I trowel through the dirt, waiting to upturn anything of worth. I’ve had no luck so far, my finds pile consisting of a slashed-open AA battery, three broken pegs and a deflated excersize ball. Unless these items were coincidentally maimed by the same vandal that broke the hinges on Jez’s door (via kicking) and blamed it on me and Tim, I conclude that there is nothing left worth finding in our backyard soil. Nothing but bottle caps and stupid rocks.
Contemporary Archaeology is a tough gig. With most of our planet’s treasures already safe behind museum glass, it’s hard not to get demoralised by the lack of stuff left to find. And for the little we have left remaining? Well, you then gotta compete with a hundred other soil-hogs to get it. Mitch, a previous tenant, once discovered a tiny plastic baby hidden under our floorboards, looking to have laid there since the nineteen fifties, as well as a weather beaten Crash Bandicoot Tazo and the scorched and severed head of a Mrs. Shrek doll. I knew it’d take me some serious digging to compete with any of those finds.
Hope arose when a glimmer of light caught my eye beneath the asbestos shack. Crouching down for a better look I discovered a small tin kettle, primitive in design and slightly rusty, looking to be over a hundred years old; the sort of billy that CYO Connor may have used once upon a time to sterilise the Weir water. Even though the kettle might’ve looked cool in our house, I worried that my friends would find it a little excessive, a bit pseudo-retro, quirky yet banal. Plus, we already got a good kettle from Target, and it works perfectly fine.
I threw it back under the house again and heard a metallic thunk as it hit against something solid; a rusty metal can, unlabeled and unopened. I was curious to know what was in it, so I shook it about to guess- peaches? syrup? cat food? It was hard to tell from observation, so like the Man of Action I knew myself to be I brought down my shovel onto the can with such ferocity and strength that when its can-lining buckled and pierced, I was met with a torrent of black sludge that shot in a dozen directions, splattering our neighbour’s Colourbond fence and soaking my best pair of jeans. Rats!
The vegemite-substance that crawled down my legs smelt like leaking fuel and stuck like PVA glue. I couldn’t tell what it was. Tar? paint? No, it was motor oil- the stuff that coats little sea creatures and doesn’t wash away without vigorous scrubbing- but also the stuff that’ll make you rich if you sell it to other countries. After ‘oil’ (all), one man’s oil is another man’s stable source of income. As Bart Simpson, ever the optimist, said to Innkeeper Moe when asked about the dark stains on his trousers: “Didn’t you know these are Diesel jeans?”.
Words and art by Rainy Colbert.
This article was first published in volume 88 edition 4 GIRL