear himself out?” (This way, that way)
“Nope. He ain’t.” (Left, right)
“Well he’s makin me tired.” (Back and forth)
“And a little dizzy. Gotta creek in ma neck.” (Left, right)
“Joe. Do sumthin.” (Back and forth)
“Yeah, Joe. Make him stop.” (Left and right)
Clem got so discombobulated watching the guy pace, he got his spit can confused with his beer bottle. Needless to say, he puked. Clem’s loud retching caused Vern to pause mid-pace.
That was Joe’s chance to intervene.
Now, let’s take a second here to reflect on the true nature of the men on the porch. They didn’t care a lick about what Vern did with his time. Their goal wasn’t to help him; nor was it to hurt him. They merely wanted the pacing to stop.
“I see ya got yerself a little pent-up energy, eh?” asked Joe. For a second, he thought Vern was going to ignore him, but he soon responded.
“I lost my job. Don’t know what to do with myself now. I’m a hard worker. It’s all I know. It’s how I was raised.”
“Well then, You’re in luck! I know just the job for you.” Joe smiled his most winning smile.
Vern’s eyes lit up and he lunged eagerly toward the porch. Joe waved a hand at him and turned away.
“Nah…never mind. It’s probably too much work. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.” Joe glanced sideways at Vern to gauge his reaction.
Vern growled with frustration and went right back to pacing.
“Over shot it, eh?” Bill chuckled.
“Nope. Just watch.” Joe took the last swig of his beer and wiggled the empty bottle in Vern’s direction. “Get us some cold beers and I’ll tell ya bout that work I had in mind.”
Vern jumped into action, grabbing three empty bottles from the sedentary trio and hurrying inside the store. He promptly returned with three fresh cold ones and handed them out.
“Seems to me, the hardest work around is hole-diggin’. Shewwwww-y my lawd it’s hard work to dig a hole.” Joe fanned himself and shook his head.
“Can’t stand much hole-diggin’, myself.”
“Nope. Too much work. Can’t take it, no sir!”
Not another word was exchanged. Vern disappeared inside the store. The men on the porch caught a glimpse of him running back out of the shop carrying a brand new shovel.
Vern ran up the pathway to his house. He darted his eyes around the yard. He was in a frenzy of anguish over the biggest, most life-altering decision of his life: where to start digging. Finally, he tossed the shovel into the air and watched it return to the earth, boing! It stuck, spade-end; stabbing the ground.
“The shovel chooses the hole!” Finally! An outlet for his unbridled energy! Spittle flew from his lips. A sudden gust stood his hair on end and a wild look infected his eyes. His maniacal laughter reverberated back to him. He stabbed the earth again and again; dislodging mound after mound of moist, soft dirt.
Vern was no expert digger, though. There was a bit of a learning curve. He covered himself with dirt a few times before realizing that he needed to toss it aside instead of up. But, it wasn’t long before Vern had himself a nice, big hole. He didn’t stop. No way. For, you see…Vern, was a hard worker and hard work was his purpose in life. He kept digging all through the night and into the next day.
Around noon on the second day of digging, Vern’s neighbors caught sight of him. They couldn’t miss the rapidly growing mountain of dirt in his yard.
“What’s that boy up to?”
“I dunno, Martha. Looks like he’s diggin’ a hole, whatdoyathink?”
“Good. Boy’s gotta do sumthin with all that excess energy ‘fore he drives us all mad.”
Word travelled fast as neighbors called neighbors who called the newspaper that printed the headlines :
VERN JERKIN IS HARD WORKIN’
CHECK OUT VERN’s ENORMOUS HOLE
FUNDRAISER! HELP VERN DIG THAT HOLE
People gathered around the hole; taking pictures and cheering for Vern. Some wanted to be just like Vern. They started a fashion trend of dirt-covered clothes and wild hair. Stores sold commemorative miniature shovels and bobble-head Verns. There were re-enactments on YouTube and cosplay events called, “Hole-Con”. “Vern”, was the number one baby name for girls and boys. For several weeks, #VernsEnormousHole trended on social media.
Of course, Vern was too busy digging to notice that he had become a worldwide sensation. His fame didn’t last long, anyway. Soon, all the hoopla died down and everyone went back to obsessing over boy bands and politics. By then, Vern’s hole was two miles deep. And that’s when it happened. He hit something hard buried in the dirt.
Vern’s shovel ricocheted off the hard object and smacked him square in the noggin. It knocked him out, but he eventually came round. Unfortunately, Vern didn’t learn his lesson the first time, so he repeated the action and knocked himself out again. The next time he regained consciousness, he was too dizzy to stand, so he crawled over to the object to get a closer look.
The thing he hit, still mostly lodged in the dirt, had colored waves of light streaming out of it. Vern wasn’t very curious about the object. He wanted to get back to work and the thing was in the way. Whatever it was, it had to go.
Since the shovel made his head hurt (twice), he resorted to pawing at the dirt with his bare hands.
“Well, by golly, this is even harder work!” Vern smiled as he shifted handfuls of soil away from the object. After every few handfuls, Vern climbed out of the hole to toss away the excess dirt. Three days later, he stood at the bottom of his hole and examined the glowing orb he’d uncovered.
“Gee, that’s one big ball,” he muttered to himself. “How am I gonna get that ginormous, two-ton, weird-colored ball out of my hole?”
Vern spent two days digging a ramp into the side of his enormous hole. Then, using all his strength, he rolled the orb up the ramp. He heaved and ho’ed all by himself until the refrigerator-sized orb….slipped and rolled all the way back down to the bottom of the hole. Most people would’ve been irritated, but not Vern. No ma’am! Vern loved hard work. He smiled and danced a jig down the ramp to get the orb. Again, he heaved and ho’ed with all his might; pushing and straining; rolling the orb up the ramp. Finally and triumphantly, he pushed it out of the hole.
Vern stood proudly admiring his accomplishment. But, he was ready to get back to digging, so he dusted off his hands.
When he turned around, he ran smack into something that hadn’t been there before.
It was a monstrous, winged alien.
The beast promptly ate Vern and disappeared into the sky with her egg.