Poppy gave a little gasp as the ladder she’d mounted began to rock and sway, threatening to pitch her over the fence. She frowned down at the little Spaniel who was causing the annoyance. Then she descended and, grasping Freckles firmly by the collar, hurried to the back door and shoved him inside. She hastened back to the fence then, being careful not to step on any autumn leaves that might crackle and give her away. Reaching the ladder once more, she readjusted it and climbed to where she could see over the fence with just her eyes peaking out.
Good show! Her new neighbor hadn’t noticed anything amiss. He was still busy with his spade, digging a deep hole in the corner of the garden.
It was early morning and the first gray patch of dawn had begun to creep across the sky. Poppy was out only because of Freckles who had felt his customary call to nature before Poppy was fully awake. Once in the yard, her ears were arrested by the sound of a shovel hitting cement as her new neighbor dragged a spade out of his shed and across the yard to a flowerbed. She had just enough time to determine that he carried something beneath his arm before Freckles threatened to upset her spying by pushing against the ladder.
Now she could see more clearly. There was a good-sized metal box resting on the ground next to the bed her neighbor was digging in. Was he going to bury it? Yes, now he was lifting it and placing it carefully in the hole he’d dug. Then he shoveled dirt over the top and made his way back to the house.
“Poppy! What are you doing?” came a stern male voice at her back. She turned and placed a silencing finger over her lips to quiet her husband Phil, then dropped to the ground and ran for the house with Phil in pursuit.
Once inside, he grabbed her by the shoulders and swung her around. “Now my nosy wife, please tell me what you were doing spying on our neighbor in the wee hours of the morning.”
“I think the question ought to be, ‘what was our neighbor doing burying a metal box in the early morning hours?’ Phil, it must be something he doesn’t want anyone to see. Maybe he’s a bank robber and he’s burying the loot? Or it could be incriminating evidence that would link him to a crime like--like murder maybe? You see how he keeps to himself. He hasn’t made any attempts to meet his new neighbors.”
Phil shook his head in disgust. “Give him time, dear. He’s only lived there a few months. And anyway, it’s none of your business what he does in his yard. Get that? NONE of your business.
But Poppy couldn’t put it out of her head and, when she saw her neighbor head off to work the next morning, she decided to have a look in that box when no one else was around. It was easy to slip through the gate to his yard and find the spade where he’d left it by the tool shed.
The flowers by the burying place were amazing. Great blooms of orange and yellow mums raised sunny heads to the sky in innocent splendor, denying any accomplice to crime. Ignoring their breathtaking beauty, Poppy soon had the metal box out of the ground and resting expectantly in the palms of her hands. In trembling excitement then, she raised the latch (it wasn’t locked) and gazed in surprise at the contents of the mystery box. It was truly a letdown!
“Why, it’s only an old Bible,” she said aloud, lifting the well-worn book from the box and flipping its pages. There were many notations inside, written in a woman’s elegant script. And the bottom of the box held pages of poems, composed by the same delicate hand. Poppy read them shamelessly while the truth began to dawn upon her. They were the words of a woman dying of cancer--a person of faith, loving life but moving bravely forward. The bed of mums was a memorial site.
Poppy’s eyes were wet with tears when she returned the box to the ground. Phil would never approve of what she’d done, but he’d never know. And she wasn’t sorry. Now that she knew the truth, the man must come to dinner on Sunday.
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