by Dawn De Braal
coal with ice
Jimmy Cocolatta was 10 years old when he learned from his Grandpa that he could dig a hole to China. He’d always wanted to go to China so when that thought was put into his 10-year-old brain he got to work right away.
It started out innocent enough, a sinkhole near the sidewalk, he always wanted to know what caused the swale in the earth that never could quite get filled. Every year loads of dirt were shoveled down that hole only to reappear as a dip after the first rain. Jimmy felt this was the best place to start because there was already a three-foot drop in the earth and would save him some time digging his way to China.
The spade was new and sharp. He went around and clearing the grass from the dip near the sidewalk in front of his home. As it was summer and he had no school to go to for the next few months gave Jimmy a lot of time to dig. Every day the hole in the earth grew deeper and the dirt next to the hole grew taller. Neighbors walking by would stop and ask Jimmy what he was doing.
“Why I’m digging a hole to China!” he’d call back and they’d chuckle and shake their heads. Soon word got around the neighborhood and other kids wanted to help dig the hole to China. Jessup Manning told Jimmy they couldn’t dig a hole to China because the earth was filled with molten magma and he would burn up as soon as he hit it. Jessup was in 6th grade and was so much more “worldly” than Jimmy. When curiosity got the best of Jessup he brought over his shovel and started digging too. All was good until Foster’s dog fell into the hole. He was missing for a couple of hours until someone heard him barking. An extension ladder was put down the hole and Fosters’ dog was brought up without any fuss, at least from the dog.
Neighbors started to call the Cocolatta’s hole to China a nuisance. Each day more kids flocked to the hole waiting for the magma to come up and burn the diggers. Buckets on ropes were being lowered and dirt brought up and dumped near the sidewalk.
Someone called OSHA and they cited Jimmy for not reinforcing the hole claiming it could cave in. They put a barricade around the hole and put danger signs up. No one was allowed to go near. The city sewer system sent some people down the hole and discovered several sewer pipes had caved in. That was why there was a swale there in the first place. They opened the hole even bigger and reinforced the sides, working on the hole for days while Jimmy stood off to the side watching his hole to China get dug for him.
“Caution! Stand back! Keep Away! Men Working!” Yellow tape around the site kept everyone at bay.
Sitting next to the hole in a full moon feeling defeated, Jimmy thought he would never be able to prove his grandfathers’ theory. Looking into the hole having heard something, he could not believe his eyes when a real-life China Man in a full Yat-sen suit came up the ladder bowing to Jimmy he exited the hole, stepping around the caution sign and walked down the street.
About the author
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, two rat terriers and a cat. Recently retired she is turning her love of telling a good story into enjoying writing them.