“What to Do About a Sinkhole”

It hadn’t been there yesterday. Shelly was sure because she’d sat on one of the now-missing patio chairs while listening to the game. She’d been drinking a beer and her team had again blown a fine outing by their young phenom who deserved better and would no doubt decamp the minute free agency beckoned. She’d have noticed the hole had it started that evening.Shelley loved listening to baseball outside. When they retired, they’d moved so far from the city that the radio barely picked up the station. Most of the time, the announcers voices were buried in static. The rough burr of electric distortion created a background pool from which scraps of the game floated upward. Mickey said there were better ways to listen—they could buy a package online—but Shelley preferred this. Sometimes the sound was clear, and she could follow a whole game. Other times she wouldn’t even be sure if she should be celebrating or lamenting the exclamation of “two run homer!” swimming up through the static.

Shelley loved listening to baseball outside. When they retired, they’d moved so far from the city that the radio barely picked up the station. Most of the time, the announcers voices were buried in static. The rough burr of electric distortion created a background pool from which scraps of the game floated upward.Mickey said there were better ways to listen—they could buy a package online—but Shelley preferred this.

Sometimes the sound was clear, and she could follow a whole game. Other times she wouldn’t even be sure if she should be celebrating or lamenting the exclamation of “two run homer!” swimming up through the static.Sunset was a particularly bad time for clarity as the atmosphere bent the radio waves unrecognizably. Late night was better.

Mickey said there were better ways to listen—they could buy a package online—but Shelley preferred this.Sometimes the sound was clear, and she could follow a whole game. Other times she wouldn’t even be sure if she should be celebrating or lamenting the exclamation of “two run homer!” swimming up through the static.Sunset was a particularly bad time for clarity as the atmosphere bent the radio waves unrecognizably. Late night was better.

Sometimes the sound was clear, and she could follow a whole game. Other times she wouldn’t even be sure if she should be celebrating or lamenting the exclamation of “two run homer!” swimming up through the static.Sunset was a particularly bad time for clarity as the atmosphere bent the radio waves unrecognizably. Late night was better.

Mickey said there were better ways to listen—they could buy a package online—but Shelley preferred this.

Sometimes the sound was clear, and she could follow a whole game. Other times she wouldn’t even be sure if she should be celebrating or lamenting the exclamation of “two run homer!” swimming up through the static.Sunset was a particularly bad time for clarity as the atmosphere bent the radio waves unrecognizably. Late night was better.

Sunset was a particularly bad time for clarity as the atmosphere bent the radio waves unrecognizably. Late night was better.This morning, Mickey had let Lulu out back to do her business, then waited for her “let me back in” woof. Instead, he’d heard furious barking, the kind that made it clear that something unpleasant was being barked at.

This morning, Mickey had let Lulu out back to do her business, then waited for her “let me back in” woof. Instead, he’d heard furious barking, the kind that made it clear that something unpleasant was being barked at.And there it was, about ten feet from the back of the house. The backyard looked like a giant fist had come out of the sky and punched it. Sheets of turf were sliding down into a central

And there it was, about ten feet from the back of the house. The backyard looked like a giant fist had come out of the sky and punched it. Sheets of turf were sliding down into a central pit, into which objects seemed to disappear. The closest edge of the hole was about four feet from their patio. The hole itself was about fifteen feet across. As he watched, a patio chair tipped over the edge and disappeared. He yelled for Shelley to come see. Shelley looked up sinkholes on-line. The websites were full of warnings. “You might never have to deal with a sinkhole opening up in your neighborhood or under your house. But if you do, you should be ready. Sinkholes are not something you should be playing catch-up with. The sooner you deal with the problem, the sooner you can feel comfortable walking the earth again.”

Shelley looked up sinkholes on-line. The websites were full of warnings. “You might never have to deal with a sinkhole opening up in your neighborhood or under your house. But if you do, you should be ready. Sinkholes are not something you should be playing catch-up with. The sooner you deal with the problem, the sooner you can feel comfortable walking the earth again.”Over lunch, she read passages to Mickey.

Over lunch, she read passages to Mickey.“Listen, Mickey, we have to do something about this. It says right here that they never get any better. They get worse and worse. Our whole house could sink in!”

“Listen, Mickey, we have to do something about this. It says right here that they never get any better. They get worse and worse. Our whole house could sink in!”She ran through lists of what to do and what not to do.

She ran through lists of what to do and what not to do.“We should mark the hole so no one falls in by accident, and keep everyone away.”

“We should mark the hole so no one falls in by accident, and keep everyone away.”Mickey said, “It’s our backyard, who’s going to be there anyway?”

Mickey said, “It’s our backyard, who’s going to be there anyway?”Shelley kept reading. “‘Do not get too close! Stand back and take pictures.’ Well, that’s a good idea. If it’s still light after dinner, we can do that.” She stood up to get them each another beer.

Shelley kept reading. “‘Do not get too close! Stand back and take pictures.’ Well, that’s a good idea. If it’s still light after dinner, we can do that.” She stood up to get them each another beer.“I’m worried about Lulu. How do we keep her away from there? What do we do if she falls in?”

“I’m worried about Lulu. How do we keep her away from there? What do we do if she falls in?”Mickey had been thinking about this. “I’ll build a ladder she can climb back out. I don’t think it’s too deep yet.”

Mickey had been thinking about this. “I’ll build a ladder she can climb back out. I don’t think it’s too deep yet.”This was problematical. The hole kept fraying at the edges; more objects were falling in,

This was problematical. The hole kept fraying at the edges; more objects were falling in,
disappearing under the sliding debris. Shelley stared at Mickey like he’d said that maybe Lulu could sprout wings, in case they’d be needed.“Mickey. Honey. We have no idea how deep that hole is. I think we need to call someone—the town or some specialist or someone.”

“Mickey. Honey. We have no idea how deep that hole is. I think we need to call someone—the town or some specialist or someone.”They went outside after dinner to assess the situation, Lulu barking from behind the sliding glass door. Mickey edged closer. He tried to see into the pit, to gauge how deep it was. He was thinking he’d like to get his lawn furniture back. Ideas about ropes and pulleys ran through his mind.

They went outside after dinner to assess the situation, Lulu barking from behind the sliding glass door. Mickey edged closer. He tried to see into the pit, to gauge how deep it was. He was thinking he’d like to get his lawn furniture back. Ideas about ropes and pulleys ran through his mind.“Mickey, get back! The edges could still cave in!” She was worried Mickey would do something rash. He was not normally a rash sort. Neither of them was. This relocation to the country was the most unlikely thing they’d done. That Lulu was not a cautious dog seemed like some kind of cosmic error, though a small one in the scheme of things.

“Mickey, get back! The edges could still cave in!” She was worried Mickey would do something rash. He was not normally a rash sort. Neither of them was. This relocation to the country was the most unlikely thing they’d done. That Lulu was not a cautious dog seemed like some kind of cosmic error, though a small one in the scheme of things.They went to bed that night with no clue how they were going to deal with the sinkhole. They tried to show each other a united front, but late into the night, while Mickey slumbered, Shelley stayed up, pondering dog-saving ladders and lawn furniture-rescuing pulleys and wondering if she really ever knew Mickey at all.

They went to bed that night with no clue how they were going to deal with the sinkhole. They tried to show each other a united front, but late into the night, while Mickey slumbered, Shelley stayed up, pondering dog-saving ladders and lawn furniture-rescuing pulleys and wondering if she really ever knew Mickey at all.She picked up the radio and went outside. Late night was the best time for reception. She tied the garden hose around her waist, after checking that it was securely screwed to the outside faucet. Then she sat on the grass and inched forward towards the lip of the sinkhole, alert for any hint of slippage in the ground beneath her. The turf felt stable, so she moved closer. In a moment she was at the rim, dangling her feet into the darkness. She turned on the radio.

She picked up the radio and went outside. Late night was the best time for reception. She tied the garden hose around her waist, after checking that it was securely screwed to the outside faucet. Then she sat on the grass and inched forward towards the lip of the sinkhole, alert for any hint of slippage in the ground beneath her. The turf felt stable, so she moved closer. In a moment she was at the rim, dangling her feet into the darkness. She turned on the radio.After a minute of fine-tuning, she found the game. The teams were into extra innings, a blown save by the closer wrecking another stellar pitching performance. Shelley settled in for the long haul.

After a minute of fine-tuning, she found the game. The teams were into extra innings, a blown save by the closer wrecking another stellar pitching performance. Shelley settled in for the long haul.In the house, Lulu slept curled up at the end of the bed, dreaming of doggie adventures in the caverns that led from the hole in the pit of the sinkhole outward to the edges of the world.

In the house, Lulu slept curled up at the end of the bed, dreaming of doggie adventures in the caverns that led from the hole in the pit of the sinkhole outward to the edges of the world.Mickey dreamed of infrastructure—girders and viaducts, hydraulic systems and cantilevered bridges, pumping stations and elevated train tracks—the machinations of contemporary motion in all its desire and rescues.

Mickey dreamed of infrastructure—girders and viaducts, hydraulic systems and cantilevered bridges, pumping stations and elevated train tracks—the machinations of contemporary motion in all its desire and rescues.And Shelley sat in the dark all night, imagining what might be thrown in that gaping pit, what might be saved. What important emanations would be carried to her on the breeze of the battered radio waves.

And Shelley sat in the dark all night, imagining what might be thrown in that gaping pit, what might be saved. What important emanations would be carried to her on the breeze of the battered radio waves.

About Leslie Doyle

Leslie Doyle lives in New Jersey, where there are few literal sinkholes, but the occasional metaphorical one. She is a past recipient of the Editor's Fiction Prize from the journal Mary, and her stories have also been finalists for the River Styx Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction contest and Phoebe Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in Front Porch, Cobalt, Gigantic Sequins, Hermeneutic Chaos, The Forge, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She teaches at Montclair State University.