“Holey Undertaking”



Clark took the call from Joan Kent Adams, his oldest granddaughter, on the vid-phone in his den.  Joan lived with her husband in Australia.  She was sounding more than a little annoyed.  She said, “Grandpa, Laney is heading over for a visit again.  Could you PLEASE have a little talk with him.  This business of going through the center of the Earth rather than just running, swimming or flying is getting out of hand.  I was finally getting the yard to grow in and now it’s getting full of lava rock.  He won’t listen to me.  He might listen to you.  Please be a dear and find out why he keeps doing that.”


Clark nodded and said, “Maybe I’ll talk to Lois about it.  She has more influence with him than I ever will.  If she’s anywhere around and has enough energy to tell him a story, I become Mr. Invisible.  I think he’s getting a little heavy for Lois to have on her lap, but she never will say anything about it.  Lois is napping right now, so if Laney shows up before she … Oh, there’s a steam vent in the back yard.  I think my little visitor has arrived.  I’ll see what I can do but, I’ll warn you in advance, My influence in the family is at an all time low. ”


Joan said, “Thanks Gramps.  I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”


Clark moved fast to intercept Laney from disturbing Lois.  He met the 5 year old at the back door and re-directed him to the back porch swing saying, “Laney, your Nana is sleeping right now and she needs her rest but I sure would like to have a little visit with you.”


Laney had a frightened look on his face and said, “Are you sure she’s sleeping?”  Laney looked in the direction of Lois and his bedroom and could tell that the boy was taking a look through the wall to verify what he had been told.  After a moment he looked greatly relieved and hopped/floated up onto the porch swing.  Laney said, “Papa, do you know any stories about fun things like tricky Dickey the president and his visit to China?  I don’t want any space travel stories or any other junk like that!”


Clark said, “I’m sorry.  And I think I used up all my farming stories.  Is it OK if we talk about something from the here and now?”


Laney said, “OK, til Nana wakes up it would be OK.”


Clark said, “Do you like swimming and running over water?”

Laney answered, “Oh yes!  And sometimes I walk the ocean bottom and find neato stuff!  Did I show you my Billy Beer can?  He was President Jimmy the peanut farmer’s funny brother!”


Clark said, “Yes, you did.  Do you like flying?


Laney said, “Not as much.  There’s nothing up there to find.  If there was anything up there, it would just fall down.  I prefer it down here.”


Clark said, “Well, you seem to like tunneling more than swimming or running.”


Laney said, “Sort of.  Not really.  It’s kind of like a mish … a mish … what the world for a really, really important job?


Clark answered, “A mission.”


Laney said, “That’s it.  A mission!  I’m digging a lot of tunnels.”


Clark said, “If you dig too many too close together, the ground could fall in and people could get hurt.”


Laney said, “I try to be careful, but I gotta be ready for when it happens.”


Clark said, “When what happens?”


Laney said, “Tell me about the boy that touched the old and made it young again!”


Clark said, “He healed the horse.  It was sick, but it didn’t really get younger and it only lived a couple more years.  But I want to talk about the tunnels.”


Laney said, “Could we go see the guy that did that.  I want to ask him something.”


Clark said, “He’s been gone a long time.”


Laney said, “Tell me where to look.  I’ll find him.  I gotta ask him.”


Clark asked, “Ask him what?”


Laney said, “Ask him if he can make people all better too.  Where is he gone to?”


Clark said, “He was very old and he …  Has your Mom told you anything about how humans age and what happens to them.”


Laney said, “Was the man who went away older than Nana?”


Clark said, “He was about the same age.  Has your Mom or Dad told you about ….”


Laney shouted, “THEY DON’T TELL ME NOTHING BUT I HEAR EVERYTHING!”  Laney sniffed back some tears and said, “Did they put that man in the ground?”


Clark said, “Yes they did.”


Laney said, “If they try to do that to Nana, I’m gonna get her OUT!  I swear it.  I SWEAR IT!”


Clark said, “What did you hear, Laney?”


Laney said, “They said that Nana was getting up there so that soon they might have to put her in the ground.  I didn’t think you would let them but you go away sometime so I’ll stop them or get her out if they do it!”


Clark hung his head and sat silently for a while.  He tried to think of what to tell his great grandson but he knew he couldn’t say anything without crying.  He would have to call Joan later and talk to Lois after Laney’s visit was over.  But for now, he sat with his great grandson and gently rocked the porch swing.  After a while, he thought of a farm story that Laney would like.


Sometimes even a Superman wishes that his heart was less vulnerable to the pain of loss and his body more vulnerable – like an average man, so that he wouldn’t have to stand agelessly and watch the ones he loves age and die.