I spent weeks wondering how he did it. The earth in Greg's garden was smooth and a lustrous red. The summer rain washed over it and it failed to lose its coherence. That summer we went to work with our shovels and dug deep into the slick loam behind his house. We carved out a a snug den with a side tunnel that led into it, smoothed out as if some gigantic worm had gone to work on the structure.
The bridge above the side tunnel held strong and the tunnel because a shoot that we could use to slide into the main den. It was one of the most perfect things I had seen in my four years on the earth.
On a chilly day a month later I set out to emulate Greg's hole at the foot of my garden. The clouds were moving fast across the suburban sky, threatening rain. I was alone as my spade bit the thin soil. The earth here was very different from Greg's. It was flimsy and ashen and whenever I dug a clear, clean hole, the soil fell back into it. I thought of the bitter smell of ash in my grandparents yard in Glasgow. A shrubby wasteland fell away to the hedge behind me where the foxes had killed a pet rabbit the previous year.
The stubborn earth coated my clothes and mocked my efforts to tame it. However deep I dug, the earth fell in again. My hole was going to be nowhere as big and deep as Greg's. My attempts as a side tunnel were useless. I looked into the dark heart of the earth and lost all hope. Then the rain started to fall on my face, sending rivulets of mud running into my hole. I looked at the last bright gap in the sky and a hatred of Greg grew in my heart. I started to question the whole basis of our friendship which was forged when I found him eating out privet hedge and invited me into my back garden to strip big chucks off the Mountain Ash tree.
Two weeks later Greg was howling in pain with the bicycle chain trapped in his fingers. I didn't do it but I remember seeing the accident as it was about to happen in slow motion. The reflex that usually urged me to shout out deserted me.
Our friendship failed to last the rest of that fitful summer.